P—W  V° 03:05

On Sweat

by Mike Fu

Nearly two-thirds of the human body is comprised of water. We lose water through the process of perspiration. Perspiration occurs as a physiological response to a range of emotions or circumstances. Anxiety, excitement, arousal. An overly heated environment. An act of exertion. A spicy meal. To sweat is to thermoregulate our body temperature.

To sweat is to survive.

In Chungking Express, Takeshi Kaneshiro’s lovelorn cop goes jogging in order to sweat so that he has no more water left for tears. But losing an abundance of water can also result in dehydration, hyperthermia, heat stroke.

Sweat can be dangerous, whether too little or too much of it.

Just the right amount of sweat, on the other hand, can be exhilarating, fortifying, erotic. Forget losing water for the sake of avoiding heartache. A vigorous jog in open air can produce not only the mild euphoria of a runner’s high, but a physical sensation of accomplishment.

Sweat beading on the body, sliding down the brow. A taste of salt on the lips.

The sweat produced in response to a fiery meal is another kind of euphoria. The world is full of spicy pleasures about which I could rhapsodize for days. Habañero salsa, Thai curry with bird’s eye chili. Numbing peppercorns in Sichuan boiled fish stew. The colorful Scotch bonnet peppers I used to buy in Harlem and slice up to stir-fry with my rice.

The tears, the wild wonder of it all, the pain, the joy. The sweat.

And then there’s the act of loving. Too much sweat can be uncomfortable—or worse yet, unattractive and embarrassing. But a trace, or the luster of it on a lover’s body, can be sensual.

Sweat can be evidence of loving assiduously, yearning to gratify and be gratified.

Maybe sweat is the reason I’ve long loved summer and temperatures or climates that most people find vexing at best, intolerable at worst. Sweat is our humanity, our animalness laid bare. It draws us away from the cerebral solitude of modern life, all the screens and interfaces we navigate daily, the nested windows and endless tabs of our consciousness.

To sweat is to move towards the physical, the corporeal, the now.

A reminder that we are but creatures of water who release and reconstitute ourselves, day by day, as we move through the surging chaos of this world.

2023 © M.Fu