Soap, Booze, and Life on an Island Nation by Gibson Bateman

October 1, 2012 Comments Off on Soap, Booze, and Life on an Island Nation by Gibson Bateman

Here, like everywhere else I have lived, I try to “spread it around” and buy liquor at various places. I do this mostly so people don’t think I have a drinking problem, but also because I like to frequent an array of locations, talk to different people, and feel like a more sophisticated, cosmopolitan consumer than I actually am. I also don’t want to seem too conspicuous.

I’m a white guy in Asia. And I’m supposed to be on vacation. Or at least that’s what my visa says.

When I go to buy liquor at the grocery store near my house, I always buy some bars of soap. I can’t remember exactly when I started doing this, but it’s been going on for at least several months now, probably longer than that. I think I might have a soap problem since I buy soap every time I visit the grocery store, irrespective of whether or not I buy any booze. To be clear, the soap purchases were a deliberate, yet very superficial, attempt to show the grocery store employees that I was not just coming for the booze but that I also needed some soap, which I thought was a brilliant ruse. I’ve been under a lot of pressure recently, and I’ve been thirsty, but no one needs to know that.

I noticed my serial soap purchasing tonight when I went there to get some plastic spoons. I usually eat with my hands, but I like seeing plastic spoons in my kitchen because that makes me feel like I’m normal. I needed the spoons. After I got them, I picked up a bag of chips. Then I went and bought a three-pack of bar soap. That’s when it hit me.

When I got back home, I found myself staring at no less than 15 bars of soap — sensitive, fresh, cool, original — they’re all there, lying all over my kitchen counter. I have several extra bars in the bathroom, and, five minutes ago, I came across a few additional bars in my fridge.

The idea of “Fridge soap” may have found its way into my subconscious since someone at our office always puts the bar soap in the fridge before everybody goes home for the night; otherwise, the rats eat it during the evening, so the next day,  washing your hands doesn’t feel quite as refreshing as it should.

I need to get to the beach. I need a real vacation, but I can’t help wondering if I’m crazy or not. No, surely not. I’m just another white guy with an unoriginal cover story, a visit visa, and a pair of very clean hands.

© 2012 Gibson Bateman

Gibson Bateman is an international consultant based in New York City. His writing has appeared in CounterPunch, Foreign Policy Journal, East Asia Forum, Groundviews and elsewhere.

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