You both get home late after work. You hold hands as you trudge the distance between your home and the rest of the world beneath a resplendent blanket of stars.
You walk in the door. Nothing’s changed, your partner warns you, since this morning. That means the same dirty dishes in the kitchen corner, the same pile of clothes by the closet, and a lot of crumbs on the floor in between.
You don’t care. Jeannie hugs you like she always does when you first arrive, tells you to drop your bags, and you do.
The second observation is that you’re out of water, and since it’s her turn to get some, she goes. Your one aim right now is a shower, then bed, and lucky for you the crock at the kitchen sink is still half full.
You drain this water into the teapot and light the stove, then begin to undress in stages, remembering to put the yogurt in the fridge as you remove your socks, getting distracted by the dishes that are dry in the rack and putting them away before you take off your pants.
Already the world is righting. Things are straightening up inside and outside of you. Your partner returns with the water, refills the sink, and asks if there’s anything for menstrual cramps in the puzzling array of tinctures you keep. You mix her an herbal cocktail as the pot comes to a boil and one of you – whoever happens to be closer – turns it off.
Your partner starts in on the dirty dishes as you remove the rest of your clothing, feed the cat who has recently arrived on the scene, pull a couple of burrs from her burr-collecting coat.
As you pour the hot water into the shower-bucket, a cloud of steam rising pleasantly around your face, she (your partner, not the cat) announces her intention to retire to the shed, where she ritually listens to music for an hour or two before bed.
Your goal is to be asleep in the next half hour, and you tell her so as she slips out the door. You are so exhausted.
Your hair was quite dirty so you boiled a full kettle in order to have enough water available to wash it. Now you need to fetch some cool water in order to adjust the temperature.
You step outside onto the deck and note for the first time how warm your house is, just from the sun that came out and warmed it that day. No reason to dally here in the cold – you grab the plastic jug which still has half a gallon left out of three and return to the shower. You splash the cool water into the bucket and stick your hand in to test the heat. At that moment there’s a shift. An awareness. You are no longer the subject of this story, merely the observer. It is a good feeling. You detach from exhaustion.
You don’t return the empty jug to the porch but set it near the door. No wasting time now that the shower is perfectly warm. You step over the plastic threshold and – conscious of your movements now, no longer acting on reflex, although the moves are well practiced – begin pulling the bucket up on its purple cord toward the ceiling. It takes as much strength as unravelling a garden hose hung on a wheel. In all, there’s only a gallon or so of water in there.
The bucket journeys upward, passing through the hole cut in the loft above your head. The pulley attached to the ceiling makes a pleasant creaking sound as the cord runs through it. The bucket wobbles a bit when it reaches the top. You wrap the cord around a cleat at the top of the shower stall and flip the lever at the shower head to release the flow. The hose connecting the bucket to the shower head gurgles and burps up air bubbles.
The water starts out cold from the hose and you stand aside, pulling the shower curtain closed behind you. Then you step in the slow-moving warm water. What it lacks in force it makes up for in reliability. Gravity works every time. Water always seeks a level.
Water trickles through your hair, flows down your chest water over your hips. Water travels along your legs, between your toes, to the floor, then down the drain, into the happy grass below this corner of the house, and through the soil to unknown destinations. With it goes most of what you were thinking about on the way home from work, what you did while you were at work, what anxieties and ambitions you woke up with this morning.
A new notion works its way out of your skin, encouraged by the gently trickling bath. Maybe you should write this down. Maybe you have it in you to do this before bed. Yes you will, you tell the quiet shower stall. You may or may not have forgotten to wash your hair, but there are more important things. You lower the bucket, slide open the curtain, wrap the towel around you, and open your book to the better part of your day.