Cathartic Hygiene Procedures

bath

I WOULD MOVE LIKE SILK WHEN THIS WAS OVER | Beth Gilstrap

Sundog Lit.

⇒This is a very intimate story. It’s told in the first person, in brief, silken sentences that flow one into another like the Turkish bath that the female protagonist of this story experiences. From a syntactical standpoint, there’s something about simple sentences that’s so smooth, so liquid. This story is gently rendered but emotionally resonant just the same, and very poetic in the sense that most people use the term poetic when describing a beautiful prose piece.

I discovered this in the newest issue of Sundog Lit, the “travel issue,” a sizable digital volume of travel narratives of varying lengths. This one, a narrative triptych, is on the shorter side but nonetheless contains a wealth of details and senses and memories.

Basic plot: an American woman on the cusp of her 34th birthday is depressed, in a (presumably) strained marriage, and is traveling (sans husband) in Turkey. She and some others in her group visit a Turkish bath. What follows is a very sensuous massage and emotional exfoliation that seems transcendent for the protagonist/narrator. Then we cut to a series of childhood memories–hazy second-hand recollections of bath time as a young girl, memories of familial traumas and paternal absence–and then, in the last section, we move back to the present and the woman’s experience in the bath, where she’s rubbed red by a Turkish woman with whom she has at once no connection and total emotional intimacy.

This is a story of distances (as the epigraph suggests): distances between people, between lands, between inside/out, and from one layer to another. It’s a heavy emotional journey but without he schmalz, a testament to the storyteller’s abilities–this piece could have veered into highly dangerous Eat, Pray, Love terrain, but instead opts for something less apt to be summarized in one sentence on a dust jacket. This is a very complex piece, but it’s quite simple as well, which is a great accomplishment.

Read this story. The language is fantastic, so precise; it’s clear the author agonized over each word, every syllable and phoneme. The results speak for themselves.

Read the piece at Sundog Lit.

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