I’m (finally) in a creative writing course, and the first unit we’re looking at is called creative nonfiction, which is essentially telling a story with true facts, real people, real places, etc. Basically, it’s a story that really happened. So I know I haven’t posted in about two weeks, so I’m going to write a creative nonfiction story, or maybe two depending on the length of the first one. The following story(s) are 100% true, and some of you may already recognize them. This first one is dedicated to a special few people. You know who you are. Let’s go.
Around me the van is humming with laughter, screams, and whines. We’ve just finished our work for the day at Fuego de Dios, which means “Fire of God” in Spanish. We hosted a vacation Bible school for the kids there, while some others dug in the dirt to lay foundation for a new building. It isn’t a surprise that all of us are ready to be done for the day. You’d think that after a day of sweltering sun and manual labor we’d all be done for the day, ready to sleep. Somehow we found it in ourselves to not only stay awake, but maintain conversation, laughter, and the like.
We’re cruising through Ensenada, our heads bobbing with every bump we face in the road. The driver turns off the road back to camp and leads us into town.
“Where are we going?” I ask.
“You’ll see,” Matt says.
A girl in the car, Katie, tells me in a hushed tone, “I think we’re going to the showers.” Apparently she’s trying to keep the car from exploding into more noise than there already is.
I thinkto myself that a shower would be magnificent after three days of working in dust and sun. Somehow the dirt in Mexico, which we established was a hundred percent different from regular American dirt, evidenced by our calling it “DURT!”, managed to seep into every corner of space. Our bags have it, our clothes have it, and unfortunately, many places on our body get it which we hoped would never happen. The DURT! is everywhere, caking into paste in places where we sweat too much. This shower isgoing to be a God-send.
Then I remember why this shower is going to be a little different. For one thing, I didn’t bring a complete change of clothes or anything with which to wash myself. All I have is a clean shirt and a towel. It also frightens me a little because, when earlier in the trip I was informed that if I drank the water there that hadn’t been purified (the shower water), I’ll likely end up with Montezuma’s Revenge, gracefully dubbed “Fire-rhea” by someone in our group.
We pull up across the street from the bathing house and shuffle out into the furnace. From what I can tell, everyone is eager to cleanse themselves of the DURT!. We mill around until the other van pulls up nearby. We rush across the street and file into a narrow hallway, hardly large enough to fit two people standing shoulder to shoulder. Each of us surrenders two Washingtons and we proceed into the shower room.
I’ve never done this before, and people are already filling up the stalls. Matt tells us that we all have six minutes to shower, dress, and be ready to leave.I ask to borrow somebody’s shampoo and conditioner, and a leader kindly lends me two bags of what appears to be hotel shampoo and conditioner, contained in a Ziploc bag. With everything I need, I go and walk into stall number five.
The showers here are unlike any I’ve ever seen before. There are two rooms separated by a small wall and a loosely hanging door. In this first room is a pedestal and a mirror. Both rooms are dark, just bright enough to see everything, but nothing very clearly. I shut the door to the stall behind me and begin taking everything off. My backpack, my camera, my shoes and socks, my pants, shirt, and finally the underwear. The pedestal isn’t large enough for everything, so I set my backpack, shoes, and towel up there, making sure to cover the camera. I set the shampoo and conditioner on the towel as well.
I walk into the second chamber and am baffled by what I find. I was told that the showers in Mexico were fairly ghetto, but I didn’t realize they were this bad. I look for a shower head, but I can’t find one. All I see is this hole in the wall, small enough that I couldn’t stick my finger in it, letting light in. I guess the water comes out of some holes I can’t really see in the ceiling? Maybe it comes through that tiny hole? I look down and see two levers, one wrapped in red cloth, the other in white, or possibly very pale blue.
Even though it’s scorching outside, I want a hot shower. I reach for the red one and pull on it, but it doesn’t move. I wrench it around a little, but it doesn’t want to comply. So then I reach for the white one and I twist it to the side.
