|- Stereocard by H. C. White & Co. Via Library of Congress|
One reason I fell in love with my 1874 Victorian was the claw-foot tub in the bathroom. At the bottom of the iron, the white porcelain has been scoured thin, leaving a gray trail. It hints at hardships this tub and this house have survived.
While we waited interminable days to offer, counter offer, close and take possession, I dreamed of solitary baths, deep in the tub, water and bubbles burying me. The gush of water swirling into my ear canals, shutting out noise. Children could thrash at the door but in water that deep, I would be a mermaid. I wish I could say I've actualized as many baths as I've fantasized. I've probably curled up in that dry tub hiding behind the white curtains that drape from above.
One curls in a tub because it's in the bathroom. The biological urgency of the bathroom protects a mother from reacting to the forces outside the walls. Children can slap each other. They can slam doors. They can swallow gallons of sugar. Bills can seep out of the bill drawer. Doorbells can ring. Fists strike wood. Timers chime. When sadness consumes a person, we stream silent tears and reply with cheer, I'll be out momentarily.
When my tears turn to heaves, I cover them with the stream of shower water. I stand in the water naked, and steam sucks the fabric to my legs. Seer-sucking mildew stained shower curtains want to hug me when I want least to be touched. Don't even caress me. Sometimes, I don't want a kind look. I want to my disfigured aging body in a mirror and hate it. Only, I don't. I stand in the stream, beating myself up for the waste of water. I get out when I've washed the salt off.
I timed myself out in the bathroom of last resort. Timeout began after I stomped up the stairs, glass in hand, and holler on the lungs. My mother would have called my hollering a pity party and an angry one, at that. I threw my glass into the tub, hoping its tall walls would capture to the wave of glass, spraying like bullets from the ball turret gunner's bay.
Glass waved up and pushed past the curtains. I stood in shards, barefoot, and sobered immediately.
"What I couldn't figure out last night," my husband paused, "is why there was glass in the tub?"
"Oh, really. There was. I thought I got it all cleaned up."
"Well, I cleaned out the rest," he said. We said no more because we were brittle. I went to bed without apologies for the fit, without resolving the conflict. My daughter had knocked on the door. Goodnight, I said to dismiss her. I sound fake cheerful. My husband begged to talk about the issues. I told him I put myself in timeout. We'd talk later.
"Was there glass in the bottom of the tub last night?" My son asked.
"I got glass stuck in my foot when I showered."
"I'm sorry. I thought I had it all cleaned up."
I thought they'd heard the whole tantrum. The flask ricocheted a thousand shards that would later embed in my son's feet. I washed out the tub. Like blood, some stuck in the pocks of porcelain.
Our thoughts are material, scientists now believe. The material has a kind of consciousness. Genes and compounds react and relate in proximity, not even when mixed. Between what we think and atoms, another substance influences reality. Saint Porphyrious must have had premonitions of this when he wrote in Wounded by Love:
Man has such powers that he can transmit good or evil to his environment. These matters are very delicate. Great care is needed. We need to see everything in a positive frame of mind. We mustn’t think anything evil about others. Even a simple glance or a sigh influences those around us. And even the slightest anger or indignation does harm....When we speak evil about someone, an evil power proceeds from within us and is transmitted to the other person, just as the voice is transmitted on sound waves, and in point of fact the other person suffers evil. (Excerpt reprinted here)
An act of war. I committed such an act of war, in private isolation in the one place I thought I was safe to bury my evil. I thought my warring disposition would eek out its catharsis without true harm. But evil power transmitted. My son suffered glass. I became the ball turret gunner casualty of war, aggressor, dead myself. For causing suffering in another killed me.
No man is an island, entire unto himself," writes John Donne. Spiritual kill causes suffering and suffering diminishes me, more so when I am the cause.
Ball Turret Gunner, Public Domain. - http://media.iwm.org.uk/iwm/mediaLib//55/media-55317/large.jpg This is photograph CI 1028from the collections of the Imperial War Museums.
Woman bathing, 1902. Public domain. Reprinted on Wikicommons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Bathtubs#/media/File:1902_bath_illustration.png