Your alarm wakes you up on its first beep. You wait for the fourth to turn it off. You sit up in bed and shove your hair out of your face. It feels wrong between your fingers and falls down across your forehead again. You try again and again until it feels less wrong and stays back. An Itch rises at the back of your neck and you try to ignore it as you roll out of bed to head to the bathroom. Squarewave is still in Sleep Mode on his charger in the corner. You’re pretty sure you’ll be waking him up once you’ve finished your ablutions. Today is not one of your good days.
You stop at the sink and brush your teeth. Top front, then top left, then top right. Bottom front, then bottom left, then bottom right. You sit out the toothpaste, then swish water through your mouth. Left cheek, right cheek, left cheek, right cheek, spit. You shuck your boxers. Left foot, then right foot. You pull a towel out from the cabinet and hang it over the bar on the shower door. It looks wrong and you fuss it from side to side until it’s right.
You hate your ablutions. The water runs over you and you can’t start anything until you’re sure you’re completely covered in water hot enough to stain you flushed all over. You start by scrubbing at your scalp. Your fingers dig at the skin until it stings in the heat. You squeeze shampoo into your left hand and shove it through your hair, desperately tugging and wringing for any traces of gel you didn’t get last night. You scratch more at your scalp and, if you were to check (and you occasionally do), you would see traces of orangey-pink under your nails- a mark of your pains of thoroughness. The Itch creeps over your skin and you swallow hard, trying to ignore it. It’s rather like telling yourself not to think of elephants, though. You scrub at your face, neck, arms, chest, back, legs; always working top to bottom, left to right, front to back. You drag the soap along you, trailing your nails behind it in the hopes that it will quell the Itch for even a moment.
Your skin is raw and tingling and stinging once you’ve shut the water off. The cool air burns your skin, as does the gentle terry of the towel. Top to bottom, left to right, front to back. Getting dressed is the only exception to your Rules. The shades go on last.
You stare at the mirror and brace yourself. Comb in one hand, gel in the other, nausea stirs in your stomach as you ready yourself for the biggest battle of your morning. It takes hours, sometimes, before it’s right. You can’t not do this, though. The disarray is a thousand times worse.
You stand on your rooftop in the sweltering sun. Every inch of you in sunscreened, but you know that the freckles will still find their way onto every bare part of you. You scratch a bit at your cheekbone at the thought of it. You flex your fist around your sword grip and widen your stance, lifting onto your toes. A bead of sweat rolls down the back of your neck and it kills you not to swat at it.
High block, low block, cross left, jab, slash- WRONG. Start over. High block, low block, cross- WRONG. Start over. High block- WRONG. WRONG. WRONG. WRONG. High block, low block, cross left, jab, slash down-right. Perfect. Three more consecutive times and you can move on. Your neck and shoulders Itch, but you can’t scratch them when you’re doing this well.
Squarewave shimmies and wiggles and shakes in front of you, anxious for a rap battle. You accept and feel everything in you relax at the beat. You spit annihilating flow and it feels so right, the way the words fight snugly in the music. Even Square’s weak and wobbly words conform acceptably. Your favorite days are when you have the time to indulge in these stupid battles. Even getting your ass handed to you by Sawtooth is comforting. You craft and hone your words with Square and it’s safe and happy.
For a few hours, you don’t Itch.