“You never know where you’ll get a rash…”
She thought about stopping the elevator door with her foot so she could escape, but she had on new shoes and the balls of her feet were already killing her. And she’d have to spin around with her pharma-rep briefcase on wheels, the laptop case not strapped to the handle… She checked him for the telltale white wire dripping from his ears, or a Bluetooth locust on one of them. No. He was talking to her. She scanned him for drool or a wet spot on his slacks. Nothing. Some good news. She put on what she thought was an appropriate amount of business woman attitude.
“Your comment was directed at me?”
“Not really.” Lamar was tapping his fingers on the brushed aluminum handrail that ran around three sides of the car, glad the elevator had stopped, and someone had actually gotten on because it stopped pretty often for no reason. “Just saying. But you know, rashes are weird. And you never know where you’ll get one.” He lifted his right foot and put it on the rail. “My name’s Lamar.”
“Greta. Nice to meet you, Lamar.” She knew that right here it could go from strange, to bad, to worse, depending on what he did with his hands. Goddam, why the new shoes today? She could have been so out of here in the black boots. But the boots chafed her calf and –
“Like lately when it’s been dry, and cold, and everyone is running their heaters?” He pulled his pants leg up a touch, scratched just behind his ankle bone. “I get these red patches in places that you wouldn’t think would be sensitive. My shins, too. And cowboy boots? Forget that. Ring around the calf. I spend all day on one foot scratchin’ my leg with the other one.”
Thank God. He was just a talker and left his pants alone. Her boots did the same thing, kind of, but —
“Just weird, where you get a rash this time of year. Happens to you, too.”
“What? No, it doesn’t. I don’t have rash issues. And it’s none of –”
“Then why are doing that with your finger right along the top of your skirt, in the back?”
“I was checking my blouse. This jacket hits right at my waist, and I can’t walk around looking like a box of Kleenex from the…” She caught a glimpse of his “bullshit” grin in the mirrored button panel, turned back his way. “Okay. You’re right. It just itches, though. It’s not a rash.”
Lamar raised his eyebrows.
“I have a tattoo back there. It’s a rose, in the middle of an oval, like a cameo. And curly vines going out on both sides.”
“Those all look like the new Chrysler badge to me. But it itches, and you can’t see back there, so how do you know it’s not a rash? You put something on it?”
“I use a moisturizer, but it still…And anyway, because I know, that’s why. I don’t have rashes. Anywhere. It’s the tattoo. I never had this itching thing back there until I got it. It dried out my skin or something.”
“Maybe. But with rashes this time of year? You never know if it’s an allergy or dry skin or what. The air dries out and BAM. It could be dry-cleaning fluid or detergent or fabric softener. Rashes places where you wouldn’t think. Underneath socks, behind your knees. He reached inside his jacket, about halfway down his ribcage on the side. “Even here.” He rubbed his hips and then the top of his butt cheeks. “And here. Women and all of your itchy, under-the-hood things, and those clingy yoga pants –”
“There’s a difference?”
“Yes. Yoga pants are…Well, they’re for Yoga. And shorter, and made out of a different, athletic type fabric.” And waaay more expensive. God almighty, fucking drop the rashes.
“So, tights don’t itch? Like behind your knees or where they grab you by the ankles?”
“Yes, they itch. Sometimes. And they stretch out and sag no matter how cold it is if you get up and down a lot, but I get out of my car and walk these office towers all day. They make me sweat, but where they make me sweat? We aren’t going there.” She tried to glare, but he was one of those older guys who seemed impervious.
“Sweat is a whole other thing,” Lamar said. “You know where a summer rash is going to hit you.” He stuck a hand in the opposite armpit. “Here.” He ran his hands around the edges of his groin at the tops of his thighs. “And here. Heat and underwear do that one. But not here,” and he grabbed a handful of his junk. “Maybe a little, but no one wants a rash there. It’s different for women. My wife used to hate it when pantyhose were the uniform of choice. She always got the ones with the cotton crotch because if she didn’t –”
“I get it, Lamar.”
“In the summer, I have to run a trim down there because that old saying about having a wild hair? Well, I get them, and along with that undies rash I’ll spend half my time not mowin’ the yard and unhookin’ sweaty Velcro business if I don’t knock it back.”
“I’m certain that can’t be any fun for you. And I can sympathize with your wife. Back when we could let our bikini line go over the winter —”
“Road Kill. When we were teenagers and looking for that kind of thing? We called that one ‘pantyhose road kill.’ You know, all smashed out, and being trapped in there all day.”
“That is the most disgusting thing you’ve said yet. Road kill?”
“We were fourteen, fifteen. Maybe a little older, but we quit looking when we started trying. Did you wear panties with your pantyhose? Some girls did. Seemed redundant. And girdles. Why wear one of those things with pantyhose? Who invented girdles, anway?”
“A man, I’m sure.” What happened to her floor?
“One summer I went out with this girl, she was no bigger around than this handrail. And she had on pantyhose and a girdle.”
“Self Defense tactic. Back then the harder it was and the longer it took, the more likely you were to let up or give up, or curfew started knocking harder than you. Or her mother made her.”
“You know some secret about mothers and girdles?”
“Mine made me wear one and pinched my butt on the way out the door to be sure, but it ended up in my purse by the first stop sign.”
“I always wondered, the way they were like Lycra and elastic chastity belts, did girdles give you a rash if you got, you know ‘wound up’ or it was summer? I mean talk about something that didn’t breathe.”
“NO. I don’t know about any other girls, but they never gave me a rash because I pulled mine…And, well, they did give me a rash, that’s why I…What’s really giving me a rash is –”
The elevator dinged, and the female robot voice intoned “Basement Level. Threshold Tavern and Parking, Level A.”
“Best of the rest on your day, Greta. Great story. Good luck with the doctor’s office managers.” Lamar stepped out, held the door for a younger guy and a forty-something woman just like the one who’d ridden the elevator with him right past where she needed to go, rolling briefcase and all.
Greta watched Lamar turn toward the bar, waited for the door to close before she checked out her car mates. The guy ran his finger around the back of his collar, the woman pulled her foot out of her shoe and rubbed her calf with it. Greta landed on the button mirror, acted like she was checking her lipstick.
“You never know where you’ll get a rash…”