From “Letter to You,” a novel in progress by Natalie Bruvels
I’m trying to relax in the tub. You told me to relax. To take a bath. Yeah, a bath. They do that in the movies and commercials and music videos and it always looks like it’s working, but I can never get my bubble bath to look the way it's supposed to. I’ve tried an egg beater and that does help a little. But I can never get the sheet of foam to stay as long as I’d like.
There’s a blue puffy sponge hanging from the shower rack. It looks like a lion’s head, then a head bursting through the clouds, then the god of the underworld with a pointy nose pushing through the waves. I always think like this before I write an exam when I’m supposed to be studying. Any other time I would just see a sponge on the rack that I never use. But my brain wants so desperately to be elsewhere.
Get the blue sponge. Put your head down, Harriet. Okay. Close your eyes.
Oh, I should light a candle. The matches are in the bedroom. I should holler for you but I can’t handle loud noises, especially lately, and I just don’t like the sound of my voice. I especially don’t like the sound of my voice shredding the air. It’s like pollution or something. So I decide to get the matches myself.
“Christ!" you say when you see me. "You’re dripping everywhere!”
“I needed some matches.”
“Why didn’t you just ask?”
“Well I didn’t want to bother you.”
“Go take your bath and relax.”
The water is a little nicer now. It’s not poaching my skin. I light a votive in the tub and put it on the floor.
Put your head down, Harriet. I feel the steam on my skin and I can see the stream in the candle light. Oh this is kinda nice, maybe like a Roman bath. I hear bubbles crackling all around me. I try to move them away from my ears but they are caught in my hair. I can’t even see the candle. Close your eyes. All I hear are the bubbles. Epsom salts would have been better. But bubbles are so useful especially when your skin hasn’t seen the sun or felt a flex all winter. When you are trying to hide what lurks beneath.
This isn’t going to work. I grab my towel and open it on the floor. I move the candle over and start to get rid of the bubbles. Scoops of them come out on my hands and wrists and I rub them off with the towel until the towel looks like an untoasted meringue or the foam that washes up on the shore of some rivers. Someone told me that the foam in rivers has something to do with sewage.
There are only a few baby meringues left in the tub and they can stay; they are nowhere near my ears. I lie back down and push the meringues over my belly, the most vulnerable spot in nakedness.
Luce is scratching at the door and fortuantely the handle is within reach - it's a very small bathroom we have.
She says hi but why can’t I keep the door open.
“For privacy and heat but yes you're welcome in here. That is as long as you don’t moan Lucy, I’m trying to relax. I know we need to get you fixed.”
I wish she could learn to open the door herself. I don’t even see her trying to figure it out. She positions herself on the edge of the tub and does what she always does. She dips her paw in the water. She really looks like the Queen of the Serengeti when she does this.
Lucy has a drinking problem though. She will not lap up the water from her dish. She paws it then licks between her little fingers or spills the bowl and licks the water off the parquet.
Now, as she always does, Lucy dips her paw in and tastes the water. She takes great interest in the bathtub. She sticks her paw in and watches the water move. She focuses on the floating sponge in the amazed way somebody might if they saw tiny little gnomes sprout from the centre of a daisy.
You say I am like Lucy. Nervous. Tentative. Spoiled. I am like Lucy. Black and white. Black and white. I love the little Lucy who lets me feel life at my fingertips. But you are like Lucy too. Black or white.
Lucy just comes to relax me. I know it. She doesn’t come because she expects anything special. When I feed her, I don’t even give her wet food because I like to know that her love is pure.
I think I might like this bath thing. Bath for relaxation. I might bring my music in with me next time. It’s peaceful and steamy. Eyes close. Chest rises. Chest falls. Chest rises. Chest falls. Chest rises. Chest falls. Chest rises. Chest falls. Eyes open. Luce is gone.
Time to drain the water and dry off. There’s something stuck in the drain and the bathwater screeches as it leaves. It makes me jump and stiffen my back. It’s a thunderous screech. Christ, the water doesn’t shut up! Doesn’t it know it’s only moving? It’s not dying or anything.
I can’t do this now. I’ll have to drain it in the morning. I put the plug back in, blow the candle out and hope that the noise hasn’t woken you up.
Note: For information about Brian Henry’s upcoming writing workshops and classes see here.