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The Change Room
the scent of chlorine swallows muggy, humid air.
thankfully, we can forego the urine-soaked handkerchiefs,
as this isn’t the battle of Ypres
this is the community pool.
commune. shared. mutual.
naked soles of weathered feet entrap diseases
for how could they not?
the sodden floor is teeming with burgeoning plantar warts
waiting to latch on to uncovered feet
and create art:
a mosaic of fungal bacteria.
this change room is rife with such a phenomenon
here, nothing remains unseen.
yellowing toenails, in dire need of a trim
leathery skin peeking out in between and under stout toes,
parched and painful-looking,
bearing great resemblance to cracked mud in the Gobi desert.
yet it is not only feet that are exposed.
women saunter around unclothed, stripped nude,
out in the open.
for even though these women walk along sidewalks
with their faces perpetually cast towards grey cement -
fearing attention, observation, scrutiny -
they are at ease here.
feel free to marvel at kangaroo pouch below her navel:
it is the price of being a mother, after all.
take in the saggy breasts, the stocky thighs
and the chicken arms lined with startling blue veins -
the brown age spots deem them comparable to a rotting banana.
there are the prematurely balding (one too many sleepless nights in the office),
the heavily hirsute (an imbalance of hormones or a distant relation to the Yeti?),
and the obstinate (feminists or Parisians) who refuse to shave their armpits.
there are the exceptionally corpulent (emotional eating or deprivation as a child),
the agonizingly emaciated (count her ribs then adopt a starving orphan ),
and the Aphrodite statue lookalikes (epitome of ideal Victorian health and vivacity)
there are the glaringly pallid (maybe she drinks blood too),
the dark and mysterious (did she roll in a vat of dark chocolate?)
and the indeterminate nationality-wise (Native American … Filipino…both?)
they are what would be considered as
some may have a touch of silicone
deposited into each breast)
they have battle scars,
muffin tops and love handles
from countless years of bruising, maltreatment, and neglect.
they have insecurities, worries and misgivings
concerning everything from that dreaded reflection sulking in the mirror
to the pre-determined amount of calories they’ve allocated to themselves that day.
yet all these temporarily inconsequential matters fly out the window -
or rather, the rusty old door that lacks a hinge or two-
when they enter this provisional haven.
dirt, lies and denigration are effortlessly washed away
by dilapidated showerheads;
sex, scandal, and adulterous men are left behind with the
clump of hair clogging the gutter;
bills, debt and vacant bank accounts are temporarily forgotten.
all that remains is unwavering pride manifesting itself into
a shameless display of bare bodies
that all silently scream:
“look at me, I’m beautiful too!”
they roll up their socks,
bundling their pool-infected feet into warm
compartments of fleece and cotton,
and try in vain to put on their one-size-too-small jeans
over clammy, sodden thighs,
skin sticking to denim like glue.
at this point, that
fleeting sense of self-satisfaction is forcibly
and they are left to fend for themselves once more -
checking out the size of their derrieres in the full-length mirror
as they turn to leave the change room.