Saturday, May 24, 2014

It's Hot Season and I'm Gross, or, We're Up all Night to Get Sweaty

It's all well and good that I insist on hand washing my clothes, but the key element of that choice being effective is that I actually, at some point, do hand wash my clothes. I'm just going to go ahead and say that I did laundry this week... for the first time in a month. But wait! Before you start running through the implications of that admission by working some quick math about the ratios of average pairs of underwear owned to days in a month- it's not THAT bad. I have a (lazy) system wherein I handwash them in the sink while I'm taking a shower, since it's all one big room. Here's what laundry day looks like around here.

High tech cleanliness- it all happens in one room, and cleans the clothes and me! EFFICIENT

Drying rack + burglar deterrent
Okay, so your first "Holy shit, that is so gross" moment of disgust has been assuaged, right? Unfortunately, that reassurance must be followed swiftly with the fact that, just as I don't have enough pairs of underwear to make a month's hiatus from laundry doing not-gross, I also definitely don't have enough clothes for it either. And yeah, it's hot season, which sees every day dawning bright and solar flared with temperatures that soar majestically into the 100's most days. I am constantly sweaty. My clothes are constantly bearing the brunt of that situation. They are losing; my skin is winning. But honestly, that's exactly why I just stopped washing my clothes. It seemed so pointless, and I found that if I just hung them back up, lived in denial for a week, and then "discovered" them again, they really only smelled like sunscreen and my too-expensive, locally made, all natural citronella bug repellent. I could be a poster child for the efficacy of deodorant, basically. There were a few times I exercised restraint and lobbed certain particularly offensive items into the permanent "No, for real, you are actually dirty" zone of my laundry basket. And...just as many times I would go to that basket and do a re-evaluation. I'm just glad that I will never be judged by the justification laden monologues I gave as to why I reneged on initial pronouncements of "Do not wear this until it has been scrubbed. Twice." My threshold for dirty has reached that burning sun of Vientiane. I embrace my animal ways. No hairbrushes, no make-up, sunscreen and sports bras and sweat forever.

It's not just me, though. Vientiane is altogether a shimmering nest of slippery human mess right now. I like being sweaty, when we're all in it together and no one cares. Now, finally, FINALLY, I am not the only one drenched on the dance floor- even those who stand very still and cling to cold beer are glowing, salty, under the yellow lights. At the bar last night people danced without a care for enormous sloping sweat marks on their shirts, bangs made stringy plastered to wet foreheads, smiling under-boob Cs of "This girl is HOT", shirts stretched and stuck to various body parts made visible under the wet accordion of material, dark jeans made ever darker by being soaked through. Everyone is a glistening crush of flesh turned liquid, draped in damp material. This is the kind of heat that you just give up to, to the point where you kind of forget it's there- there is no fighting it, and you're too tired to try, so you just let it cover you. Hot hot hot. Never ending sweat.

I love hot season when I don't have anything to do. Sitting on a chair at a restaurant patio and feeling your body pour itself out of you and slide down your back, behind your knees, between your legs, down your neck, the heat so palpable you feel it in your nose and throat as a humid, you can't escape me reminder- there is something utterly relaxing about it, provided you have free and full access to the cold beverage of your choice (water for me, for always). It always strikes me that there is such a vibrant outdoor social scene going on day and night in temperatures here, which, in Texas, would be considered unacceptable for anything more than darting from an air conditioned car to an air conditioned building. I surprise even myself with how much I have adapted to just being a hot and sweaty situation everywhere all the time. The only problem is when I have to do something that requires exertion- a long walk, exercise, waking up early to do something before school. No. I have absorbed the sun and it has made a hot opiate of my blood. I cannot move that fast or that far or for that long. The only exception is dancing, which I'm somehow still able to do for hours.

The rain comes sometimes, lightning filled and wind whistling, and it drops itself onto an earth so hot that it is immediately thwarted and the temperature barely changes very much for very long. The sensation of riding my motorbike with the tent of my poncho making a greenhouse around me is one I won't soon forget. I love the sound of the drops on my helmet, and that strange experience of feeling water sliding off you but not making you wet. I don't love the cars passing fast and spraying arcs of dirt water all over me. Thank you for everything, poncho. When it's not raining and I'm on my motorbike the longest time in all the world is the waiting space under the open sun, sitting on the hot pavement, waiting for the light to turn green. I've glimpsed eternity in that space, and it feels like heat stroke and sliding off the seat of my bike because my legs are so sweaty.

Hot season for me in this time and place is: dry blue skies, the end of so many contracts and contacts, going away parties and dancing all night, soaked to our bones with ourselves and each other, cold beer and yellow lights, fronds of palm trees curling a groaning green in the sun, a motorcycle gang you never asked to be a part of heaving hot exhaust all around you, wet chairs at restaurant patios, glowing faces and talk of what comes next, summer plans hanging in the air with the heat, dusty dogs panting in the shade by the woman making your mango shake on the side of the road. It's the Vientiane sun in your head and on your ever browning skin, rivers in your elbows and behind your knees and stinging your eyes and salting your lips. It's the end, burning bright, bright.


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