Thanks for waiting. I’ll get strait to it, as I know you have other things to do today.
That life stuff I spoke of before I left the bathroom, well, it’s a pretty big claim I agree. It’s not everyday you grow out of your life. It’s not everyday you ask yourself, ‘Am I the right person, at heart, on which to base my life?’
In fact it all started so simply – with love, a love. I asked myself just once where do I base my love, that love? Slowly this small thing enlarged, like an animal being fattened for a particular purpose, until I could no longer bear the weight of it inside me. Must I always ensure that I’m capable of housing those core yardsticks that make me, me? Must I be responsible for, well, the soul that makes me, without exaggeration, changeable? Am I capable enough, to bear the responsibility of an internal history based on a series of substantial new beginnings?
What I meant, I soon discovered, was that I didn’t know if I was fit for the designs of love that would inevitable crawl out of me, stand up, grow taller, and break their teeth in, on the very person I was trying to keep out of harms way – me. I found myself picturing the end, my life a plaything, durable, able to sustain moments of intensity, saliva’s right of joy, but all in all, resulting at the peak of pleasure, in nothing more than a blood curdling squeak, squeak.
But to be fair I really need you to come with me, we need to go back a bit further. I had a Mother, and as expected, a Father too. I enjoyed several prolonged conversations with them both, when they were alive. I hardly see my other siblings. They lead their lives and the effort involved allows a distance to spring up between us. In any case being so far apart gives us something to talk about when we do meet by some quirk or other. They generally rise to the occasion and manage to cover an appropriate amount of ground. I see my youngest sister more than the others, on account that she doesn’t work and has little need for distance, as such, or things on hand to talk about.
I accepted a lot of things. I thought that parents the world over said the same thing to get their children to shut up before bed. There was no doubt in my mind that all kids knew of it, who in their right mind couldn’t? ‘Shush, Afghanistan is sleeping’, was to me the most commonplace rhyme in the universe, and if in some moment of lunacy I did think ‘Why?’ or ‘What’, I quickly sat on the need to say it out loud until it went away or I forgot about it.
Questions were a sign of idleness Mother would remind me often enough. Asking one question was one question too many. It was the same with my Father, in a way because; there was very little difference between them, other than the somewhat baffling insistence of a Y chromosome. To question things was by implication to dispute Gods own work, redesigning the inevitable.
Some things, in the end, must be said. When I finally built up the courage to tell my Father I was a fully qualified bathroom designer, he invested all his distaste for human attempts at divine renovation into the protest he mounted against my career choice.
Really my vocation had revealed itself to me incidentally. Once I had opened my left eye in the public library and found in front of me an exquisite, bound publication, documenting bathroom design and innovation over the last 100 years. I at once felt how washing had come a long way in that short time. I sensed I had something to contribute. I never intended to design bathrooms but the very thought of a paradise of grooming enthralled me. I poured over the book for hours. I found myself holding my breath more than usual, for longer than was natural. This is the change Father eventually noticed in me. He was no longer sure where the life he thought I was living had gone.
‘Decorating bathrooms is not work; it’s not the work we’ve bent over backwards to make possible for you. You are my son; in you we’ve deposited our hopes. You’re going to drown them in a bathtub!’
‘Dad, what can I say I am in love. That’s the point.’
‘Not in love with someone, no, but Dad, my life is – it’s not as easy as you think. Bathrooms are complex entities, philosophical in the limits they often force upon you; I must constantly consider space, capacity, functionality – beauty! I can make something from nothing, something lasting and free of sea-shells.’
‘There’s nothing wrong with sea-shells. We have sea-shells and you know it.’
A feeling like dirt crossed my cheek, as he flicked his coat back over his shoulders, the material scratching over me. Though not always in this way, such occurrences, the severity of accidental contact with his displeasure, was how he burrowed into me. In this way he dug, like some vivid, bright-skinned animal that disappeared into my nerves, my muscles, not even letting me glimpse its form. The only trace of its secret work was the powdery dust and small gravely itches that occasionally flew out of me, sometimes managing a small pile, like the tailings building from a mine.
‘Dad I have to go, I’ve got work to do.’
‘Go then. Perfect your so-called perennial toilet. Hating sea-shells, it’s not normal.’
How all of it has changed since then.