Smelling clean

(2012)

A little bit ago I was washing my hands in the restroom at work, really sudsing them up good, finger nails, cuticles, down between the fingers. Even under the wedding ring. Clean hands. It felt good. Cleanliness is good.

Suddenly out of the blue I remembered one of the weirdest compliments I ever received. It was at a another job twenty years ago, downtown, way atop one of the towers there. I was a proofreader, just me and six women, all typesetters, a microcosmic Los Angeles, all colors, all accents, all everything. The place was crowded and confined and really busy, all the women were tough broads who swore like sailors and said anything they felt like saying. I eventually stopped blushing (my personal life was a regular topic of conversation, like I wasn’t even there.) One day one of the ladies suddenly stopped typing and looked at me. She sniffed. Once, twice. Then she looked me over, top to bottom. Sniffed again.

You know boy, she said, you smell real good.

I said thank you, blushing.

She nodded gravely. Yeah boy, you smell clean.

I said thank you again.

She smiled. I like a man who smells clean, she said.

I just nodded, nervous about where this was going.

Yup, she said, I bet you even wash your asshole.

I froze.

You wash your asshole, don’t you?

I nodded.

Yeah, I knew it. I like a man who washes his asshole.

I was beet red by now. Everyone was staring.

Yup, she said, I likes a man who takes the time to keep his asshole clean.

The other ladies agreed. Discussion followed. I just sat there mute, trying to smell as clean as possible.

My friend Martha was there next to me. She was wickedly funny. But for once she didn’t say anything. She just looked at me and smiled.

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