if anything, college gave me the opportunity to ingest as much sugar as i wanted. i could, in theory, sand away at my stomach lining with the stuff. i opted to drink my sugar from domed canisters of tang and presweeted mountain berry punch kool-ade.
in the dorms, i was never far from a 24 ounce translucent blue non-microwaveable glass, which i kept filled with sugar drink. i developed a very obsessive compulsive routine: fill the cap of the canister with mix, pour into the bottom of my glass, hold under dorm's bathroom faucet, fill with water while swirling my glass to eliminate the added step of stirring with an actual spoon, consume.
it wasn't necessary to wash the glass that often, as it was always filled with one color of sugar or another. but once in a great while, when neglected in favor of a coke-cola frenzy, that cup would become caked an inch thick with a hard crystal sediment.
i cleaned the glass the same way i made my drink: squirt a spit of dish soap into the glass, hold under the faucet and swirl. literally lathering, rinsing and repeating. when i was sure that most of the soap was gone, i'd make more tang.
"you didn't rinse all of the soap off," my roommate burge noticed from a sink away, where, odds are she was coloring her hair, as she was wont to do.
i shrugged. soap is a taste easily diluted by tang.
"if you don't get all of the soap off your dishes, you will get diarrhea," she said.
"oh," i said. yet another neglected chapter in my schooling.
what burge didn't know is that she had just planted a seed of soap paranoia that will probably last three times longer than even the shelf life of a canister of tang. from then on, every time i did dishes -- especially if i volunteered to do some of her's -- i attributed a phantom soap taste to the dish and waited for her to clutch her stomach and sprint to the bathroom.
i think of this everytime i wash dishes, even though i haven't washed dishes in a dorm's bathroom sink in 11 years. and everytime i eat off a dish that i've washed, i prepare for the taste of lemon fresh joy. sometimes it doesn't happen. sometimes it does, and then nothing kills my appetite like the sound of burge's voice in my head: diarrhea, diarrhea, diarrhea ...
today i made a big pasta feast for dinner and packed it into tupperware until i was ready for it. the first bite tasted soapy. by the fifth bite it seemed like it would taste better if i had actually stored it in an old bottle of dish soap and squirted the tiny bubbles of red sauce into my mouth.
i tossed the meal aside, disgusted, and waited for burge's warning to come to rumble to fruition. the moment where instead of being full, my stomach would feel like i ate thunder.
"my pasta tasted like soap," i told chuck later.
"ugh," he said. "that has happened to me. it will give you diarrhea."
"so i've heard," i said.
later, at chuck's house, i heated up a pan of refried beans for a snack.
"refried beans and soap, huh?" he said, shaking his head.
it could be a long night. or it could be brief. and sudden.