Rear Guard: Right Guard

by

07/12/2005

E 100th St & Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10029

Neighborhood: Upper East Side

I stink. It’s not a good stink, musky, that hints of a hard workout but doesn’t offend. I’m offensive. I’ve been in New York for a month-and-a-half. I still haven’t done laundry. The one suitcase I brought held seven shirts, six pairs of boxers, four pairs of pants (one pair only for occasions), two pairs of shorts, and three pairs of socks. The socks are not too ripe yet; most days, I wear sandals. My clothes are laden with humid New York summer perspiration. Showers feel like I’m spinning the wheels. There is a funk that latches onto me when I’m down at the Flight Bar, and it follows me home. I have no antiperspirant. It ran out three weeks ago.

This morning, I wake up. I’m sleeping in a cutoff t-shirt my mom sent to me for when I do my workouts in the apartment. It still smells clean. Consequently, I don’t workout in it. My bed used to have sky blue flannel sheets. Now, there is a white, bleach shadow of my body on the sheets. Could be worse. One of my roommates smokes. His sheets are yellow from when he sweats out the nicotine. Carl and Reid, my roommates, left before I got up. I’m alone, and for one moment of the day, our 350 square-foot studio is spacious.

I shower. Back in Arizona, I shower at least once a day. Here I shower two, three times a day. It’s not a big scene. I do not relish the water cascading off my body, nor do I quiver at the exotic fragrance of my bar of Dial. Simply, for ten minutes, I no longer stink. When I’m done, I dry off and scam a swipe or two of Carl’s antiperspirant. He’s out of town for the week though. Reid’s antiperspirant is missing. It’ll just have to be one of those days in which I reek hell on the masses riding the six train. I dress, blue jeans and a t-shirt. My jeans are faded, not so much blue as yellow, grimy, and the cleanest thing I have. Last week, my little sister sent me a package. In it were spray bottles of Fabreeze and Downy liquid fabric softener. Before leaving for work, I spray my clothes down with the Fabreeze.

Outside the apartment, I call my bank back in Arizona. A sum finally broke into my account. There’s no Bank of America in New York City. All my banking is done through the U.S. postal service. There’s enough in there for my weekly subway pass, and groceries. Thankfully, it’s only been two days since my last meal. On the train, people, crowd each other like lemmings to push one of their own to the edge of my filth and make them endure. I keep waiting for someone to think I am homeless and give me money. They don’t. Today, people look less repulsed. They are confused about why the guy next to them would smell like their carpet.

There is no central air in the office of the theatre company where I work. There are some window units and ceiling fans. The theatre company’s three full-time employees are either out of town or in meetings all day. I spend the day reading scripts and keeping track of the Fabreeze as it evaporates. There is a drug store one block over, but I only have two dollars in my pocket. Antiperspirant, at best, will run me nearly three. I discover another dollar in my back pocket. I won it earlier this week through a bar bet by lighting my arm hair on fire and letting it burn longer than any other contestant. (The down side to that game is that burning arm hair smells like rotting flesh.) As soon as work is done, I run a block down and buy Right Guard “Sport.” It runs me two dollars and ninety-one cents.

I get back to the apartment. The day particularly muggy. My t-shirt is very damp. All I think about is showering and putting on the antiperspirant. The shower goes on. I jump into the shower, clothes on. I look down at my feet. As the water runs down my jeans it turns brown, sickening. I jump out of the shower, grab all my laundry and toss it in. I scrub the clothes down with Dial, rinse, ring them out and repeat. The water is black. When I hang them up to dry in the bathroom, I spray them with Downy. I go to bed early. I lay supine, arms behind my head, cherishing the smell of Right Guard wafting up from my armpits.

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