Sunday, October 10, 2010

On Taking A Bath

When I was a little girl and we would go visit my Granny in Winter Haven, sometimes she would take my brother and I to the lake by her house to wash our hair. We would go down to the lake, swim, sing songs about little fish, and shampoo. I remember the feel of her hands in my hair, on my scalp, and the soap swirling in the tea colored water while my toes scrunched the silty lake floor and the world all open around me. To rinse you swam again, and came out clean. So simple to swim and come out clean.
I have been taking baths lately and a bath is not like a shower. I love showers. I had a boyfriend once who was jealous of the shower for the noises it made me make. Step in and I would moan, a moan, a sigh, an oooooh and mmmmmm, he told me that I did not make these noises with him. I was not aware of the sounds I was making, and that's the point isn't it? A shower can be more intimate than sex and just as primal a pleasure. That shocking hot, your jumping goosebumped flesh, and then the release of tight and tired muscles as the heat sinks in. A shower can feel like a curtain from the world, the noise of it so loud in your ears and with eyes closed you just accept it and you are in it and there is nothing else you can be doing at that time and so it is a time out from life. You can cry or sneeze and not have to cover your face. A shower is forgiving.
A bath is exposing. I don't like to get in until the bath is full because I am cold and I don't like to be cold, and so when I get in the faucets are closed and it is so so quiet. I always get in and go straight to my knees and put my hands flat on the floor and close my eyes and breathe, as if I am in supplication, as if I have to be active in my letting go. My mind ticks quiet and then goes to the lake, or to the fantasies of my childhood. I am a mermaid, I am a sylph, I am an Indian Maid. The water is filled with flowers, the water holds tiny fish, I sling my mind from sharks, I try not to think of my thighs and knees.
I am so much bigger than I was as a child: I remember when I could sit under the faucet to rinse my hair. Now I take up all the space and have to rearrange all my body to wash. And my body is so close up, it is not that I do not like my body but that these are different views of it than I am used to so it is alarming all the same. I am so nearsighted that when I am standing in the shower I don't really see myself at all, just fuzzy bits that bloom slick and soft with soap, a realization for only my hands. In the bath I see myself kneeling naked, I see my bends and folds, I see the curve of my calves and my hip with my hair all down it. I have to look in a bath, to see the soap wash away. Clean is not a given in a bathtub, a bath does not do the work for you. You cannot stand submissive and be washed clean, you cannot swim the soap away.
When I was married I loved to take a bath. Once a week I would fill the bathtub, light candles, drip in oils of lavender, eucalyptus, and mint, or sandalwood and rose. I would shut the door and windows, I would shut out the world and lean back and close my eyes and that was my time in my head, a place I could be alone. My husband was a busy man and I needed that place away from his energy and his needs. Sometimes I would read a book, and then I would have to put the book in the oven to dry it out because I had dropped it in the water. I would stay until the water was cool, and my mind was quiet.
Now I live alone and I do not need a bath to shut out the world. Now I feel more alone in a bath than is necessary. I take note of the traffic outside, of my neighbors' TV, of the movements of my cat. I pull my legs in close and set my chin on my knees and contemplate the tile. It always needs to be cleaned. That doesn't bother me, everything always needs to be cleaned. I like to imagine other people in their baths, not them naked exactly but how they are when they are exposed only to themselves. Do they look away? Do they sit stiff and fidget? Do they lie still and sigh? Who uses bubbles? Who reads? Who smokes and sips wine? Who locks the door? It's an exercise similar to when I worked at the mall and I would try to picture all the ladies I saw with Victoria's Secret bags in lingerie. I always thought they looked great.
Soon I will call my landlady and invite the men who fix things into my apartment so I can shower again. I will have to shut my cat in a room and make small talk while a stranger is crouched in my bathtub. I will offer him coffee which he will not take and ice water which he might. A long time ago I gave a plumber a beer and discovered that his true passion was NASCAR. He did not like plumbing, but his daddy did it, and his granddaddy before him. Everyone has a story.
Until then I am learning myself away from a mirror, away from intention, at the age of 32. I find that my feet are beautiful. I find my scars and my stretchmarks and my blue highway veins. I find that I am ripe as a peach. I find that the voice in my mind is hummy and has timbre. And it echoes against the tile, and it comes back clear.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Moleskinner's Blues, Part 2

I found the right Moleskine (which has an e on the end, and I've corrected that in my last post, sorry for the misspell) at the Utrecht Art Supply. I also purchased two new very fine point pens in brown and black (let's not read too much into that). I will be going there from now on for all my Moleskine needs. As an added bonus the guy who helped me was terse and had a beard.
I dreamed last night that one of my toes fell off leaving a dry, empty cavity. I woke up to find that my shower is broken and my coffee maker is dead. Sure, I can heat water and pour it into the basket with the grounds, but do you know how hard it is to wash hair that goes down to your ass in a bath? I will be bathing on my knees. After I scrub out the tub.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Moleskinner's Blues

