I have a date tonight!
Before all you single women between the ages of 50 and 65, financially stable and attracted to a smart-ass hermit, swoon in disappointment, the date is with a man, an octogenarian who looks 70. Francis and I belong to the same secret club, and we’re to have pizza before a conclave of the organization. I use the word “date,” though, because I have to prepare for it. Life in the Tiny White Box is a lot of things—peaceful, productive and placid, to use just one letter—but including running water isn’t listed there. It’s now a little before noon, and I’ll spend a couple hours making up for that lack.
My previous lives have always included 20 to 30 minutes in the morning—shaving with lots of steaming water, long showers that include scrubbing every inch of my body, even between my toes and relaxing with the smells of shampoo and conditioner, and the toweling off–almost as refreshing in its own way. The Tiny White Box has erased all that.
While I’ll describe my date-night work shortly, let me first tell you about a typical morning. After Sam (is a dog) and I have walked a few miles, we return for a bowl of Iams, or whatever dog food is in the cabinet, and one of oatmeal. I heat up a quart or so of water, drop a dry washcloth into it, and proceed to what my father used to call a “whore’s bath,” but which I prefer to think of as a sex-worker’s routine: I wipe down my face, my armpits and groin, and finish by drying off with a towel. It’s not energizing, revitalizing or relaxing; it’s just maintenance. I drag a brush through my hair, usually pushing it back into a poor-man’s pompadour, and move on with the day. (Long-time readers will remember I gave up shampoo in August, and I can report the benefits are real: My hair is never greasy, even after wearing a watch-cap for a long walk.
Because I’m meeting Francis this evening, though, I’ll be going through the whole shebang, doing roughly what my great-grandparents likely did a hundred and twenty-five years ago. As I write this, I have a large kettle of water on the electric heater turned to high. This will warm the water and also turn the Tiny White Box into a sweat lodge, necessary because it’s 20 degrees outside, where part of the ceremony will take place.
Once the kettle water is warm, I’ll use the microwave to boil a quart of water. Stripping naked to the waist, I’ll wash my face using the warm water and soap, followed by doing the same to my upper body. After rinsing, I’ll apply shaving cream, and get the boiling water out of the microwave to shave my neck. (For the Turkish award last month, I shaved all my face, but the beard is now returning. Never having been a Yasser Arafat fan, though, I do like to make facial hair appear a conscious effort, not just hirsuteness run amuck.)
After toweling off, I’ll combine more of the warm water with baking soda, forming a very wet paste to replace shampoo, and pour the rest of the warm water into a large metal vase. It’s here things get dicey, because I need to go outside, wet my hair, massage the baking-soda paste into my scalp, hope ice crystals don’t form, and rinse off with the remainder of the water—all while trying not to get water, baking soda or both on my pants or shoes. Whether I’m successful in this goal or not, I rush inside the hot Tiny White Box and towel my head vigorously.
To return to the attractive single women, aged 50-65, financially stable and attracted to a smart-ass hermit: If I’m willing to do all this for Francis, a man in his 80’s, think of what I can do for you.