Panic. She scrubbed her hands in frantic little jabs making sure to get the flat simple skin between her fingers by raking her fingertips across the spaces between her knuckles. She spread her fingers apart exposing the soft webs and pinched and rubbed each one between the tips of her thumb and index finger on the other hand. She had to make sure that none of the chemical residue was left. The smell was one thing but she knew that there would be other chemicals that would stick to the skin. Work their way into the creases, cling to the folds. Weren’t there like hundreds of chemicals. Isn’t that what they tell you in your teens.
She felt the pull of her reflection in the mirror, tugging up just a little like someone had her by the chin with a tiny pretty hook on spider silk. She wouldn’t look though. She couldn’t bear the image. The light in the bathroom was flaccid, flat, and cold. Industrial light. Public light. She would look so tired in that light. The image of a fetal pig that she had been forced to dissect in high school forced its way in. The detestable thing had come in a bag. Slipping out onto the table cool, limp, and shriveled. Soaked in some unnatural brine. It’s skin was rippled and puckered.
If the cigarette wouldn’t come off of her hands then the officer would know. He could be assured then that she had been outside. With the others. He was persistent, pressing on her with questions that kept her off balance. Each time that she was able to develop her explanation he found a little hole to worm his way into. Just a tiny opening that he could hook a fingernail on and pry back a little.
She scrubbed, and rinsed, and dried, and sniffed. The soap smell was there for sure and maybe the smoke too but she wasn’t sure. Maybe the soap had a built in smoky smell to it. Maybe the cigarette was still there lying underneath the powerful fragrance. Lying around on the surface of her skin to rise back up in traitorous wisps when the flowers had evaporated.
Out of time she dried once more and checked again. She inhaled deeply. Stuck her nose right down deep into the spaces between her fingers. Practically shoving them into her nostrils. It’s still there. Although she felt that she was likely undetectable, she couldn’t be sure. The thought was still there, loitering insipidly. Smirking.