It was hard getting up. If it weren’t for the white towel in the bathroom she would still be a walking zombie. But there was a white towel on the bathtub rim and she awoke.
When would the spell of white towels be lifted?
It was a long time since it happened. Her first child went to baby swimming. The parents had to go into the water themselves of course and Mrs A was ok with it. Yes, she had given birth recently, but then all the women present had as well. If it wasn’t for Mrs Nemesis participating with her baby at the same course, Mrs A would have felt a quite well-preserved mom.
But Mrs Nemesis did participate and came to the swimming hall once a week walking on her long legs, wearing that pristine white swimsuit that set her beauty off so well. And when Mrs A at times accidentally swallowed some of the pool water and had to spit, cough loudly and even puke a bit, Mrs Nemesis just didn’t. When she dove into the turquoise water she was no more Mrs Nemesis as they knew her; she was a wild white shark and the women present would sigh, and so would the men.
The baby swimming course took place in a pool for little kids and the chlorine content was high, the kids not being entirely waterproof. The day of the white towel affair the water was very bad and Mrs A’s eyes were itching as she came out of the shower.
It was a challenge to shower and dress with a baby. Mrs A was lucky as her baby would laugh its sweet baby laughter out loud when Mrs A tried to put her pants on her head or something like that. She grabbed her white towel and started drying her hair. The sight made her baby scream of joy.
There is nothing like a baby having a laughing kick and soon everyone was laughing. Encouraged, Mrs A started doing lots of stupid things. She rubbed the back of her head with a big, swinging motion, she rubbed her foot soles in the same manner, she put her socks on her hands and her firstborn just couldn’t stop giggling. She was proud. It was too cute.
She stepped over the towel and dried her private parts in the most exaggerated way. Her baby found that particularly fantastic and Mrs A and the other moms laughed too. It was too funny. Mrs A went on overdoing the swinging motion more and more. It was a riot.
But then, suddenly and unexpectedly, the painful moment came, one of those totally unfair ones.
(There is a logotype on the towel. Is that strange?)
She smiled stupidly at the other moms. To gain time she made her kid laugh again.
(It’s the Scandinavian Splendour-logo! But…)
(…we don’t… we don’t have any towels from…)
Just when somebody tapped her on the shoulder she realised everything. It was terrible. ‘
(I wiped my..)
She didn’t want to turn around.
(I wiped my…with someone else’s designer towel..)
She didn’t want to do anything but look down into the white terry cloth out of which the towel was made, with all its tiny little cotton thread loops – a fabric used for towels since 1850, that was shown at the World Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in London in 1851, that had later conquered the world as the number one fabric for towels, bathrobes, hot pads and maybe even more, she didn’t know, didn’t want to know either, wanted nothing but to stare at the little cotton loops that had pleased even Queen Victoria.
Tiny, little loops…, tiny, little…
And she knew that she had never owned any towel like this and she knew who was standing behind her, knew what she had done – she had used Mrs Nemesis’ designer towel to more or less polish her own body openings, the ones that were known as the private parts. Now the dripping wet Mrs Nemesis didn’t have anything to use for herself, and she didn’t want to turn around and face her.
But she had to. She got the socks off her hands and faced her neighbour like the guiltiest little child would the sternest stepmother. Never had she felt so belittled.
Stupidly, Mrs A couldn’t find her own towel. She could have offered that to Mrs Nemesis. But then, she had put on the swimsuit at home and brought underwear and a towel with her. Could it be she had forgotten the towel? It looked so.
She faced Mrs Nemesis again and suggested to buy a new towel at the reception, and Mrs Nemesis accepted, put off by the present state of towel affairs.
Mrs A smiled her bravest smile and looked for her undies. They were gone too. Was it possible that she had forgotten everything today? What did Mrs Nemesis think? Mrs A sure was no walking disaster area.
There was nothing to do, but to get the wet swimsuit on again. Seeing that Mrs Nemesis started wondering, Mrs A explained quickly that it was practical to wear the swimsuit if it so happened that she wanted to take a bath when coming home. And wet pants had never killed anyone.
It didn’t sound so good.
On trembling legs she ran to the reception area and swiftly returned with a new towel that Mrs Nemesis most graciously accepted.
Mrs A didn’t feel like lingering in the locker room. As they left her baby was still giggling – the little innocent one would fortunately not remember anything. Mrs A felt relieved as she walked to her car.
She got the kid in the baby seat and got in behind the steering wheel herself. Before backing out of the parking space, she threw a quick glance in the mirror.
That was when she saw it. She had her underwear on her head.
Several years later it was still a pain to think about it. In vain she tried to concentrate. She thought of the Christmas ham that she would need to put in brine, she thought of sausage-making and the brewing of Christmas beer. She thought of her grandma’s Christmas Eve story from her childhood a century ago, when there were no glasses on the table; instead a carved wooden beer bowl was passed around for the guests to drink directly from it, like Haakon Earl and Kark had done a millennium earlier. Just before she died, Mrs A had explained to her grand-mother what the internet was.
Today was the 7th of December. Tomorrow was her birthday! And as the kids fought about their toy walkie-talkies, she struggled to cheer up.
It was hard.
Did the women from the baby swimming forget with time? Or did they cherish the souvenir of their stupid neighbour? Did they dwell on the incident when they met? Could it be they had secret white towel theme parties?
Probably not. And yet.