I went to write in my journal this morning and I just couldn't, the journal is too big. It's alright when I'm writing on the left page but when I move over to the right I have to tuck the left side into myself somehow and that pulls the book into a severe sideways position that is not conducive to comfortable writing. I need a new one, and I'm only a few pages into this one.
I started keeping a diary when I was eleven. Our friend Summer (she of the dirty mix tape, she of the sprayed up bangs, she of the boobs at age twelve) had read Anne Frank: The Diary Of a Young Girl, and was thus inspired to take up pen and notebook. She, like Anne, named her diary so that each entry was like a letter to a friend. She let me read it (she had about three pages filled) and as I burned with the desire to be cool like Summer, I too read Anne Frank, and I too started writing. My first diary was named Anne, and it was pink.
[ An aside: So many of the things I do start because someone cooler than me does it first. Journal writing, listening to Tom Waits, learning The Jaberwockey by heart, blogging.... To my credit I only continue with these things if I really love them. I've always had a hard time finding my own things, I have to try on the things of others and see how they fit. Sometimes that bothers me, and I want to tell new people that I meet that I am not really cool, I am simply cool by borrowing the coolness of others. Then I remind myself that we are not born with great books and mix tapes in our hands, we all stumble across them in our own ways. Then I tell myself that I am over-thinking this, as I do everything and I tell myself to shut up.]
I filled up Little Pink Anne and moved on to another one, then another, then another. Picking out a new diary and naming it was something that took great thought and care, and sometimes would take several trips to various stores before I found just the right one. I remember one with sunflowers, a blue one with a Degas print, one of purple velvet, plain ones, flowered ones, ones made of recycled material, ones from India with tiny mirrored circles. Anne, Kitty, Sandra, Salome, Dave, Delilah, Mary, Maria, Sophia, Claudia, Frida, Ella, Etta, Eva, Mable, Luz, Annette, and on and on. Then to find the perfect pen, the ink pen but not too inky, a bit of scritch and scratch but also one that glides across the page and does not bring attention to itself. The color of the ink depending on my mood, and all in all mostly I write myself black and blue but there has been pink, there has been red, there has been green. For an entire year, brown.
At some point I picked up a Moleskine journal and I never looked back. O Moleskine! How perfect your pages! How narrow and unobtrusive your lines! Your tiny perfect pocket in back, your nubbled flesh, the strength of your spine! A ribbon to keep my place, elastic to hold you closed and keep your pages safe from ruck and ruffle! Your reputation is well deserved, my friend, but you have let fame go to your head.
It used to be that you had two choices: lined or unlined, in black hardback. Perfection. Now they come in three sizes, several different colors, hard or softback, lined, unlined, graph paper, reporter style (with the spine at the top), graphic artist style (half the page lined and half unlined for illustrations), sketchbook (with heavy weight paper), day planner, address book, and I don't know what else. Cook book style? Ones with wide lines for girls with bubbly handwriting? Music sheet style? Moleskines are trying to be something for everyone and that's fine, really it is, but it has become nearly impossible to find the classic, plain and perfect, black hardback in the size that will take a good amount of words but will still fit in my purse.
A week ago I went to a large chain bookstore (I will not advertise for them! I am still mad!) to get a new one. After looking through the three carousels of Moleskines that they had and not finding the one I wanted, I asked at the customer service desk when they would be getting more in. They didn't know and told me that their Stationary Specialist would come out to help me. After about a minute and a half, what appeared to be a twelve year-old girl wearing a Harry Potter t-shirt and a bow in her hair came walking toward me. Please, I begged my higher power, Please don't let this be the Stationary Specialist. I wanted someone older, I wanted someone with glasses and a pipe and ink stained fingers. At least someone who had grown breasts, but no, this little girl, this Hannah Montana was indeed the Stationary Specialist. She was so cute! She talked in all exclamations!

Hi! How can I help you!

Yes, I am looking for a lined Moleskine journal in classic black. Do you know when you'll be getting more in?
Did you look at all three carousels!
I did, and you have quite a selection, but I can't find the plain, hardback, lined ones.
I know! Those go fast!
I'm sure. So, does that mean that you'll get some more in soon?
Probably! Maybe in two weeks! They just send me a bunch and I put them out!
So you don't actually order them?
Nope! They just send me a bunch and I put them out!
Okaaaaay.... Well, thanks.

I wonder how much a Stationary Specialist at a large chain bookstore makes. I'm thinking not much.
So that is how I ended up walking out with one of the large ones instead of the medium sized. An art teacher told me once that when you paint small you actually use the mathematical side of your brain and when you paint large you use the creative, and so I thought that maybe I should try the larger size, that it might open up a different part of my brain for writing. I don't think it does, my handwriting is still tiny and the larger size just makes me uncomfortable and angry. Which makes me not want to write. Which makes me crazier than I already am. Writing in my journal everyday is my therapy. I prefer vellum to Valium. I'll just have to visit other stores, manhandle other journals, maybe even find a new pen. There are areas in our lives where change is good and compromise acceptable, one's personal diary is not such a place.
Which reminds me- dish soap IS such a place. I got some lime scented dish soap recently and it's great. I feel like I'm washing my dishes with margaritas. It turns dish washing into a fiesta! Maybe I will name my new journal Margarita. Maybe I will write in lime colored ink. Maybe I will become fun and spontaneous! But only secretly, and for an hour after I wake up and before I go to work. Baby steps. One doesn't want to change everything at once.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Ha Ha.

Today I was described as "Brilliant, but tense."

I think he put the "brilliant" part in because I was standing right there.