The luke warm water pounds against the top of my head. I fumble for the nozzle in the dark. I’ve showered in the dark since I was little, which is probably even more creepy. The water heats up and steam fills my tiny tiled sanctuary. I drop to my knees in the dark shower and let the water flow over me, hugging my body into itself. The darkness and the heat feel safe; I feel hidden, invisible, almost washed away.
The first time I read bell hooks’ “All About Love,” I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I wasn’t able to fully appreciate the magic the book offered. I wasn’t ready yet. (I have talked about books like they are my friends since I was eight, because sometimes they are my friends. Reading is my favorite hobby, because it’s the only hobby that makes loneliness look smart). The second time I read it, I had just gotten out of a messed up relationship, and it was important, healing, and cathartic for me to read. I learned that if someone is treating you in a harmful manner, and not nurturing your spirit, that they don’t love you, not that there’s anything wrong with you, but that they aren’t at a place where they love themselves enough to love anyone else. I learned “‘love is an action, never simply a word.” And I needed to learn that back then.
Sitting in the wet darkness, I pull my legs close, bow my head to my knees, curling as small as I can possibly be. Maybe if I sit in the shower long enough I’ll dissolve. A dark shower is the only place I feel safe making a noise when I cry. I do cry a lot, but it’s usually stoic silent tears, with occasional sniffles. The luxury of sobbing is something I gave up long ago, in exchange for all of the oodles of social capital I know enjoy. (Sarcasm.) As I weep, I grow angry with myself for… well, for everything. I grow smaller, so I can see and feel less of myself in the shadowy dark. If I were able to look in the mirror, I might want to chastise myself for acting this way, although I’m not sure exactly what way I’m acting. I know I don’t feel very mature for crying for pretty much no discernable reason. I cry in the shower like this about once every two weeks, not really for one particular reason, just to get the pipes rinsed out so to speak.
The third time I read bell hooks’ “All About Love,” I read it more to understand what love is. I relearned the same things I had learned years ago, but this time I applied them to myself rather than to a problematic toxic masculinity figure. I thought of the way I treated my lovers and friends. If love is nurturing someone’s spirit and helping them be their best self, how many people do I actually love? How many people do I want to be close to, but I let them down over and over? How many lovers’ lives have I made worse, rather than better, simply by being in their company, simply by existing?
Time is lost in the shower. I weep harder, through the anger and rage at myself for being so awful. I sob through the violent hatred of myself for being a bad feminist, friend, lover, sister, and daughter. I blubber past the anger, letting it out, cascadingly into the cold floor. While I feel as though I am exhibiting weakness, I am in actuality letting my emotions out loudly, brutally, and unreservedly. It isn’t the first time I’ve expelled painful, fiery, pulsating feelings while huddled in a dark bathroom. As I sob, I am reminded of the release of throwing up, and I cry harder.
I think about the tattoo on my wrist, the Elvish word for “love.” I want to be loving to everyone, even people who dislike me. I try to think of things from their perspective, from a compassionate, sympathetic place. For the most part, I think I succeed in this. I try to have only compassion in my heart for everyone, and I’m usually okay at it. It’s a boon that I live in Portland and don’t have to encounter too many republicans, because that might prove more difficult of an endeavor, obviously. Although I’m not perfect at this yet, I have made a lot of strides and efforts to live my life through the lens of compassion for others.
How long have I been in here, minutes? Hours? I forgot that my essence was still even attached to this body in my warm waterfall.
Eventually I’ll get out of the shower and turn the light on. I might put on lotion or sunscreen and pull part of my hair back. I’ll pour myself a cup of coffee while I clean my room and text my friends/partner about meeting up at some point today or tomorrow. I might go exercise or read. These are acts of self love that I do for myself. “Love is an action, never simply a word” for loving myself as well. I’ll smile at the neighbors, take care of others at work, and try to be a good friend filled with love for the small group of people left in my life. Eventually, I’ll remember that I’ll always be trying to be stronger, better, and more loving. I’ll remember that I’m doing pretty okay, and that I need to work harder and smarter and never give up.
But for now I can crouch here and let the sound of the shower drown out my sobs.