The water had been running for a lot longer than usual.
She had asked her son to clean up for dinner, and the little boy retreated to the bathroom minutes ago.
She knocked on the door and asked if he was almost done.
“Not yet mama, but you can come in. I’m just washing my hands.”
His mother walked in to see the child covered in suds up to his elbows.
Assuming he was just being extra thorough, she told him that he had done a fine job and that he was definitely clean enough.
No dirt could survive such a washing.
The boy turned to his mother and said, “this isn’t for dirt, mama. This is for shame.”
The boy went on to reveal that in class that day he had not only spoken out of turn, he had also failed to turn in a paper on time, and his teacher’s response to this had been “shame on you.”
So, in his innocent understanding of the power of words, and the authority of his elders, he surmised that this shame that she spoke of was something he wore.
Something he was coated in.
And it must have been something rotten, going by the poison in her voice when she said it.
His mother went on to explain that it was only an expression.
A not so nice one, but in the end it was only words – not a physical thing.
He shook his head and touched her hand.
“But mama, when she said it, I felt it on my skin.”
And he continued to wash his shame away.