My grandmother’s first-ever purchase on Amazon occurred three months ago and comprised the complete Fifty Shades of Gray trilogy. I spied the books on her desk on my last holiday visit, and was humorously informed of her Internet dealings by my mother, her daughter, shortly afterward. “Everybody’s reading it and she wants to read it too,” my mother offered in grandmother’s defense; I spelled out the obvious: “But she didn’t want to go out to a bookstore to get it.” I felt a sudden surge of sympathy but did not voice it—I myself had recently purchased through Amazon a package of condoms and a tube of lubricant, objects I too felt entitled to own but which I was not prepared to lay out on a counter and present to an unknown cashier.


Four days ago I took an unexpectedly long shower, the bulk of which I spent on my knees as hot water ran over my back, combing the shower floor with my hands, feeling for an invisible quarry—tiny glass shards of my shattered pipe.

I brought the pipe into the bathroom for a cleaning, and under running sinkwater I scraped the sticky burnt matter out of the bowl with my fingernails as best as I could—I applied soap and scrubbed, and blew through the pipe through its three different orifices, and I tapped the pipe against the porcelain sink intermittently (not seeking to arouse suspicion by emitting a persistent if pleasant percussion from an unexpected source, i.e. the lavatory). Yet still I noticed the charcoal growths throughout the pipe’s interior, visible within its clear neck, inaccessible by finger. Will I breathe these in later? I asked myself; probably, I answered. But is it bad for me? I asked furthermore, and found myself ignorant.

I brought the pipe into the shower seeking to clean it some more, or at least fondle it idly as I cleansed, my hands always hungry for tactile amusement. I placed it on the soap tray and watched the shower’s stream of water run over it, thinking, can it knock it over? I turned away and heard a crash and alas, it had. All over the floor surrounding my feet were bits of pipe of various sizes. I did not panic but thought, good thing this has happened here: it is a contained space. But then i thought, bad thing this has happened here, as visitors are often barefoot. I directed the shower head away from the soap tray and bent down and picked up the big pieces and placed them back on the tray carefully, then got down to my hands and knees and began to comb the floor, directing the smaller shards to the shower drain. The inner surface of the pipe tube, now exposed, was caked with sticky burnt matter, charcoal growths. I tried to scrape it off but it was layered far too thick.

After cleaning the floor sufficiently and concluding my shower, I wrapped myself in a towel and slipped to my room and grabbed a camera and returned, thinking the broken-up pipe on the soap tray a beautiful image, collegiate, youthful. I had just as youthfully forgotten to charge my camera battery and so abandoned the photo op—the truly collegiate lives on only in memory anyhow, is undocumentable. I swept the shards off of the soap tray and into a trash can, scrubbed the bits of charcoal off the soap tray with my towel, applied some hand soap on the tray and directed the showerhead toward it at full blast. The scent lifted, I exited the shower saddened but clean.

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