What you learn in a lemon bath:

  • you made a mistake
  • this is not the first time you made this mistake
  • you try to relax, but you can’t ignore your mistake
  • lemon burns
  • you remember the last time you added lemon oil to your bath, and you ask yourself, how could you forget? and you wonder, did you really forget, or do you just not care? and then you’re like, but lemon smells really good. and you realize, it doesn’t matter what you think because you’re in this bath now, and lemon burns
  • you notice the burn on your right elbow and your right thigh, and you wonder, why? and you remember that time you added lemon oil to a cup of water on an airplane. the flight attendant gave you hot water — at your request — but you didn’t consider the nature of the cup. styrofoam, like your sensitive skin, reacts to acidity. you watched the cup dissolve, and you tried to drink the hot water quickly, to hide your mistake. you are always making mistakes with lemon oil. and so, you drank styrofoam by mistake, on purpose
  • you don’t like this memory. it’s a weird memory, and you’re still sitting in the lemon bath, feeling your skin burn, and you’re like, why? why doesn’t your whole body burn, why only these parts — elbow, thigh — why is this skin different from the rest of your skin, and then you think about how your skin is your largest organ, and you don’t know what that means, but you feel the burn and you touch your skin where it burns
  • and you don’t mind the burn that much, but you tell yourself, don’t add lemon next time, but you wonder if maybe you will one day, years from now
  • there’s something invigorating about the lemon burn, even though it’s a mistake, even though you tell yourself not to do it again, even though it’s making you remember other mistakes
  • you touch your skin, and you’re aware of your mysterious skin
  • you’re glad you’re not made of styrofoam
  • you’re glad you didn’t dissolve in the lemon bath, like that cup on the airplane, the one you drank by mistake, on purpose
  • and you realize — your mistake is such a tiny mistake, so small and insignificant compared to the integrity of your magnificent skin
  • and you start to wonder if you even made a mistake at all

Melissa Toldy is a writer living in Brooklyn, NY. Sign up for her free newsletter, I Toldy You. Looking for a book to read? Check out the Finding Context bookshop.

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