I wrote this story for the Austin Public Library Adult Story Hour, which I read on April 12, 2018. The theme for the hour was “Surprise.”
This is a story about my surprise shower. No, not a surprise baby shower or even a bridal shower. Definitely not. Twenty-seven and single and with a mild case of commitment phobia, I am nowhere near having either of those types of showers.
I literally mean a shower. The kind you get into on a regular basis to cleanse your body, it might also be your favorite karaoke spot? I know it’s mine.
I have the world’s most unpredictable shower.
You have all probably experienced the shocking situation where the hot water runs out mid shampoo or right before you start to shave your other leg. How did you react? Did you handle it with grace? Or did you miserably and hastily finish your shower and track down the inconsiderate culprit to scold them accordingly?
Well my shower is much more irrational. Sometimes it will take a century to even reach luke warm temperatures, whereas others it gets instantaneously hot and scalds my temperature testing fingers. It is not uncommon for my shower to go through several cycles of icy cold and boiling hot with no gradation. As a result, I have mastered the art of completing all kinds of shower activities while plastering myself to the corner, entirely avoiding any drops of water.
Its bipolar nature is not limited to temperature, but also pressure and sounds. The water sometimes sprays with such vigor it stings my sensitive places, a physical assault! Other times it just trickles from a fraction of the showerhead’s pores, as if it takes some sort of sick pleasure in me begging for more.
It pulsates, too. Which, now that I think of it, could come in handy if it were a hand held faucet…
Anyway, my showers are usually accompanied by the most peculiar of sounds: shrills, buzzes, squeaks, groans. It definitely has a Stranger Things vibe going on, and it is incredibly unnerving.
On a couple of occasions, the water completely ceased to flow, as if my shower quit the job without notice. And, just as I resign to finish my shower in the bathroom sink, it starts up again. With more fervor than ever before! It is such a tease.
No plumber has ever been able to identify the problem, and what’s worse is I don’t think they believe me. Any time they turn the shower on, it acts like a normal shower. The perfect pressure and, within a reasonable amount of time, the perfect temperature. No funny business. At one point I started doubting whether or not there was really a problem. It doesn’t take more than a few blissful showers in a row to forget what it used to be like. But without fail, the surprise shower strikes again.
I have been incredibly bitter about this shower for about two years. I’ve screamed and cursed at the showerhead; I’ve pounded and kicked the walls; I’ve laughed hysterically to avoid crying. A range of negative emotions have been evoked by my shower.
While taking a shower last month, I was jolted by a sudden dip in water temperature and it occurred to me that I could learn something from my one of a kind, erratic shower.
My shower is a metaphor for my life over the past year. The temperature, my emotions; the pressure, my physical energy; the sounds, external influences and relationships.
It has been a year full of surprises and contrasts: I quit my job, broke up with my partner, even moved. With each of these decisions, there was an intermixing of feelings of pain and reward, tension and relief, heartbreak and hope, confidence and self doubt, limitless energy and utter depletion.
With this metaphor in mind, I resisted the urge to cower in the corner and instead let the icy water flow from my head to my toes. I closed my eyes and remembered the darker times. I thought about the sleepless nights, the loss of purpose, the loneliness. I began to weep, but before I went full on Jim Carrey in “Ace Ventura,” I noticed the temperature and pressure rising and my mental images shifted with it.
I thought of the times I was able to help someone else; I thought of the new people in my life; I thought of my travels to see magnificent natural wonders as well as reconnect with old friends; I thought of my public talks that required a great deal of confidence. By this point the water was starting to burn a little and my tears of sorrow turned to tears of joy. I laughed.
It felt as if I finally received the point my shower has been trying to make to me this whole time!
I’m still toggling back and forth between these feelings today, and it does make me a little uneasy. I’m fearful that I could slip back into that deep dark place. But I know that I am more resilient than before and my unpredictable, enigmatic, irrational, erratic, one-of-a-kind, shower is now a regular reminder of enduring times of discomfort or even pain is worth it.
These days I’m showering with a little more grace.