Ablution

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She heaves her limbs up the stairs, leg before arm, the other and the other. Spine in innumerable parts, each needing a different muscular labor. Drenched as she is in the weight of sweat-soaked tights, leotard, leg-warmers, socks, shirt, she has to peel and unpeel and pull at the wraps to get naked.

The mirror in the shower room confirms the paring, the effort to the ascetic. Air swills the surface of her skin, beginning to cool her. Each muscle speaking louder, a crescendo of ache–neck, back, thighs, feet. She leads with a naked toe into the shower stall, wrenches the handle to the extreme. The burn of water down her shoulders floods a shudder of peace deep to her knees. Tilting her face to the flow, she scorches cheekbones, temples, breasts, hair flees back out of confusion, into rivered clarity, piling down the hips’ central structure. She begins to shampoo. Moves her head in a figurey-eight, timeless caress of warm coils. Lather lingers finger-like streams softly down her cheeks.

He calls up the stairs.

She steps out, leans around the corner at the top of the stairs; shows only her head, neck, coils easing down brown, cheek, jaw. Heavy slide. Goodbye.

The step back into the shower, the retreat to what she had before. The flood, the spill of burning eyes, quakes rippling and breaking open a stream of deep coughs, pulsing out. Every crevice plunged with water. As if tears ran down her whole body.

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