B A T H T I M E

Pick it up, pick it all up, and start again.

I am seven storeys up and I am sitting in three inches of water. I wish that the tub was full, overflowing, I wish I could hear the overflow whirling down the drain, but I can only hear the sound of police sirens and the overground trains and somewhere far away I can hear the sound of rain hitting your face.

You’ve got a second chance, you could go home.

Four adults and two infants inhabiting this two-bedroom flat leaves little hot water for me to wash away last night’s sins. So I run the cold water for a couple of minutes and add 4 kettles-worth of boiling water, limescale and all, into the tub. I strip and carefully lower myself into the water. The cold water burns my skin and the boiling water soothes it and I wish that the tub was full.

Escape it all. It’s just irrelevant.

It’s hard to imagine and hard to believe, but my white skin looks even more fragile underwater than it does in the flesh. Paper doll, paper doll, in my paper house. The scars on my body are just creases from when you folded me up and put me in your pocket. You didn’t think about the creases, about how battered I would become living in the pocket of your jacket, scrunched up with all your other receipts, living amongst dirty copper pennies and getting stabbed by your keys. You didn’t think about your paper doll, you didn’t think of much at all.

It’s just medicine. It’s just medicine.

I am surprised by the state of my body. Bruises on top of bruises on top of older bruises. The colour spectrum on my knee, for example, is impressive. Green, purple, black, yellow, and red, red, the freshest ones are the deepest rouge, piled on top of the green marks that tell the story of last week’s antics. I am surprised. Bruises everywhere, in unexplainable places. I suppose I have a bruise for every mistake I have made this week. I have many. The top of my hand is brown from this week’s blood test, and about an inch further down is a green mark from my blood test the week before. My hands are tiny and I drag my legs up to my chest and rest my head on my knees and I am shaking and I wish that the tub was full.

You could still be what you want to,
what you said you were when I met you.

I am aware that the water is turning freezing, fast. I bought a new razor. Mine were confiscated but I bought a new one. I turn it over in my hand and I go to study the blade but my eyes aren’t working, my eyes feel broken, glazed by a fine mist, distorting reality, creating unreality, messing with my head. I quickly shave my legs, rushing, as if someone will come and take the razor away. In my rush, I scrape off old scabs, reopen old cuts, and create brand new cuts on the awkward places you would expect- ankles, knees, trickling red velvet into the shallow water around me. I am relieved. What a relief. I have cut myself to check that I am still alive, but it wasn’t self-harm because I was just shaving my legs and it was an accident. I didn’t mean to hurt myself but I don’t mind that I did.

You’ve got a warm heart, you’ve got a beautiful brain,
But it’s disintegrating from all the medicine.

With my knees up to my chest, most of my legs are out of the water and so I can watch the blood from various little cuts trickling down my paper legs. The way that the blood mixes with the water on my legs is beautiful. It’s a dilution of the kindest degree, pure, lonely water soothing the aggressive blood in his final hour. Water, the secret vixen, calming the blood while slowly consuming it, taking over it and finally washing it all away, erasing blood’s existence. Blood may be thicker than water, but Water is a powerful woman, a goddess of the highest calibre, the most dangerous thing on this planet. I notice that there’s a large smear of crimson on the wall of the tub. It came from the cut on the side of my knee, which has now gracefully spread across my bruises to form the most intricate Rorschach inkblot.

Doctor: We’re just going to do a quick exercise, you may have done it before… I’d like you to look at this card and tell me what you see.

Paper doll: *laughs*

Doctor: Take as long as you need.

Paper doll: A country. It’s quite clearly a map of a country.

Doctor: Which one?

Paper doll: Well, as you can see, it has a beautiful rugged coastline, like the west coast of Ireland. But it’s not Ireland.

Doctor: So what is it?

Paper doll: It’s home. It’s where my home is. I just haven’t been there yet.

Doctor: Why haven’t you been there, why haven’t you been home?

Paper doll: Because it doesn’t exist.

Then I laughed and kissed goodbye to the island on my knee and this also made me laugh and I washed my home away. The water was cold, uncomfortably cold, but I couldn’t bring myself to move. I just sat in the cold, bloody water, and listened to the trains and sirens and rain. I thought about lots of things. Yes, I thought of you. And so I stayed there for a long time, bleeding and dreaming, and laughing at what we have become.

From all the medicine, from all the medicine, it’s just medicine…

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