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Bathwater

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Always in the early evening.

Just on the cusp of late afternoon, when the day shifts to feeling more like anxiety over endings and the unknown that a hung moon signifies.

Only then does he run the bath, as hot as he can possibly stand it, and only after a good, strong, proper shower. The water has to cascade in a rush bordering on vicious, a beating, really. To slough off with dirt the dead and haggard skin of bygone minutes, the sweat of both toil and rapture alike. There is no difference in this small room of epic, quiet transformations. Of endings and beginnings.

His hair has to be clean, hanging dense and wet, his shoulders sagging under the battery of promises to be pure, unsullied, fixed. Perhaps foolishly, he hopes these fanciful things prove to be true as he slicks his hair with conditioner and fills the tub.

The bathwater is hotter still, and salted like soil as he slips one long leg inside the deep basin, and then the other, sinking, ever sinking. It has to be almost too hot or it isn’t right, isn’t doing the job, won’t ever succeed in smoothing the right wrinkle in the mind or easing the right tension between things.

Time behaves differently in the bath, the heart submerged and pounding so hard he can hear it in his own ears, a desperate, internal song. His hearing is quite keen, actually. Vision, less so. There is a constant shift and rhythm that sways the water to and fro, but never too to and never too fro.

He stares at a mark, a freckle , to be precise, on his left thigh, level with the water and dipping just beneath the surface, changing positions drastically like it has any right to do such a thing. So convinced it is--that freckle--that it’s moving, that he has to drop a pruney finger to it just to make sure it isn’t something floating in the water.

Of course it isn’t. His bathwater is always immaculate.

He lifts the offending hand to his eyes for scolding but thinks better of it when he sees the fingertips dappled with the effects of oversaturation; ten tiny little moons. This makes him laugh, a dangerous scrape of pointed teeth over the curve of a bottom lip. Not so dangerous because of hazard to himself, but all the better to slay the devastatingly handsome young man who always finds him there, suspended in his own, hallowed bathwater.