It’s the same like last time. Cold water. I shrug. There’s nothing I can do now. I step in and it stings my naked body in random spurts.
I’ve been here before. One year ago? Two? I cannot recall. It feels so long ago. Nearly ancient history. But I remember our hesitance. I remember our naïve laughter. I remember how it made me feel whole, if only for a little while.
I begin the routine again. Hair first. It has grown since the last time. My hands run through it and I can’t help but feel that I haven’t been taking care of myself. My body is the remains of what it used to be. A few scabs on my hands poke into my scalp as if to remind me and I attempt to piece together where the rest of me went.
It’s sunny outside so I think I’m supposed to be happy, but I’m not. For a while, I try to blame circumstance. I want to admit that life is not fair. But I’ve been given a hand and either I play or I fold. Someone wiser than me told me that. I try to remember what else they said but they’re dead now and I guess that sometimes your hands are tied and you’re forced to fold. So I just settle on the fact that it’ll get better eventually. In the meantime, I just have to go step by step by step. It feels like I’m a baby learning to crawl. Or maybe I’m just a man learning not to cry. At least in the shower, no one can hear me.
But this is not my shower. It is entirely foreign. The walls. The bathtub. I think about the towel waiting on the floor and wonder if it has her hairs in it. Hairs I spent the night combing.
I’ve been taking too long. Thinking does that. I have to hurry up. So I try. I move in the water like a ballerina. Four years of ballet did me terribly though. I’m uncoordinated and lazy. I fumble around the shower barefoot. The cold water makes it feel like I’m on ice without skates.
Strict instructions ring in my head. “You can use my shampoo and nothing else.” It smells like flowers in bloom. It smells like her.
And now I do too.
Fragmented memories of two bodies, puke, and Polish beer scatter into my mind. Perhaps it was a night best forgot. Sometimes it’s better that way. Who knows – it might even be a dream. I might wake up in my warm bed and look at my hands to see them whole. No blood. No scabs. No cold shower. Just me. Alone.
I think I am supposed to die like that. Alone. It’s supposed to be romantic. Something I remember for the rest of my life – or whatever remains of those fleeting last moments. But I remember I was born into this world with someone else and I guess I hope I die that way too.
Jump back to now and you’ll find me laughing. I’m not dreaming. This is real. This is my life and everything I have done, from my regrets to my successes, culminated into this: a moment in a cold shower.
I find it funny because while I might not be dreaming, this might be the beginning of a nightmare. Like always, I’ll only find out at the end of it.
The end. It’s all I have now. I stopped dreaming after it. After the last nightmare. It can’t be helped. I used to dream with my eyes open and now I don’t at all.
I continue to lather my hair. I can’t shake this feeling of a dream though. It’s surreal. This. Then. Whatever will happen later. It’s like it never happened and if it did, it happened too fast anyways.
I try to come to terms with what I remember. Not much. An incomplete puzzle piece that makes me feel disappointed. So I stop and instead ask myself what happens when a person accomplishes their dream. I think about the one person I know who accomplished the world and then saw it torn away. We used to laugh much more. I know we’ll laugh again. He told me that. He also said that after a dream, a person still has to live another day and that they have to find some other goal to achieve and that they realize that no matter what they do or how much they succeed, there will always be more to do. I told him that maybe it’s better not to achieve anything then. He said that’d be an achievement in and of itself but that he’d rather settle on his dreams because no one can take them away from him.
I think about the last dream I remember and I decide that this moment, although veiled by uncertainty and foolhardiness, could make for a nice dream. A lot has happened. It’s confusing. Not much of it makes sense. As far as I’m concerned, it might as well be a dream. So I pretend that it is and that I am dreaming in the shower as the water pours over me. I think about her. And her. And her.
I know I’ve been here before.
And I know I’ll be here again.