Clean

She began to enjoy strange flavors, beginning with snuck slices of raw potato tongued from the edge of a paring knife. It was March, a week after snowmelt, empty plastic bags scuttling along neighborhood streets, all in the same direction, like pilgrims headed for Mecca. The chalk mouthfeel of a potato piece lifted from a cutting board echoed the fuzzy, waterlogged gaps in her consciousness, moments she found herself sitting on the couch reading a decorating magazine, not knowing where the day had drained.
 
As a girl, she had liked to slide single spears of grass from the lawn, slow enough to leave the fragrant root intact. She would bite the root with precision, falling backward through the taste of raw milk and sunshine.
 
After the potatoes came cravings for distilled vinegar, dahlia petals, and then the soap. What appealed to her most was a new, just-opened bar. Cardboard flaps opened at the bottom of the box, inside the soap bar packaged like candy in a plastic pocket that crinkled at the pressure of her fingertips. The torn, clear barrier, then the smooth, rectangular cake weighting the palm of her hand.
 
Under the sink she kept stacks of soap packaged individually in green cardboard boxes. These she purchased in loads of twenty with a 50 percent off coupon, shopping cart heavy as she trollied it toward the checkout.
 
One Sunday morning, opening a new soap for her shower, she took a bite. Simple. Her teeth scraped the rounded edge once, twice, and a chunk of soap crumbled onto her tongue. The sharp taste boomeranged at the base of her skull. She was awake.
 
She stood naked in front of the bathroom mirror, watching herself chew soap, and her husband opened the door without knocking. He saw it in her hands, the wrapper peeled halfway down like an ice cream bar. There were white flakes gathering at the corners of her lips.
 
“What are you doing?” he asked. Her mouth was full.

Front page image by Justin Jensen.

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