Sometimes, I wake up. Sometimes, I just can't stay asleep any longer. This was one of those times. Once I am not asleep, which is not to say awake, the first thing that is forced upon the consciousness is the litany of possible reasons I can't sleep any more. The first ones are the ones that, if promptly corrected, would allow me to go back to sleep. Like, the blanket has uncovered my feet. Then there are the ones which, if I make a rapid foray into the world, might allow me to go back to sleep. Such as, going to use the toilet. Then, these exhausted, the awful thing happens, I try and go back to sleep, hoping that I was just not a sleep for long enough to realize that the thing I needed to do to get back to sleep is… get back to sleep.
And then, not being asleep, even if I try a few times to avoid it, I wake up. I am poundingly awake, my sinuses stuffed, by head crawling with small insects of pain. I am, not only not asleep, but not going back to sleep. At this point I begin mechanically heading to the bathroom. I walk down the hall, control over my life and my muscles growing with each step, until by the end I am making quiet footfalls in precise rhythm. When I get to the bathroom, the door is locked. I can see the rim of light from the door. There is some one there. I do not freeze, but quietly retreat to the room, put the rest of my clothes on, and return.
The door is still locked.
I knock. There is a startled banging. Someone did not want to be disturbed.
In an interval that was so brief that it was my turn to be startled, the door swung inward to the cramped space, though far from small for an upstairs bathroom. There, towering over me, is sharp features and pale skin carrying a slight flush, his curly blond locks in a state of slight, but noticeable, disarray. I notice the way his ears stand away from his head, and the way his shirt slightly clings to his body. It is hastily tucked into his jeans. He slouched, as many very tall people do. He looked more enormous than any other time, our very mismatched heights for the first time were, mismatched. I was standing a great deal closer to him than I had before, and I could feel the lazy warmth that he radiated.
I was, suddenly, very awake.
Now you the reader, may have guessed what was going on. However, by that time in my life I had never lived with a man. I did not know their habits, and I was very much puzzled by what I saw, or what he was thinking.
"Look, I uh…"
His eyes were fluttering slightly, as if recalling the English language from the back of his mind, dusty from some disuse.
"Just a minute."
I slide by him, our fronts brushing past each other, with the clothes dragging on each other. I was closing the door, but looking only at his face. His eyes were locked on mine, even as the door provided a horizon. They seemed to set behind the edge which seemed stationary, while his face was moving.
I read a book not long ago. You know the one I mean, that one. Yes, the one about effluvia. It says it is about sex, but really, what made people read it, is that it describes the pouring of bodily fluids in various circumstances with a loving detail that fascinates people who think about them in secret but are too embarrassed to talk about them in public. I won't go into the details of my sitting there, even though we all spend a larger fraction of our lives than we want to think about waiting for our bodies to expel waste.
At such moments everyone has their routine, of looking, reading, staring at the floor, contemplating their failings. It is when this routine is violated that the moment is memorable. Nothing says that there is a "we" like a divider between it. Space, time, emotion, or, in this case, a white door.
A white door that loomed large in my vision as I looked at it, whose angles seemed progressively more like a montage of Dali and Picasso. It towered over me, and the very purity and perfection of the woodwork and painting was oppressive. It's corners hung over me. I imagined for a moment it was a gallows. Now you know, I have never seen a real one in the sense of a working gallows. I've seen paintings of them, I've seen reconstructions of them. But hanging? No it is something that exists in stories, like the dead women in Raise the Red Lantern.
I know something was out side of the door, and I startled when I heard his soft upper end of baritone voice.
"Are you alright in there?"
"Ummm, yes." Many of the key moments in my life have centered around what goes on in bathrooms. There is something sacramental about how we cloak them in white, and it is one of the few places where we have actual right of privacy. My mother would barge in on me anywhere, and I mean anywhere, but in the bathroom, and then when I was on the toilet. When I first heard the expression "worshipping the porcelain god," I thought it meant something else. The idea of being that drunk didn't occur to me.
"I was beginning to get worried." The last syllable lilted upwards. There was a powerful nasality to his tone that came from being from a New York-esque upbringing. By which I mean Miami, where many people migrate to from Manhattan. My parents thought about doing this once, booked the trip, and arrived in the wake of a hurricane. That ended any Caribbean living dreams.
"No really." I just have a strong sense of vertigo. And I am wondering what is on the other side of that door. I had a unique sense of dread about it. I thought about this as I went through my particular ritual that involved pulling out reams of toilet paper and repeatedly wiping myself in a figure "8" pattern until I was beyond positive I was clean. I flushed, went to the mirror, and looked at my face.
It was not flush, but as pale as I had ever seen myself. For the first time, I also realized how round my features had become, how they filled the mirror, and despite my own misgivings, brought a light. It was at this moment that I also realized that I was smiling.
"I will be out in a minute." I waited for my ba's joke of a woman's minute is like a man's month. Or something of that kind.
"Take your time." It was without impatience. And then "You know there are 168 hours in a week."
"That's right, you told me that one."
"No, I said I was never late to class, merely 167 hours early for the next one."
"Yeah, that once a week lecture was brutal. You were always on time to everything else."
I began primping my hair and looking at the small blemishes on my skin. "That's because the first hour he just summarized the reading." I turned on cheek and checked the waning pimple. It was at that moment, when straining to see it, that I realized that my head had cleared and I felt… health. Or at least healthish.
"I never did the reading until the end."
"I remember you tripping over the table outside class once you were so busy reading."
"I must have looked like a dork or something."
No, but this conversation is. Why is it that people fill the air with this? When there is…. everything. Everything to talk about.
"Can we wait until I am out? I want to pay attention to you."
A longish pause pause pause pausepause.
"If that is the case, you would be the first one. Ever. In the history of the world."
I shuffled out to the door, and as I was opening it went from clunking around Lillian, to graceful ballet Lillian. It was like turning on a switch of a make up mirror, the lights went on. I could feel my smile beaming inwards, and my eyes open.
"That's because I'm, not your parents."
There had been that long conversation already. We'd had several of those expository conversations. I was bored, to, tears. But not yet Bored. To. Tears. With the them. This was not a day to be repeating the kind of empty exchange. My chest felt. I could feel myself breath, not in my usual steady rhythm, but in something else. It was a waltz, a time in three, and it held me in it's resonance.
I opened the door. I saw a very surprised face. He almost rolled back and feel on to the hall table behind him. But managed to extend a hand in an ungainly fashion and grab the door frame. It was at his shoulder height, which was about at the level of the top of my head.