A pink splotch bloomed at the widest part of Evan’s back, a sinister spring-bud darkening under heat. The focused pummeling of the showerhead didn’t burn so much anymore, not in the punishing hellwater way of a just-turned tap. The sensation had mellowed, deepened umbilically, and Evan felt viscerally alive in a sleeping-baby kind of sense, a thump and a jerk away from tantrum. He couldn’t see the wound that the jet of water was leaving between his shoulder blades, yet he was sure of its growth. Evan had grown to understand the organ of his skin better even than the organ of his brain. Far better.
He burned more on cloudy days, burned most just before noon, and burned brightest wearing yellow, no matter how muted or pastel or scant. His face went metallic-grease-fire oily unless he showered twice every day, and every time he used the bathroom he washed his face, so he never stopped smelling like public bathroom soap. To be fair, no one could readily identify the smell of public bathroom soap. Sister’s shampoo, was Evan’s quickfire excuse, should somebody ask about the smell, though nobody ever did. They probably thought Evan just smelled like that: nauseatingly floral like Katie Levi-Moretti, the first girl in his high school class to discover perfume and, therefore, the last person everybody wanted to sit next to at assembly.
Evan was up to his calves in water, which was O.K., because utilities were included. Still, he had never swamped up the bathroom to this degree before, and not at midday. It was a terrible, yellowing showertub, with a clear plastic curtain stained with god-knows-what from owners previous and owners previous-previous. Evan could just imagine the mirror, slicked gray with precipitation, and he willed the water hotter so it burned afresh. If only that mirror would gray up, turn stone, come crashing down and shatter, that would be Evan’s sign to get out. That, or the tub flooding. It was one thing to be the roommate that smelled like a girl and (Obi was the first person to point this out to him) whose clothing was so disproportionately blue as to be kind of a gimmick; being the resident psycho-idiot of the four would make his life completely unlivable.
Actually, to be divorced from the showerhead’s steady pressure and forced to face the morning-cold bathroom tiles might kill him sooner, as in instantly.
Water was life. Evan was coming to understand this spiritually. For instance, a bug was making laps around the apartment. Kev, who had the bed across from Evan’s, had caught it twice, while through it all Evan flushed his insides with water, lathered his hands and arms in it. He’d even washed his eyes, imagined his body a fired clay ocarina that needed to be soaked and shaken until everything ran clear.
Evan avoided the bug entirely. He never felt so much as a tickle.
There was also the factor of Evan working entirely from his computer, primarily from his bed. He did freelance, something like an internet odd-jobs man. Amateur graphic design and tedious technical writing and anything to do with the beastly tesseract that was Microsoft Excel. His meals were fluid. Throughout the day, he drank caffeinated teas and ate quick foods like tortilla chips, hummus, bananas—Obi had pointed this out too, Evan’s highly-competitive-ultra-manic banana selection process. He spent minutes hunched over the fruit bowl, occasionally shooting forth a hand to assess overall firmness, or to investigate a potentially cancerous brown spot. He was green-yellow colorblind, and he reveled in this momentary reliance on his alternate senses. Evan was sure that, were he to spontaneously lose his eyesight, he would adapt easily enough. Sometimes he wandered the apartment with closed eyes, constructing a just-in-case mental model of its geography.
He knew the bathroom especially well, had memorized the particular shape of his own comb, his soap, even his toothbrush. But today was a shaving day, and Evan was not yet so miserable that he would flail around blind with an electric razor.
There was a danger surrounding the bathroom in daylight. Above him, the ceiling sweated. His every pathetic splash and grunt was multi-magnified so that Evan-sounds became outside-sounds—a sonic, inescapable Evanscape.
The showertub was getting more difficult to leave—the drain was open, so the water stayed at his calves and would not flood. Stooped against rent-controlled water pressure, he had the strange sensation of being coiled in the womb, or bent over a watering hole.
For when he lifted his head, he would find himself confronted with himself. And he would hate what he saw, and yet his attention would be indivisible. He would slip his fingers, tender from steam, through slick swatches of hair, parting and re-parting and looking, sometimes unlooking (and these stretches of unlooking would be an itch just barely endured).
And yet, shimmering canisters of Old Spice did not spore and flower at Evan’s feet, birds of prey did not come to rest on the dip of his shoulders. Somewhere in the plumbing, brown blood from under his fingernails slipped through grimy midtown piping, displaced from a scalp excessively, obsessively handled.
Evan had never mastered caress, only prod…pick—at people, found ways to touch almost-always for nearly no time at all. Like a chimp. Someone had said that. Combing their mate for bugs. And the banana thing. They laughed all night, and split up in the morning.
He turned off the water. It came as a shock.
Evan pressed a hand to his back, found it soft and raw. He reached for his towel.
He did not look down.
Pruned and pale, he felt wrought with subhumanity. Not quite a chimp (there was pride and purpose in savagery), Evan ascribed himself a member of the hobbling in-between.
At the sink, he raised his eyes to meet himself.
Actually, it was one of his better days.