From out of nowhere, I’m blasted by a jet of water straight from the north pole. The water is coming out of the hole in the wall. It hits me square in my forehead and splashes and dribbles all down my body. I recoil and step out of the stream of water, and try to regain my composure. The water was cold enough to make my mind feel a little fuzzy and my lungs shrivel like a prune. I gasp for air and hold my dripping head away from my body. I realize I have to deal with this, and time has started ticking. I gather my courage and step back into the water, but primarily my head. I get my hair wet and eagerly go back out into the first chamber to get the hair supplies.
I open the Ziploc bag and pull out the orange pouch that says shampoo. I try to tear it, but my slippery wet hands can’t grip it well. I pull on it in a variety of manners and still can’t open it. Time is of the essence and I resort to tearing it with my teeth. I feel the pouch rip open violently, and small drops of shampoo propel into my mouth. I try to get rid of the taste, but I can’t put the water in my mouth or I’ll get fire-rhea. I spit out as much as I can and pour some of the shampoo into my hair. I realize now that my clothes on the floor are becoming soaked, and not only from me. The door separating the two chambers doesn’t come all the way to the floor, and water is careening under it, creating a small pond that my clothes settle in.
I have no time to worry about that, as I’m sure I’m down to less than three minutes. I quickly scrub my hair and rinse it with water, before I repeat the process with the conditioner. Again, I spit the conditioner that leaks into my mouth out and brave the maelstrom again. As I attempt to wash my hair without letting the water touch the rest of my body, the door separating the chamber opens on its own accord. I reach out and shut it, but for some reason it won’t stay shut. I stick my leg out to hold the door shut, probably over-valuing the small amount of protection the door provides for my waterlogged clothes. I realize now that, as I stand hunched over on one leg, sticking the other out to hold a mediocre door shut, that I probably look something like the most awkward flamingo ever known to the world.
The cold is starting to really affect me, and the fringes of my vision flicker, and my breathing becomes more strained. As soon as I’m confident that the conditioner is out, I slam my hand down on the lever and stop the water. I stand there still in shock at what I’ve just experienced, not quite able to understand it. I step back into the first chamber and dry off. But my adventure is only half over, because now I have to brave my clothes. I pull on my t-shirt which is comfortably warm on my freezing torso. Then I gather my courage for the final time and pull on my soaking underwear, my drenched khakis, and my slushy socks. I pull my shoes back on, and seal the hair care products back into their Ziploc bag; their newly appointed cell.
I put everything back in my backpack, and open the door that had hidden my traumatic experience from everyone else. I expect them to look at me and see my half soaked-ness and ask questions. But nobody does. I go and sit on a bench and wait for everyone else to finish. Then I recount my experience to Katie, who is brushing her damp hair. I keep the majority of my story to myself until we get back to the camp.
When I get back, the first thing I do is run to my tent and change my clothes, which have been sitting in a bag, in a tent, underneath the scorching sun I used to think was my enemy. When I feel the warmth of my underwear and pants, I savor it for a moment before returning outside to the camp to hang my torturers to dry. The shower from Hell has made one thing immeasurably clear to me. I will NEVER be taking a shower in Mexico again.
So that’s my story. My shower from Hell. God really does have a sense of humor. Just to fill in some pieces that the story leaves out, I did recount this story later that night at the “campfire.” We shared our shower stories, and I was the only one with a negative one. So I told this story to much entertainment of my fellow travelers. Many of them died laughing at me. I’ve been told because of that story that I have a knack for storytelling, and it has to be told out loud; something in the way I tell them makes them a hundred times funnier than they really are. I also must say that I will shower in Mexico if I go there again, I will just be prepared for it next time, and I’ll try a little harder to get the water working right. My last confession is that not all the showers were apparently as ghetto as mine was. Somehow I missed the memo that stall number five was broken and didn’t have a shower head. I didn’t realize the other ones did because I was not about to go peeping in on the closed doors, and I didn’t really look into the ones that were open. I just found an open stall that said shower over it and went to work. Or rather, it went to work on me. So I hope this story was sufficiently amusing. I’ve been looking for a good story to tell in a creative nonfiction way. I neither have any sad stories that can be told like this and make you want to cry, nor can I think of any good stories that could be inspirational or positive. I finally thought of this one, and I know that this one can make people laugh, so I wrote it. This is my first attempt at writing creative nonfiction, so let me know what you think. How’d I do? Thanks for reading.