Copyright is held by the author.
I’M 15. And I’m afraid I stink.
No wait, that’s not quite right. It’s more than just a fear: I’m pretty convinced I do.
Last year, Sally made fun of me when I took off my shoes at her place. Hearing her chuckle in disgust was just too embarrassing. I did toss the shoes out on the porch, but it made her laugh even more.
So, I’ve learned to hide it. How? By showering at least twice a day. My parents mind, but what can they do about it? Ground me for being too clean?
What I find most annoying is that I always get the urge to empty my bowels right after I come out of the shower. If it was just me, I would jump right back in, but my father said he would not let me have my driver’s license if I continued being so silly. He’s never understood me.
That leaves me with one option, which is to wipe my ass until I can see red spots on the paper.
Even with all the extra care, it never seems enough to ease my doubts. With good reasons. I mean, Sally’s been my best friend since kindergarden. It would be a different matter if one of my classmates ever got a whiff and started spreading the news. My life would be over. At the same time, how can they not smell it? Maybe that’s what they talk about when I’m not around.
Last Friday was supposed to be a special one, before all the drama happened. I was preparing for a big party and Josh had promised me Jessica would be there. He even told me he’d make sure I wasn’t too much of a pussy and make me talk to her if he had to.
To mess with my nerves, my father decided to change the showerhead before lunch — without asking me, of course. At first, I was thrilled because over the years, I’d pretty much convinced myself that the previous shitty low-pressure artifact just couldn’t get rid of the stench and was the source of all my problems. Perhaps the brand new tech would put an end to my misery. If this was the case, I wouldn’t be so self-conscious tonight when I walked into sniffing distance of Jessica.
So I turned on the tap, bare-naked and hopeful, and my optimism took a dive. I must have stared at the stainless steel piece for at least five minutes. The green-conspiracy knob was spitting a lame Hawaiian mist over my needy body. No but seriously! Do I look like someone on a honeymoon trip, gaping at rainbows and wearing layers of lei around my neck? I need pressure. I need an exfoliating fire hose!
My father did it to piss me off, I could tell. There was no other explanation. It was his way of telling me that my “excessive showering” had to stop.
I stormed out of the bathroom while wrapping a towel around my waist.
“What the hell is that?” I wanted to yell, but I didn’t dare. I can’t say that my father is strict, but there is one value you have to keep in mind. And that’s respect. Especially towards him. In the state of mind I was in, I knew I could cross that line at any time. It both scared me and pushed me onwards.
“Why do you always have to ruin my life?”
“I’m ruining your life?” he said, rolling his eyes. “Well, if it helps in any way: I’m so very sorry.”
His tone only added to my irritation. It made me bolder.
“I can’t accept that,” I said, with all the pride a guy can muster with nothing but a towel hiding his junk. “You need to put the old showerhead back. Now!”
My father raised his gaze from a chessboard and raised an eyebrow at me. Can you believe that?
He raised his fucking eyebrow at me! Talk about respect.
“I’m serious Dad, you can’t just go on and mess up my life all the time.”
“Okay, that’s enough Sam. I’m not in the mood for one of your silly arguments.”
“I’m trying to be reasonable here! This is important.”
“No, it’s not. The shower’s fine. I don’t have another hour of my life to waste on fulfilling your every whim.”
He sure as hell had time to stare at a stupid board with no one sitting in the opponent’s seat.
“Yeah,” said my father, not at all impressed.
“Then . . . Then you can go fuck yourself.”
Now, you have to understand. My father is normally cool with most things. The day he first discovered I smoked pot, he shrugged it off and told me not to do it too often. But when you’re stupid enough to shout at him to “fuck off” or how “he can sometimes be a jackass,” he blows a fuse. Hell, he even got pissed one diner just because I said “whatever.”
He got up from his chair. I could actually look down on him. It was recent, but he was a bit shorter than I was. I can’t say it gave me any advantage though — he was built like a bear, and the distance between his shoulders could hold two of my own ribcage.
“What did you say?” His voice was too calm, too low.
“I said. You can go. Fuck. Yourself.”
I even had the balls to sustain his gaze.
He grabbed my neck with his thick paw and looked me straight in the eyes. He didn’t choke me hard, but the fear brought me to the point where I didn’t care anymore. I punched him in the stomach as hard as I could and he finally let go of me. Then, just to prove that I was not a kid anymore, I pushed him back.
He seemed as dumbstruck as I was.
“Get out of my face,” he said. “And don’t come back unless it’s to apologize. Next time you open your mouth, I’ll throw you out of the house myself.
“I hate you!”
He charged me. He struck me in the shoulder, driving me all the way through the narrow hallway. I felt his weight on me when I crashed into the wall right beside the steaming bathroom.
He took a step back and stared at me. My towel lay on the ground behind him and I crossed my legs in a weird way to cover myself. I wasn’t sure if I read remorse or pure rage on his face: it was all contorted and shit.
“Now get back in the shower and quit whining.” The authority was stripped from his voice, leaving me more confused than anything.
He turned his back on me. I really hated him then. I mean, why did he always have to be such a dick? And why was I such a wreck? Too many times I had obeyed his stupid rules. Too many times he had made me say “I’m sorry” to him or my sister when both of us knew I was right. I was not ready to let it go. Not this time.
“What about you?” I said. “Aren’t going to apologize?”
“What does that mean, “don’t”? You think I’m still scared of you? You’re just a fat fucking bully. And guess what? The small kid you used to pick on is all grown up now.”
I was full of shit: my father never hit me, not really anyway. But that’s okay. I felt like I needed to say something real dramatic before I tackled him with all my weight. We both found ourselves wrestling on the hardwood floor for at least three minutes. Actually, my father was trying to push me away — I was still naked after all — but I kept coming at him. Picture a furless ferret taking on a grizzly wearing jeans and a wornout t-shirt. At some point, I think my fist connected with his chin, or it might have been his shoulder.
The fight broke off suddenly: we were both too tired to go on.
“What’s the matter?” I said, still gasping for air. “Too old to finish what you started?
My father was still breathing hard and seeing him like that, vulnerable, had a weird effect on me. I wasn’t angry anymore.
Still sitting on the floor, he looked down at my crotch and said with a frown: “What happened to you kid? Did you shave your pubic hair?” I probably turned red as a monkey’s behind as I fumbled for the towel.
“Get on with the times, old man.” He was shaking his head as if I was a living joke. Then, something funny occurred to me. “Wait a minute. Did you just say pubic hair?”
His head stopped moving, a grin suddenly lightening his features.
“Men don’t have pubises,” I said.
My father’s laughter rolled like thunder in the narrow passageway.
“What?” I was smiling despite myself. “I don’t have a pubis!”
My protests seemed to feed his hilarity, to the point where he had to fight back tears. I had no clue as to what he was roaring about, and not knowing why, I joined him. Slowly at first, but then after a minute, I was rolling on the floor begging him to stop.
After the storm had passed, I wasn’t even sure why we had started laughing in the first place. It didn’t really matter.
“Why don’t you like the new showerhead anyway?” he said.
A lie wouldn’t have cut it. “I stink.”
It must have taken him by surprise, because he burst out laughing again. I asked him to stop, but the floodgates had reopened. There was nothing left for me to do except to follow his lead. And hope no one would figure out where the smell came from.