April 8, 2010

In A Surrogate Tomb


I have a visitor.

I possess a deadly seed. The doctor, young and arrogant in his omnipotence, told me It had spread.


The cancer. This is, I suppose, the ultimate irony. A body that has always been clean, almost immaculate, would turn upon Itself. What triggered the malignancy? I smoked for a lot of years, ate too much red meat and was as sedentary as a tree. Or maybe it was the bran muffins, the vitamins or the sun screen.

Carcinogen. Car-sin-o-gin. Such a ghastly word. It is inside me now, blind and voracious in Its' hunger and unaware that the host It feeds upon is Itself/Us. By consuming me It consumes Us. The damage is done. Inoperable. Malignant. So do not weep, do not pity. I do not need or want your cheap consolation, your words, your unbearable sorrow. Do not come to me with tears, or cards, or flowers, or cheer.

But, if only. The memory is forever etched in my mind of the shafts of summer sunlight slowly slide up the wall as the sun dipped away. The room is quiet, the dust slowly swimming in the sun's amber beams. Outside boys played a noisy game of basketball oblivious to our presence. Many days we spent there forgetting the world moving on around us. Or the embrace of my child, to watch her sleep. Her unadulterated love and energy held at bay only by sleep. Do not think me vain or shallow. I know the embrace of a good thought, the immeasurable joy of a solid book as well as I do the pleasures of the flesh. But in those arms, in the embrace of my child I was whole.

No. Enough already. The past has passed and the future is futile. Please accept my apology. I have been feeling sorry for myself again. My intention was only to let you see that I am well and to describe this odd habit that I have recently developed.

I like to grow cold as the warm soapy bath water gurgles away down the drain. I lie still as a corpse, forgive the morbidity, and concentrate on the sensation of the minute ebb and flow of the water as it follows the unalterable principles first articulated by Johannes Kepler and spirals down and away. I bathe because I can. The bath keeps away the ghouls. Every trip to the tub is potentially a matter of life and death. So I am careful. I bathe every night. I keep my home so cold the hot water makes copious steam clouds that flow out into the hall like a cheap magician's act. Step right up folks and see the dirty old man perform his death defying act before your very eyes. Watch and be amazed as he soaks beyond any measure of human endurance and then soaks some more.

But I digress. When I have soaked until my fingers are prunish I slide down into the tub and pull my head under. I would pull my whole body under but the tub is short and I am long so my old knees stay exposed like gnarled Cyprus roots in some bubbly primordial swamp. I bring my head out of the water and kick open the drain.

At first there is no sensation as the molecules fight gravity. As my warm skin is slowly exposed a ring of chill starts on my neck and knees. It is an eerie, ethereal sensation. The sensation grows as the water continues to fall away. Eventually my shoulders, calves and thighs feel the creeping chill. The water spirals full force now, pushed down by gravity, the drain choking with the flow. The soapy water slowly reveals a faded prison blue tattoo of a snarling bulldog on my right forearm. A constant companion in my journey to stupidity. The flow slows because I sometimes put my foot partially over the drain to extend the sensation.

As the water drains, more and more of my body chills. Old age has not been particularly kind. You are as old as you feel. Forget the platitudes. Old age sucks and then you die. My memory is shot, I can barely hear and my glasses make me look like an owl. If only the memories faded as fast as the flesh.

My torso is prison camp gaunt and unearthly white. I look, and feel, like the victim of a personal holocaust. An unholy ghost. Spindly legs, with ankles like rocks under my opaque skin. Oh, such ghastly horrid flesh.

Epiphany. Last night as the last of the water drained I realized what I have been doing. These long baths letting the water drain as my body chills.

I have been practicing.

© 2010

This is a work of fiction. I am healthy and whole.


Ian Climacus said...

God has definitely blessed you with the gift of writing as well as photography. The description of the bath and its attendant sensations was particularly haunting to me.

DebD said...

Whew! I'm glad you put that disclaimer in at the end. I truly love your writing. As Ian said, you have a gift.

s-p said...

Beautifully written, and thanks for the "disclaimer". Whew.