The girl before me finishes her story, and the applause of the crowd follows her off the stage. I take a breath, hold it. Release. The sound dies down, slowly. Someone just has to get that last clap. I let them do it, then walk up to the podium. I wish they had left some water or something up here.
â€œHi, Iâ€™m Sam, and Iâ€™ve recently discovered the wonders of baking soda.â€
They raise their eyes from their phones momentarily, then return to the glow of the screen. I get it. Itâ€™s been a long day ofâ€¦well, the pamphlet called it a â€œSelf-Improvement Seminar.â€ One kid in the front row rocks back and forth on his folding chair, the old metal creaking faintly. Itâ€™s distracting.
â€œYou know,” I begin, “it started relatively tamely. I love to bake. Cookies, cakes, sachertortesâ€¦ You name it. Anyway. Lots of recipes call for baking soda. Itâ€™s a leavening agent. Reacts with acids to release carbon dioxide. Simple stuff.
â€œBut then one day, I spilled a bunch of it all over. My hands were covered in it, like, totally white.â€ Itâ€™s kinda funny how vividly I recall all of this stuff now. I really should have written a script or something, but winging it seemed appropriate in this venue. â€œSo, just like anyone would, I went to the sink, pumped some soap out, and started to wash it off. But something happened. The stuff mixed with the soap, made a paste, ya know? Real bubbly. By the time I was done, my hands were soft. Like, soft soft. I couldnâ€™t stop touching them. Iâ€™ve always had a thing for textures and the like. So I did it again.
â€œMaybe once a day to start, Iâ€™d grab a bit of the stuff out the pantry and just make a big bowl of paste with it and some soap, and just scrub. My hands felt so good. After a while, I thought, â€˜What if thereâ€™s more?â€™. But it didnâ€™t come to me until a few days later in the shower. As I was massaging a bit of my regular drugstore exfoliator over my face, I stopped, and it was just likeâ€¦ yeah. I could totally use baking soda for this!â€
I wet my lips. A girl in the front row smiles, encouragingly. â€œSo the next morning, I hustled some of the white powder up to my room and hopped in the shower. I got under the water, scooped a good-sized dollop of cream cleanser out of the pot, and eagerly lathered it up with about a tablespoon of baking soda. My hands shook, I was so excited, ya know? Like, that kind of excited when youâ€™ve just stumbled across something thatâ€™s just soâ€¦ revolutionary? I gently rubbed the mixture over my skin in small circular motions, just with the tips of my fingers. It stung, but also felt kinda good. A bit of it dripped into my eye, and boy did that kill. Well, when Iâ€™d rinsed and gotten all dried off, I stepped over to the mirror, and my face was red. Like, red red. And it hurt likeâ€¦ Well, it hurt real bad. I tried putting a bit of moisturizer on to see if it would soothe it, but it prickled so much I had to wash it off. It looked like Iâ€™d been out in the sun for way too long without any sunscreen.
â€œI knew Iâ€™d overdone it. Big time. So I waited a week or so for my skin to calm down. It was a long week. But then I finally decided to try again. This time, I just barely dusted my hands in the powder, and it didnâ€™t really thicken the cleanser at all. Cautiously, I raised my hands to my face, and massaged it over my still barely-tender skin. Circular motions. I made sure to avoid my eye area this time, the skin there being so tender, ya know? The whole time, my skin tingled, but this time it wasnâ€™t nearly as bad, and not at all painful. Kindaâ€¦ funny. I did this for about a minute, and then washed off. This time, when I looked in the mirror, my skin lookedâ€¦ brighter. It was glowing, I guess. Pretty awesome. Oh, and it felt ridiculously smooth. I could stop touching it — with the backs of my hands, of course.
â€œI was careful now, though. I knew doing this more than once a week at first could be dangerous. So I kept it to that. And my skin kept getting smoother and brighter. My acne scars â€” the hyperpigmentation kind â€” started to fade. I loved it. Over time, I upped my usage to twice a week, monitoring my progress. After a while, I tried to do three times a week, but my skin started to feel raw again, so I settled on two.
â€œEven though Iâ€™d found out that I should concentrate my efforts around the creases of my nose and mouth, and anywhere else that tended to get flaky or rough, I felt that Iâ€™d experienced all I could by using this on my face. And then, again, it came to me. My hair was feeling pretty weighed down and rough after a bad experience with some styling products…â€
I nod to myself, collect my thoughts, and continue. I stumble a bit over my first few words, but get back into it pretty easily. â€œMy next shower, I squirted some shampoo into my hand, poured a bit more baking soda than I woulda used on my face into my palm, and mixed the two together. I worked this through my hair, massaging it across my scalp. I got every last strand of hair. It only took two to three minutes, but it felt like an hour. The feeling was amazing. I rinsed it out with some cold water, slapped on some conditioner, and rinsed that out too. Then I let my hair air dry, and waited impatiently for the results.
Oh, my god! Fantastic. My hair was smooth and shiny, and hadâ€¦life. It moved and felt incredible. It was like the cuticle of each strand had been polished and smoothed to perfection. I only do this about once every three weeks because I also use a clarifying shampoo weekly. And, well, that’s it. The end.â€
I laugh kind of nervously, embarrassed at my weak ending, and think, I really should have written a script.
Everyone claps enthusiastically, even though Iâ€™m pretty sure a good few of them were busy using their phones.