Outside My Outdoor Shower There Is a Carnival
Text by Lisa Annelouise Rentz
Photographs by Michelle Mueller
Lots of bodies get themselves to Ocean Drive beach, and by carnival I mean roller coasters and Skee-Ball, and I mean carne like the flesh of our bodies.
This outdoor shower of mine is at the north end of the South Carolina coast where people bring with them bathing suits and flimsy beach covers and buy novelty T-shirts, like the three sixty-something women smiling and walking in a row down the beach, each wearing a long tee printed with a cartoon of a skinny, bikini-wearing body. They waved happily when they noticed I noticed their camaraderie. I also have nostalgia for my body’s past, I miss the freshness of my stem cells and the rifeness of my lymphocytes and the peachy-smooth areas where I didn’t have scars.
Every beach walk in Ocean Drive crosses paths with at least one man wearing black socks. You can count on it. Most people are more sharing with their flesh here. In the springtime, women in search of health put on tutus and tiaras and run the Diva Half Marathon. So the outdoor shower of a seventy-five-year-old beach house surrounded by tie-on clothing and spray tans is the ideal spot to bare it all. I say so, and so do the bums and the drifters and the carnies, when we bona fide partakers of this old wooden commodious shack are not around.
In this shower, a wooden stall on its own little wooden deck, the hot water feels delicious and magnifies the outdoor world: the breeze filtering through could star in a commercial, the rumble of cars on the street fifteen feet away might as well be on the wrong side of a barricade; the people on the deck above me—possibly armed with a bucket of ice water—will just have to wait their turn. The concentric circles of more and more people doing their own beach things radiate out. Ocean Drive is where people shuffle their feet to dance the shag, where they intoxicate their brains and leave plastic cups on any flat surface, where they masticate dripping slices of Georgio’s pizza for their stomachs, where I show off my ankles as I soap up and the steam suggests more, and where every spring a crew of carnies sets up their rides and games in the scruffy lot right next to my beloved shower so that people can be slung around in those rides like loose surfboards in the waves.
It’s a fan dance, being in that stall, my flesh is there, any passerby could see. You know you’re getting a glimpse, but not enough but just enough—
A young woman from Bulgaria, here to clean rooms or scoop ice cream, lured squirrels and birds around her one dewy morning. Two bikers, walking down the street with their dachshund, dutifully scooped the poop. A professional drunk and his big black poodle lounged every night in the sidewalk cafe of a busy shag-dancing club. A rabbit ran through the yard amid the Harley Davidson thunder, some people place Harley stickers on their cars so you know they still ride too sometimes.
But the carnies had a job to do, five days of labor to set up their extravaganza. I watched discreetly. Women wearing plaid shirts arrived driving dually trucks. At sixty-something years of age they wore tool belts and rolled-up dungarees. A young woman glowed in a pink T-shirt, boots, and a tan, and squatted like a plumber while she worked on tire-level parts. Someone was named Bam Bam, I heard yelled a few times, and a cube of a woman with the facial features of fetal alcohol syndrome had upholstered herself in denim. They all took heroic construction poses, holding tools, being purposeful and forceful in their postures, pointing the way through a screw-tightening checklist with their resolute faces. One man with severe bed head slept in the extended cab of a truck parked alongside my shower. He sat up to spit and cough. Bunks were tucked into every kind of hauler.
They constructed a roller coaster and a Ferris wheel, the Scrambler and the Rocket Flyer and the Tilt-A-Whirl and the Flying Bobs and the Spinning Teacups, and for the whole summer long blasted classic rock anthems, giving men, women, and children the exhilaration of momentum and out-of-control entertainment.
The Eye of the Tiger.
Up on the Roof.
We all go inside sometimes and slower can be better because we can still watch from the windows, old kids sent to their rooms. Our bodies in TV rooms and exam rooms are as inevitable as breakfast in our tummies. My shower is surrounded by acres of retirees in patio homes and condos so the local TV stations broadcast The Andy Griffith Show and The Beverly Hillbillies (fine by me I have to admit) and a line up of commercials for more interior pursuits—
Now Everyone who uses a Catheter Can Get A Better Catheter from Liberator Medical
Transvaginal Mesh Warning
Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer Alert
Hope For the Warriors PTSD
Bright Star: a Higher Standard of Home Care
Request Your Free Burial Planning Kit
Risperdahl and Risk of Breast Development in Boys
Shingles Pain Trial Dot Com
So much to do, so few orifices for medical amusements! The gurney ride feeds the MRI, a machine that threads people through an oculus to get a good look inside.
Once, according to family lore—a cart flew right off the tracks into the surf! One of the Dew brothers put a litter-stabber right through his foot and all he did for it was pour on the hydrogen peroxide and tie it in an old T-shirt! When they had a ski lift ride for a while there, this guy was shooting off bottle rockets, and when the police came he tried to climb down but fell and got impaled in the head!
Sunburns and jellyfish stings and that time a barracuda showed up.
That’s the past and the present, they are forces of nature crammed into clocks and appointment times. I’m beginning to know my future. I don’t spend time wanting what I can’t have. I am less tolerant in a healthy way.
Maybe one day the roller coaster will collapse and all the ambulances within fifty miles will arrive. Maybe the police and the bikers will have a standoff again. Maybe I will take so many showers the plywood will need to be replaced. In just the past year, someone bored a peep hole in the shower, from the inside out, a satisfying look through the wrong end of the telescope.
LISA ANNELOUISE RENTZ lives in a three-hundred-year-old village on the East Coast where she feels great admiration for the marvelous experts of the Medical University of South Carolina.