Idée fixe (ee-day-feeks): An idea that dominates the mind; a fixed idea; an obsession
I sit down in the shower, careful to center my bare behind in the exact middle of the rubber mat, and slip the bar of Ivory between my first and second toes. One, two, three, four, I mouth silently as I slide the soap back and forth. I move the soap to the space between my second and third toes. One, two, three, four. I repeat the process until my right foot is finished. Then I cleanse my left. After I wash the spaces between my toes, I focus on the bottoms of my feet, slowly sliding the soap from heel to toe six times on each foot. I hold onto the slippery rectangle carefully in order not to squeeze it out of my hand. If the soap drops, I have to begin again.
My feet are the dominant area of my cleansing routine. I always wash them first, then I stand and step over to the front of the shower onto a second rubber mat. I tend to the rest of my body with liquid Dial, the clear kind, and a light pink washcloth, a clean one for every shower.
Gradually, my ritual brings a sense of calm. My racing heart slows to nearly normal, and I take small breaths, avoiding my tendency to hyperventilate.
I step out of the shower onto the oval, white rug and take a clean towel from the stack. My bath towel can be any shade of off-white: beige, eggshell, ecru, sand . . . one might think that there are not differences between those colors, but there are. It takes time to dry my body; not a droplet of water can be left. After rubbing the towel over my legs, my hips, the curves of my waist, I move up to my breasts and carefully wipe the soft skin underneath. I pat the dampness from my armpits, vaguely aware of the irritation left behind by my razor. Tiny red bumps had formed where I’d dragged the blade up and down then side to side, shaving away all signs the black, stubbly hair that grows relentlessly under my arms.
I fold my towel in half and hang it over the towel bar so that the ends match up evenly. Then I put on my robe, thin terry cloth in the lightest shade of blue, almost silver, and step over to the sink. I look at my expressionless face in the mirror and begin my facial cleansing with a fresh washcloth, white, always white for the face. The mascara that had run with my tears down my cheeks now appears as black smudges on the white washcloth. Black and white, a cliché definition – basic, simple, easily understood…
I wasn’t always crazy. Well, maybe I was.