A cloud of steam surrounded Erica’s soapy hands. She scrubbed the rough pumice stone against her hands, leaving them red and chaffed. Her raw and frayed nerve endings throbbed in rhythm with her heart as they cried out for mercy. Drops of blood crept through her pores and slid across her hand like a river snaking its way through a canyon. Even though the pain was unbearable, Erica kept her focus on the spot where raw chicken laid its unforgiving, bacteria laden juice.
Tears as hot as the water blurred her vision and stung her cheeks. Deep, gut-wrenching sobs radiated out from somewhere inside her soul. They made no sound, but shook her violently as they escaped her body. Only a tiny peep slipped through her vocal chords as she took in a deep breath. Her obsession with germs had taken control of her entire being.
“Darling, sweetheart, what are you doing?” In a panic, Erica’s mother turned off the water and wrapped her daughter’s hands in a thick, soft towel.
She looked into her mother’s horror stricken face. When she was able to speak, her voice was raspy and quiet. “I just can’t stop myself. I have to get rid of the germs.”
Erica’s breathing was still erratic and her voice trembled. “While I was cutting up the chicken, some juice ran into my glove.”
Her mother opened the towel and stared at Erica’s raw, bloody hand. “Oh, baby, this obsession of yours is out of control. Let’s go sit and talk.”
She watched her mother collect more clean towels, and an assortment of products from the bathroom counter. Then she led Erica to the sofa and dropped the items onto the coffee table.
Erica sat silently as her mother spread a clean towel onto her lap. She flinched slightly as her mother laid her hands on the clean towel. “Erica, what’s going on?”
She expected the oil to sting as her mother dripped it onto her fingers. The cooling oil bathed her hands in velvet and quieted her screaming nerves. Her mother wrapped the towel around them so the soothing oil could nourish her damaged skin. “You have the most beautiful hands I’ve even seen. Your long, delicate fingers make piano keys dance, and the cheer you spread with your cooking has become your reputation. So why do you choose to destroy the gift God gave you to do His work?” She opened the towel and pointed to the ugly stubs. “Look at what you’re doing to them.”
Tears raced to escape Erica’s eyes. The lump in her throat threatened to close off her windpipe. She blinked and swallowed. “I just can’t stop, Mom. The germs must go.”
Delicately, her mother began to massage a sweet smelling lotion into her partially calmed skin. The circular action of her mother’s fingers lulled her throbbing nerves into a peaceful rest. This sensation extended beyond her fingers and reached deep inside her soul. “I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but I must say it. You have a problem. God blessed you with these hands, and He expects you to take care of them, not destroy them.”
Again, Erica wanted to cry. She knew her mother made sense, and this wasn’t the first time she had been subjected to that particular lecture. “Mom, you don’t get it.”
“What is it that I’m not getting? You’re irrationally focused on what-if’s. Think about all the people who clean chicken everyday and don’t get sick. A little soap and water would have taken care of that bit of chicken juice, but you’re scrubbing like you’d been exposed to radiation.”
She knew her mother was right. For some time, she had wanted to stop this ridiculous habit. She had even tried, but failed. “I know Mom, but I can’t stop.”
Her mother coated her hands one more time with the velvety oil. “What if we get you some help? I’ve already spoken to the pastor, and he knows a great therapist who specializes in these problems.”
A rush of blood filled with rays of hope surged through Erica’s body. She never knew help for this problem existed. She smiled a weak smile at her mother and nodded.
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Very vivid descriptions, Rhonda - especially in the beginning. I was riveted. Hope you write "chapter two" of this some time. Great stuff! Oh - and Happy Birthday :)
Rhonda~This is incredible. I hope that it will minister to those with OCS or their family. I have a dear friend whose husband suffers from this, although he attributes it to his God given personality. He has indicated that he may want to leave his family because they are "dirty"...in a nut shell. He needs help. I hope those who need to read this find it. Thank you.