The Burn

He couldn’t handle the interaction anymore, so he left. He shut down his computer, walked through the dining room, the kitchen and got into the bathroom. He stripped off his clothes and let them fall where he stood, left them there. He looked at his nakedness for a moment and felt nothing. Then he turned off the light and stood in the black-and-white glare. There was light from the light switch. It was the sort that, when turned on, didn’t illuminate at all, but when turned off it would emanate a tiny orange glow, just enough to make out shapes. There was light streaming in from behind the door, too, coming in heavily enough to illuminate the otherwise dark room. First was the washcloth. There was a washcloth off to the side of the sink that wasn’t used. Everyone living there just used the soap directly on their hands, why make laundry? Folded into that, hiding on the inside, was a strip of packing tape, the clear kind you use for boxes. He pulled it out and touched the end of it not stuck to the washcloth. There was barely any adhesive left. He stuck it to the wall above the light switch and blocked it out. It stuck. He didn’t trust it to stay that way but wasn’t motivated enough to get dressed and go out looking for more.


He opened the bathroom closet and took out two towels. The first he laid in front of the sliding doors of the shower. The second he unfolded, held lengthwise and flipped it over, reversed direction, flipped it again. It was a very slow, deliberate act. He could’ve just held it by two ends and rolled it quickly but that felt wrong. It was too wild and fast. Right now he wasn’t sure he could even force his body to move that fast. It didn’t feel like his. He had to be careful, too. He knew that too but he didn’t know why. Finally the towel was done; a skinny rectangle fold. That was placed at the bottom of the door to keep everything outside.


Stepping to the shower by memory alone, he opened the sliding glass doors. He ducked inside, felt for the handle that turned on the water, turned it most of the way up as he knew he preferred. At the same time he pulled up on the knob in the bathtub and ducked out of the shower. Then he closed the glass doors just as the water began to spray.


He stood there in the dark. Noticed that the towel wasn’t quite right, so bent over and fixed it. There was still a tiny amount of light around the edges, but the room was dark as it was going to get, so he didn’t fuss. He stood a few more moments waiting for the water to warm up and felt out of place. Not as completely overwhelmed as he felt outside of the bathroom, but still out of place. He was cold. His whole body was cold and shivering. Why hadn’t he noticed that before? He ran his fingers over his shoulders, down his arm, over his belly and felt goosebumps everywhere. Too cold. He opened the doors maybe a bit early and stepped inside.


No, no he wasn’t early. The water was hot, scalding. His breath caught. He stood and endured. Too hot, too hot. Then his body had adjusted and all was well. He let out his breath and stepped further inside for a repeat of the burning sensation. Then he sat down. Curled up into himself like an exaggerated statue, he sat cross-legged with face downward. Water struck him on the back off his head, on his back and where it was not covered by his upper body, his knees. The water dripped off the sides of his face and the top, but didn’t get onto his face at all. That was important.


The water really was too hot, actually. He took his hands off his knees and pushed, sliding himself forward towards the handle. He turned it down very slightly. It got cooler. It still had too hot a sensation so he turned it down again. Now it was lukewarm. Too much. He turned it back up and it burned again but that was fine. He pushed himself back underneath the spray and sat. He didn’t think about anything, it was absorbing enough to just be there with all your sensations filled up. Anyway, he was trying to keep his mind blank, blank enough that it emptied completely so that he might fill it with something else entirely. It mostly worked. But then the steam was too much and it made his lungs ache to be underneath it, so he laid back like he was in the tub with his face well above the stream. This was important.


Then he crunched up again, slide to the front of the shower. Just the back of his body was being hit by the water now. He put a hand on the faucet for the bath, wrapped his fingers around the steel pin you pull to switch to shower and rested his head upon it. He closed his eyes.


He dreamt. In his dream he was being attacked by someone, something. Something he knew. He had a control pad with four buttons and he had to hit one of them each time or he would be hurt or worse. The dream was frantic. React, react, hit the buttons as things reached for you, tried to touch you, tried to hurt you. He did not fail.


When he opened his eyes he was on his side with his face in the basin. He got up. Felt cold despite the water. He turned it up. It got warmer, but he still felt cold so he turned it off, stood up. He waited. He expected something to happen. He expected the glass to shudder with a loud bang from no-one in the room, but left behind would be a handprint in the glass just below knee level. It didn’t come. He looked over the floor carefully, saw nothing, so he opened the door, looked more closely. Waited. Watched. Nothing moved. He stepped out, careful to keep an eye on the side of the sink that was so dark you couldn’t see into.


Nothing happened. Stepping quickly across the room and turning in a circle to keep an eye on the floor, he turned on the light. Okay. Everything was good again. He picked up his shirt. One arm in, the second, fold down the collar. Button up and fold down the collar again. Pull on the underwear and pants, tuck yourself in. Throw on the socks. Slide your belt through the loops and do it tight.  Looking put together, like a businessman on break. That’s important. No one questions you when you look like you’ve just sealed the deal and are going out for a victory cappuccino. 



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January 27, 2014

I haven’t been on in a longggg time. But I still love your writing <3 This is a beautiful piece