Buoyant, Barely

A Descriptive Essay

The hour has come round at last. You have to pull up the weight of your body fast enough not to fall back on your bedsheet. It’s still warm, that sheet — your skin knows that. Why did you leave the window open overnight. Your skin has a reason to be pissed at you. (Take that shiver — you’ve earned it, you bastard.) Your drooping eyelids hesitate to greet the light of day.

Every step feels like a balancing act. Walk over to your closet. Extend your hand. Open the closet. Take a squinting look at its contents. Grab some fresh underwear. Close again. Actually, never mind the closing. It’s time to quit this room already: your skin is screaming in protest.

Slouching towards the bathroom, you take note of the deceptive quiet all around you. The hall is dimly lit. You turn on the bathroom light semi-consciously. The door squeaks as you push it open, but its hinges fall silent when you shut it behind you. The key gives a soft thud as it turns and falls into place. (Always, always remember to lock the door.)

The toilet seat sucks some of the remaining warmth from your thigh, and you shiver once more. Then you crouch down, inspecting your feet and underwear, while a first relief starts to trickle down. You sense the pressure leaving your body and sit up again. There’s still paper on the roll, what a blessing. The water from your faucet is icy, another small shock to your system.

Leave your dirty underpants on the floor, have a fresh pair ready on the sink. All set. Your body has got all this memorized. Your soles are greeted with a cold sting on entering the tub, which, then again, isn’t much different from the way the floor felt. The sink is right behind you now, but there’s no need to turn around and look at the bare, alien creature in the mirror, not today: your fingers are already busy fiddling with the shower curtain. Why did you ever let your housemate buy that stupid curtain. (You should stop dwelling on that.)


The art of adjusting water temperature is widely underestimated. After years, even decades of trial and error, you still fall victim to the shower head’s beckoning call, which promises comfort but delivers only burns. There’s no taming that animal; its moods are unpredictable. So stop messing with that useless handle already and position your body accordingly.

It wouldn’t be as hot if you were sitting down. You bow to the water and the steam. The heat is less painful, almost pleasant now. Your vision becomes blurry. You give the faucet handle one last nudge before you pull up your legs and wrap your arms around your shins, drowning yourself in the steady rhythm of water running, running off somewhere, who knows where, down the drain. The pounding drops hitting your ears remind you of what it used to be like falling asleep in a tent on a rainy night — a noise you define as the epitome of coziness, now amplified.

The water brushes against your back and encloses you in a blanket of heat. Your eyes are closed. Out of sight, out of mind. Whatever rough beast may lurk on the other side of that curtain — you’re safe from it down here. Your lower body is starting to feel as though it’s dissolving into that puddle that has been growing all around you: buoyant, but just barely. (Now look at all that water. You’re being wasteful.)

Unbeknownst to you, the shower curtain has been encroaching on your exposed body, channelling fresh air into the tub. Suddenly that cold wall of fabric sticks to your shoulder. You push it away instinctively, try to “glue” it back to the inside of the bathtub, but it’s too late. Your eyes are open, taking in the light that seemed completely eclipsed just a second ago. It’s all whiteness and cream colours. Begrudgingly you turn off the water and reach for your bottle of body wash. Feeling the joints in your legs bend and strain as you rise, you go about your business. (The point of all this is maintaining hygiene, after all. It’s about responsibility.)

Propelled out of that state of fetal bliss, you slowly come to. The foam is soft against your skin. You shampoo your hair absently. You rinse it all off. Your skin braces itself for the cool flush of the outside world. A dry towel and a fogged mirror are quietly waiting for you to emerge from behind the curtain.

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