It’s been a long slog home. Her shoes are caked with mud and she feels sorry for them, but not sorry enough to wash them. A job for the weekend, she tells herself. For now, it’s herself that she longs to clean.
She kicks off the shoes and undresses carelessly. A t-shirt hanging off the side of the bed. A bra with her jeans, crumpled on the floor.
The shower is extra hot. She hates the cold, she always has. She sits cross-legged on the floor of the tub, her head bent, almost as if in meditation. Her eyes downcast, she concentrates her vision on the water that drips off the edges of her eyelashes.
Not bothering to look up, her fingers slide blindly over the wall tiles, slippery with steam, to find the tap, which she turns up. Full.
The water whips her back – a painful, hot massage – hitting that spot where she keeps the troubles of the day tangled in her muscles. Below her neck, between her shoulder blades. The jet makes its impact and the force of it pushes the water half over her shoulders while the rest waterfalls over her curved spine.
She soaps herself for ages, staring mindlessly at the lather that keeps washing away with the water. Liking how her fingers slip over her skin. Watching the foam as it runs around her and swirls noisily down the drain.
The water gets too hot and she shifts slightly, letting the main burst come down squarely on her forehead. She turns her face up to meet it. Unable to breathe through her nose, her lips part to take in the air she needs. Sharp gasps. Water crashes about her ears. The thunderous sound drowns out her thoughts and for a few moments, she is blissfully disconnected. A modern day water-nymph, completely at peace with herself and her surroundings.
She wants to stay like this forever. Safe. Sanitized. Thoughtless. Comfortably drowning in nothing.
Too hot. She shifts once more. The muscles in her shoulders flex as she slides her arms back behind her, along the tub floor. She leans back, resting all her weight on her elbows and splayed palms. The water now hits her full on between her breasts and she grunts softly with the shock of the first impact. Her face is free of the water and she gulps down mouthfuls of air while the water simultaneously pummels it out of her.
Bad air out. Good air in.
She can almost feel herself getting cleaner. Her skin her hair her thoughts, even. She catches herself and laughs out loud.
If only a good hard hot shower could wipe one’s proverbial slate clean at the end of each day. If only there were such things as second chances. If only the water could wash away sins, careless words, hurt.
The steam is so dense she can barely see beyond the tiny microcosm of her tub. She doesn’t want the shower to end but she knows it must. She gets up slowly, letting the water splash all over her. Her joints enjoy the stretch.
She turns the tap. Off.
She stands still, eyes closed and mentally traces the thousands of rivulets racing their way down her body.
When she moves again, she is cold. Moving air plays on her wet skin, bringing up wave upon wave of gooseflesh, making her shiver.
But the cold mostly comes from another place.
From the knowledge that she is clean only in the physical sense. The grime of her past mistakes still sticks to her skin like an unshakable sweat. The guilt has lodged itself into every pore and she knows that no amount of hot water and soap can scrub it away.
She shivers again and reaches for the towel, glad for the soft threads that soak up the excess water on her person.
She wishes the tears would come.
Water of another nature that might help to take away the stain of past cruelties. But she hasn’t cried for a long time. Since that day, when she cried long and hard, tears pouring out of her like they would never end, like they were going to drown her. It was exhausting, but at least it was some sort of release.
There have been no tears since then; only dry guilt. Punishment perhaps?
She gets into bed, still wrapped her towel, its warmth proving temporary as it slowly becomes wetter than she is.
She curls up. Another sleepless night. Waiting for the tears to come.