Shirley, who was feeling ridiculous in retrospect of the day’s events, sighed and asked Jane what was so interesting about her reflection as Jane had been looking at herself in the hallway mirror for the past few minutes.
Jane did not answer but seemed to be experimenting with her eyeballs somehow. The vague smell of pot lingered and Shirley realized her friend was merely stoned. Shirley told Jane she was off to shower before Robert’s return home. It was already late afternoon.
The soap and the steam, the little compartment alone, a compartment within a compartment within a compartment that’s what the little shower inside the little bathroom inside the little house on top of the little hill that overlooked the little bay on the tiny little island was to Shirley. The safest place she could possibly be in the whole world; a man-made womb, the very inmost chamber of the nautilus shell.
But safe from what? Why the need for all the alone time and safety? From what, Shirley asked herself.
She analyzed herself and realized that she preferred to be disconnected to her feeling relationship to life nearly 100% of the time. In fact, she was so cut off from it all that she might as well be an inanimate object!
Alone in the bathroom in the steamy and relieving shower, her mind could admit its deepest thoughts. She would sit down on the tile floor, right under the shower head and let it stream down on her. She would position her head right in the middle of the circle of water that danced down to her shoulders and back so that she could breathe and keep her eyes open while she was being drenched, immersed nicely with hot water. And today, as with all other days, she could let herself down and lower her shoulders. She soaped up with a lavender soap and scrubbed her pink washcloth up and down her face, hands, and legs.
Shirley thought of the cows in the pasture by the baseball field. She thought how they seemed happy when she drove by them the previous day. She thought of Mr. and Mrs. Macadangdang at the farmer’s market last week. They were so happy, selling tangelos and anthuriums, smiling under their dark green canopy, the sun slanting just so that their teeth were lit up against their Filipino skin. They always recognized her and called her by her first name. She was happy for this.
Rhiannon thought of Robert’s mouth, always down-turned in the corners. How she was surprisingly intrigued by his pout. She wanted him to smile and loved it when he did. The stars, extra bright that night they first met, she was so shy that night. As he signed the bill, his hand shook. That’s when Shirley began to smile, realizing he was as nervous as she was. She liked him all the more. Steam saturated the bathroom as Shirley dreamed away. His last name was Love, too. Can you believe it? Robert love. If she married him she could be Shirley Love.
She leaned against the side of the wall and let the water pelt, wrapping her arms around her legs for support. Closing her eyes and tilting her head up she let the steam and hot water infuse her and let her go away from this place. Then she decided to shave her legs.
But because she was daydreaming and not paying so much attention, Shirley cut herself with the razor. Blood dripped down her inner right thigh. She had cut herself shaving the curvy bikini area and blood poured down, mixing and diluting with the warm water. Shirley found the cut by blocking the water and seeing where a thin line of red popped up on her thigh and smeared it with her index finger and then put it to her lips and tasted it. Dark and salty. Deciding she would have to get out to really stop the bleeding, Shirley turned off the water and squeezed the extra water out of her hair while cleaning the glass shower door with the squegee. No rings of water this way; no residue for later.
This is the moment everything in the day had led up to. And Shirley didn’t even know. How could her limited mind know? All she knew was that as she attached a piece of toilet paper to her inner thigh where the cut was, for some reason she got incredibly mad. Everything in her life had been so controlled, so mediocre, and it would most likely continue in that fashion until her death forty or fifty years from now. Her fury seemed to burst from the cut on her leg and take over. It traveled up her nerves and entered her brain suddenly, and with a dash of furious. And her eyes, her eyes that were so lovely took on a rage of their own in her white bathroom. They took her. And then she looked straight into the mirror and knew. Eyes wild, she breathed deep, a long infusing breath right through her nostrils and into her lungs and then she closed those wild eyes of hers and no longer needed them.
And she fell, arms open like Jesus. She leaned forward like she was taking a swan dive. Shirley fell through the mirror. It was foggy in her bathroom, the tiles were slippery and she felt her feet give way when she stepped out and then it was too late. She thought the countertop would stop her, thought she would in fact smash against it, like will stopping up against itself and offering no clue to the exit. But she slid right into the mirror. No amazing Houdini tricks. No Bellagio fireworks water show and no delusions of grandeur. It was just part of the day. A scheduled appointment that you will never miss.
A rather small and shimmering wall of quicksilver, she just soaked right up into it, lapping like a regular occurrence, a car wash on a Sunday afternoon by Girl Scout troop 139. And to tell you the truth, the truth that does not make it on to these pages, Shirley never returned. That moment, careening into the glass was it for Miss Shirley Mercy Pastel.