Sunday Sentence

In which I participate in David Abrams’s “Sunday Sentence” project, sharing the best sentence I’ve read during the past week, “out of context and without commentary.”

Your duty was to immerse yourself, soap yourself all over and rub yourself with the loofah, and rinse yourself, and then Grandma came, got you up on your knees in the bathtub, held you firmly by the arm, and scrubbed you all over, from head to toe and back again, with the dreaded brush, reminiscent of the iron combs that the wicked Romans used to tear the flesh of Rabbi Akiva and the other martyrs of the Bar Kochba Revolt, until your skin was pink like raw flesh, and then Grandma told you to close your eyes tight as tight, while she shampooed and pummeled your head and scratched your scalp with her sharp nails like Job scraping himself with a potsherd, and all the while she explained to you in her brown, pleasant voice about the filth and mire that the body’s glands secrete while you sleep, such as sticky sweat and all sorts of fatty discharges and flakes of skin and fallen hairs and millions of dead cells and various kinds of slimy secretions you’d better not know about, and while you were fast asleep all this refuse and effluent smeared itself all over your body and mixed itself up together and invited, yes, positively invited, bacteria and bacilli and viruses too to come and swarm all over you, not to mention all the things that science has not yet discovered, things that cannot be seen even with the most powerful microscope, but even if they can’t be seen, they crawl all over your body all night with trillions of horrible hairy little legs, just like a cockroach’s but so tiny you can’t see them, even scientists can’t see them yet, and on these legs that are covered with disgusting bristles they creep back inside our bodies through the nose and the mouth and through I don’t need to tell you where else they crawl in through, especially when people never wash themselves there in those not nice places they just wipe, but wiping isn’t cleaning, on the contrary, it just spreads the filthy secretions into the millions of tiny holes we have all over our skin, and it all gets more and more filthy and disgusting, especially when the internal filth that the body is constantly excreting, day and night, gets mixed up with the external filth that comes from touching unhygienic things that have been handled by who knows whom before you, like coins or newspapers or handrails or doorknobs or even bought food, after all who can tell who has sneezed over what you’re touching, or even, excuse me, wiped their nose or even dripped from their nose precisely on those sweet wrappers that you pick up in the street and put straight on the bed where people sleep, not to mention those corks you pick straight out of the garbage cans, and that corn on the cob your mother, God preserve her, buys straight from the hand of that man who may not even have washed and dried his hands after he has excuse me, and how can we be so sure that he’s a healthy man? 

Source: Amos Oz, A Tale of Love and Darkness (trans. Nicholas de Lange)

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