He wears the same clothes and likes the same things as the other kids but he is still brown and they aren’t. He knows he smells like curry and they smell like Downy and they make sure to remind him often.
“Do you even take showers?” a girl asks.
He gets home from school, strips down, and goes into the shower. Before he turns the water on, he smears soap on his dry skin. It is thicker, less diluted, and, he hopes, more effective. He rubs it in, hoping his pores will breath in the ordinary scent of the generic soap. He turns on the hot water. It’s scalding. He lets out a wince and takes a belly full of hot steam
Once the soap gathers as suds around the mouth of the drain, he takes a washcloth, reaches out of the shower curtain for a large bottle of vinegar he found in the kitchen, and soaks the washcloth in it. He rubs his skin red. He smells like clean floors, gleaming counters, and a bit like pickles. He rinses, turns the shower knob to off, and right as he opens the curtain, he smells it. Curry. He throws on a towel to see if someone is cooking in the kitchen. They aren’t. It’s him.
He gets back in, turns the water to scalding, and covers the washcloth in soap. He scrubs his arms, rubbing the leathery cap off his elbow. He scrubs his legs so hard that the light coat of black fuzz lining his calfs gets carried away with the water. He scrubs behind his ears, in the small rolls of his sides, anywhere the scent could be hiding. He scrubs so hard that his skin starts to flake off. The water pooled around his feet has a faint brown tint.
He grins and scrubs harder. His skin is raw but he keeps scrubbing. He turns to scabs but he keeps scrubbing. All his skin gets caught in the water and rushes down the drain. He scrubs it all off: all of the skin and the scent and the brown and everything that could identify him as a boy with a past. Once the hot water runs cold, he turns the shower off.
He walks out as a shadow of himself. He is not different but he is not ordinary. He doesn’t stand out but he doesn’t fit in. He is just a shadow. You can no longer read a small history in the color of his skin or the worry lining his eyes because he has no color and no lines. He lingers around his classmates that no longer make fun of him because he is nothing. He blends into the walls and the sky and the earth and lives the rest of his days as a flat plain with rocky soil. He can harvest no history and produces nothing but monotony you drive past.