It was on a Tuesday when Mahlita first showed up. I'm actually not sure of her name. I am not very good at names unless I write them down but I do remember it sounded like either a drug or a species of flower. Anyhow, I knew who she was and began taking off my clothes.
Before you jump to conclusion, I will tell you that she was not sent to satisfy my physical pleasures but to get me clean. She was my bather lady; well, actually, my shower lady. She followed me into the bathroom, turned on the shower and said, "Get in." A Latina, she was a woman of very few English words. "Get in" were two.
Being naked before a woman doesn't make me cringe or go crazy trying to cover all of my erogenous zones at the same time. No one showers fully clothed, although the legendary comic Mort Sahl used to say that Richard Nixon bathed in a blue serge suit. Mahlita was one of a small army of home care workers sent to look after my needs following three months of hospitalization for pneumonia, congestive heart failure and a few other less terrifying physical problems. I was a mess, but I lived. Barely.
Mahlita scrubbed my hair, my face, my chest and the rest of my upper body then abruptly handed me the wash cloth. When I seemed puzzled by the gesture, she said, "You do below." "Below what?" I said. She pointed to my genitalia. "You do below," she repeated
Mahlita, it appeared, stopped at the waist. The genitals were up to me.
In the hospital, they washed it all from head to navel, then "down there" and beyond to my toes. Not once did the occasion trigger a lascivious response. I simply looked off, hummed a madrigal and let it pass. I may have perspired heavily, but what the hell, I was in a shower.
The hospital stay was otherwise tolerable except for the pounding repetition of the phrase, "in through the nose, out through the mouth." It took several days for me to realize they were saying that to breathe properly, one must do so by inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. I'm not sure how I breathed before, but if in through the nose and out through the mouth contributed to a prolonged life, I'd do it, even as Mahlita scrubbed me thoroughly (everyplace but down there.)
One problem. I confuse easily. Suppose I breathe in through my mouth and out through my nose instead of the other way and the breaths collide? Will I gasp, lose my way, fall to the ground and die of self-asphyxiation? Will I find myself trapped in either the nasal darkness of my nose or drowning in the watery passageway of my throat?
I awake in the middle of the night worried about it and slip off whispering, in through the nose, out through the mouth, in through the nose, out through the mouth, in through the...
(Once more and that's it...) nose, out through the...