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Bain Sur Pattes

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
Bain sur pattes, the For Rent ads in the paper had enticed when she rented the place. It’s actually just a regular tub with fake feet glued on. In the small bathroom with warped floors, still not fixed two months after the fire, she gets undressed. 
 
She sits down in her white painted bathtub, turns the shower on medium warm, and lets the water clear away her thoughts. Sings, and her voice lifts up to the ceiling and echoes. If you sing a note, and sing upwards so the note gets higher and higher in pitch, you hit those points at which the sound waves, as they echo back at you from the tiled walls, cancel out and then amplify themselves so the note you produce gets louder and then quieter and then louder again as you move through the frequencies. She sings a simple note and sound waves act on her voice, canceling her out and then amplifying her. It doesn’t take more effort to sing amplified than to sing flattened and squashed, it’s simply a matter of finding the right frequency to sing.
 
Slowly, she turns the water temperature up. Her head is a steaming turban of hot mist, her shoulders splash. Her hands touch the cool walls and her fingers are pink with blood just under the surface.
 
She reaches out past the shower curtain, flicks off the light, and sits down in the tub in darkness. Dips her head down so her forehead leans on a bent knee. Touches the drain. As her eyes adjust to the darkness she begins to see the spiral of water escaping into the black drain hole, between her big, bony feet. Her big toes point in, aiming at the escape tunnel. The water pours off her forehead onto her folded belly and down to the curved white floor of the tub. She sips at the water on her knee, tastes the tinge of tapwater metal. If she opens her mouth, the water will not drown her. It can enter her mouth and then pour out again, and she can still breathe.
 
She has just over two hundred dollars in the bank. It is April 26. She owes sixty dollars to the heating company. She watches the water pour down the drain. Two months ago, she had five hundred dollars at this time of the month. Her hair sheds sheets of liquid.
 
Six months ago there was over eight hundred. She raises a finger and water spouts off her fingertip. The number in the bank account slowly goes down. Each month she earns a bit less than she spends, and she is not in school, and there seems to be no end in sight. As a child, in showers, she pretended that the water pouring off her fingers in jets was magic power. She has tried to apply for real jobs, but they all say “BA required.” So she continues to go in and spend five hours each day doing surveys for Coca Cola and Nike, pacing her time to the clock. The water hits her head.
 
How can she get out? How to plan, when she spends her days hunched over a computer screen, banging her knees on the metal bars under the rickety folding desks in a crowded, smoke­filled office? Dialing endless phone numbers and asking people manipulative questions about their consumer habits, all to help big companies better brainwash the North American public. Her back and shoulders ache constantly from holding the phone against her ear with a shoulder while she types, and from having lost too much weight too quickly. There is something wrong with the muscles in her back; they are weak and she can’t stand up straight. At the end of each day, after doing one activity for that many hours, she has trouble thinking of anything other than how much money that time was worth. It is never enough. Saving for school is a laughable dream. Numbers ripple through her head: I owe this, I earn that, I owe this, I owe that. How am I going to get out of this? Maybe she can sell T­shirts at the Tam Tams on Mount Royal. Maybe she can sell weed. Maybe she can clean houses, teach English, sell jewelry. Her head spins. She sells her drum set, books, guitar.
 
In just three months she will escape to her summer job as a camp counselor, and she has to last until then. She tries to read, but finishes only a few pages at a time. She begins to crave material things: warm clothes, winter boots, a bed, blankets for cold nights, sofas, eyeglasses, art for the walls of her apartment, a good dictionary, expensive food, beautiful wooden furniture that she sees in store windows. Her brain grumbles with hunger, and her eyes eat up the material world around her that everyone on TV and in the malls and in the magazines all have. She never wanted things before – she hates things. She spends two hours each day a zombie on the bus, staring at all the other zombies. An old woman at the back of the bus clutches her purse and clenches and unclenches her fist around the clasp, mouthing numbers to herself. As Clara’s life begins more to mean nothing, she craves more strongly the trappings of comfort that she once laughed at.
 
She puts in the plug. Takes a bar of white soap from the ledge and lathers up her hands.
 
Spreads soap all over herself. It slides down her skin in the running water. She lies down in the tub. The water is full of suds, white foam, spiraling and catching on currents. It forms continents above an empty ocean, shifting like the map of the world over prehistory. If she lifts her leg out, it comes up heavy and coated with white bubbly slime, so she lets it drop with a splash and underwater it is clean again. Her shoulders slump.
 
She rinses off, pulls the plug, turns off the tap, and stands with a towel on her head as the water pulls itself down into the ground through its only outlet, the black throat drainpipe. Everything seeks to come to rest.
 
 
 
(2002)

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nora_samaran (Nora Samaran)
Montreal, QC
Member since April 2009

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Cultural theorist; PhD in Canadian Literature with a focus on race theory, nationalism, and newspapers; geeking out and/or organizing around all things speculative fiction, independent media, migrant justice & antiracism, radical mental health and social change since 1999. Blogs at norasamaran.com

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