The Shower Fixture
There was a man once who died and was reincarnated as a shower fixture in a small, overpriced apartment off King Street in Old Town, Alexandria,Virginia.
The apartment was rented by a man who’d recently grown dissatisfied with pursuing his Master’s degree and left graduate school to work at a tutoring center with kids who weren’t so much mentally challenged as overly entertained, and therefore incapable of taking interest in the mundane. And tutoring was mundane. He rented the apartment because it was the sixth one he’d seen and it was no better or worse than any of the others. He’d picked it, more than anything, because it was near a video store he noticed on the way to looking at the apartment, and that appealed to his sense of ease.
The shower fixture who had once been a man had once also played accordion. It was something his father had forced him into, and as he’d grown into adulthood, he found it was a good way to pick up a little cash on holidays by playing in parades. After many years, long after his early promise had faded, he grew nostalgic and began to actually enjoy playing. He was a hack, a failed prodigy, donning his kilt and red wig (he was blond day to day) and marching down the street while Irish onlookers pelted him and the other parade members with green beer on St. Patrick’s day, or while he played a bagpipes versions of popular songs in the pub, afterwards. People called out songs and he played passable versions of the ones he could. They didn’t care, as long as it was close. He didn’t care, either; he was happy to please them. It was his one real joy.
The shower fixture noticed pretty quickly that when the water was first turned on in the apartment, the pipes whined and rattled. He found that by exerting tremendous will, he could manipulate certain washers and joints to twist in certain ways to influence the pitch and timber of the whine.
But this was only something the shower fixture could do when the water was on, and then, only for the first few moments, possibly as much as a minute, after which the force of the water itself would push the pipes back into alignment and the whining would cease. So the water fixture came to treasure these first few moments and wasted not a second of them. He started simply, learning to change the pitch of the whine to make recognizable notes, and trying to speed up these changes so that he began to shape not just notes but successions of them.
Unfortunately for the water fixture, the man who lived in the apartment bathed rarely, so it took many weeks before the water fixture was able to produce a recognizable progression.
The man in the shower responded to the sound by groaning. He often groaned at how much noise his shower made. He had thought that he would get used to the noise as the weeks progressed, but if anything, it seemed to be getting louder. This was one reason why he bathed so infrequently, but if anything that was just an excuse.
The man groaned a lot because he was dissatisfied with many things, including himself. He had grown to realize that it had been a mistake to leave graduate school, but more than that, it had been a mistake to begin in the first place, at least with the degree in teaching he had been pursuing. All the man really wanted from life was to sit on his couch, eat take out from the Indian restaurant down the street, and watch Asian films. Not the Kung-Fu scenes, per se, but the epic scope of Asian cinema made him forget wholly about himself and his own culture. The alien-ness of it made him feel capable of redemption. He had very seriously been considering starting a blog for several weeks devoted to just this idea, but he’d been unable to come up with a suitable title. This failing, among his many perceived other failings, led the man into a state of complete apathy, though it was hard to tell the difference unless you were someone affected by the small changes, like the infrequency in showering.
The shower fixture didn’t look at his situation as being some sort of punishment. This was just not the way he approached things. The shower fixture who had been a man knew that he was dead; he remembered dying, and much of his previous life. The fact of his reincarnation he took to be a sort of second chance. It was exciting, having a whole new body, such that it was. And he’d always prided himself on not being a grumbler. Nonetheless, he was growing impatient.
His only way of gauging the passage of time was the frequency of drips leaking from him. But he still felt a broad sort of movement he came to think of as the change from day to night. It was several months before he realized that what he was feeling was the shifting of tides. He’d heard somewhere that there is a connection between our blood and seawater, read it on a bumper sticker, maybe, that we are connected to the sea. Now, his blood was water.
This thought was swirling around when he felt the long awaited tug of the knob being turned, which signaled the beginning of a shower. He improvised, quickly, the opening of “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” and made a passable bar or so. The man groaned again but the shower fixture, having no ears, heard nothing. He didn’t even know it was a man manipulating him. He sensed the notes through their vibrations, not their sounds.
The shower fixture was pleased with his accomplishment, but he wished he could do more. He tried extending his realm of influence and managed to get the opening couple of notes from “Chopsticks” out of the sink while the man was shaving. The problem was that the shower was the only thing that ran long enough to utilize. The toilet would’ve been a decent runner up, except that it was too loud.
It didn’t occur to the shower fixture for several months that he could use this diversion as a form of communication. It was a breakthrough. He was running out of ideas for songs to play, and it would be nice to get a request every now and again. Of course, he didn’t know if that would be possible, but it was worth a shot.
The next few times the man showered, the shower fixture tried playing the opening to certain popular television shows. He tried popular music, but he could discern no response.
The man who lived in the apartment had put on weight. He wasn’t sleeping. People on the metro shifted away from him when he sat down. This was because he hadn’t been bathing. He was beginning to think that his shower was haunted, or that he was going crazy, or both. He thought that it was probably the government, somehow. They’d caught up to him, finally, for things he’d done when he was an undergraduate and part of a student political organization. He thought back often on those days. He hadn’t fit in very well. The other anarchists made fun of him because he had a job. He didn’t know what else to do, though. He had to eat. He didn’t know how they survived, until it finally occurred to him that most of these kids lived with their parents.
They also never got anything done, the anarchists. They spent the bulk of their meetings arguing. He’d left the group feeling dissatisfied. They had planted a seed in him that would germinate into the discontent he was now facing.
He had gone to rallies, though, and so this must be the reason the government was now torturing him, he thought. He realized this was unlikely. The reality was that they were probably old pipes and there was no particularly interesting explanation. It was probably just noise and he was the one making it sound like music, in his imagination. But he didn’t want to face up to this. It was the only thing of any real interest that had happened to him in his entire life, except for various sexual encounters which had mostly ended embarrassingly. The pipes, and a hand job or two, that was it for him.
The man who lived in the apartment decided one morning that he was going to bathe, and begin doing it regularly. This was because the day before one of his students had made fun of how he smelled. The man decided that the only way to get anything done in life was to be a straight line. It was moving around obstacles instead of going through them that had caused him to end up where he was. This is why he never got anything done.
He turned the shower on and immediately winced. It was playing a Survivor song. He let it run. Several times he had considered inviting people over to hear his shower, but he didn’t have a lot of friends, and this was not the sort of thing one asked an acquaintance.
He hummed along with it before he realized what it was. “Eye of the Tiger.” He turned the water off and stared at the water draining out. Then he turned the water back on. It was playing another song, one he didn’t recognize. He turned it off. He turned it back on. It played the call riff from “Shave and a Haircut.” He turned it off and back on twice rapidly to emulate the response. He turned it on again. It was playing the riff from Jeopardy where the contestants were supposed to write their answers down.
He went into his bedroom and called the tutoring center and told them he wouldn’t be coming in. He thought for a long time about asking his landlord to replace the pipes. Then he turned on his computer and started designing his blog. He was going to call it “Eye of the Tiger.” He hoped Survivor didn’t sue. Then again, he thought maybe it would be interesting if they did.
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