By David Leese

I’m not sure why, but in the morning I like to turn the shower on as soon as I get into the bathroom. I feel lonely, I guess, and the bathroom seems too quiet with just the faucet running. My alarm (this should be plural: I need a sequence of at least four alarms at about a ten minute interval) has done an adequate job of waking me up; more than adequate really, I mean, I’m in the bathroom and not bed. The shower is always turned up to its hottest, so by the time I’ve finished brushing my teeth and have begun to pee there is steam crawling through the openings left by the shower curtain and the bathroom, which is small but not cramped, feels cozy, compensating for the fact that I am no longer ensconced in my duvet.

When I actually get in the shower the water pressure — which has sounded steady and confident — stutters then falters, and assumes to mope onto my back. This invokes the very same sentiment the alarm did: I was comfortable, warm, content, at ease, whatever, and now I am not. Eventually the water pressure seems to re-establish itself and I am allowed to complete the procedures (or rituals, if you must) of cleaning oneself. But due to the water pressure’s slight miscue everything is thrown off and I’m back to being grumpy because showering once again becomes a chore and it is no longer pleasurable. Finally I’m done washing and examining my body; finished with fruitless attempts to reassert the shower as a pleasurable experience; finished with standing there, underneath that gesture of warmth, not thinking about anything. (I wonder now, is this even possible?)

I will often continue to stand there while I turn the shower off, feeling the water linger on my back before it gets yanked away, disappearing down the drain. I continue to stand there for one more moment, internalizing the humid silence, and give those last few orphaned beads a chance to roll past my ass, down my legs, and into the drain with the rest of them. This little nuance of a habit brings a sense of closure, and provides finality for the entire routine, like that beat before the President says “God Bless America” or a million other analogies.

This morning though, that sense of closure I so carefully secured is ruined. It is ruined because of the uncooperative water pressure. Or maybe it is ruined because of me. I don’t think I used too much shampoo but there it remains, occupying a grip of hair on the upper right side of my head. I can’t step back into the shower: that part is over now, the towel is wrapped firmly around my hips and my skin is happily arid. My only option is to turn on the sink and thrust my head into the cold gurgle, holding the strands in question out to the water, like an offering, begging for the intrusive shampoo particles to be expelled. My eyes strain to the top of their sockets to inspect the hair drooped through my fingers, then roll to the bottom of their sockets to inspect the water flowing into the drain, searching for evidence of forcefully discarded shampoo. I see most of it swirl towards the drain, fighting against hardened phlegm and crusty toothpaste remnants before officially leaving.

I remove the towel from my waist and rub my hair with it. The sound of their friction is normal (the sound of shampoo-ridden hair being rubbed with a towel is distinctly abnormal) and I’m so relieved.

I walk back to my room where she’s still sleeping. Her mouth is flagrantly splayed, discharging saliva onto the pillow instead of my shoulder. Her sound is so peaceful. I toss the towel wherever and crawl in next to her. She immediately accommodates my presence in the bed: the way she rolls over and then rolls back to me (with her arm landing across my chest and her head into a groove on my shoulder) is innately and sincerely natural. We expectedly conform in the bed. I always account five minutes for this – even if we don’t have it, even if we’re going to miss the bus. I let her sleep latched to me like I never left, even though I did.