in praise of bathrooms

soap

The mirrors and the showers of the houses where I have lived know me perfectly. The bathroom has always been the place where I could lock me up without being disturbed. I could stay there, and if someone knocked I could have told that it was engaged. I have always considered the bathroom my privileged room, the one where I could spy on myself without being spied. The room where nobody could enter. None could tell me what I had to do or how long I could stay. I have tried anything possible, there. My first bathroom saw a kid who tried to shave her face with her fatherʼs tools. The mirror saw my face full of cuts but proud to have experienced something that belonged to the adults’ world. My first bathroom saw me putting some socks into my motherʼs bra. My first bathroom saw me singing, using a brush as a microphone. It saw me looking straight into my own eyes for the first times, starting to discover myself. It saw me teenager, putting some toothpaste on my spots, cutting a terrible bangs. It saw me with my friends straightening each othersʼ hair, because it seemed that the opposite of what we were had always to be better. My first bathroom saw me bringing my hands to my breast to evaluate if it was enough, it saw me flossing between the irons of my brace. It saw me trying to look at myself from close, like when someone has just kissed you. It saw me jumping, dancing, acting. Especially acting. My shower has incredible stories to tell. They exude all the fantasy that the water washed away from me. In the shower I wanted to tell myself those stories that nobody had already told me but that I would have liked to listen. Dreaming about the world I would have liked to live in, dreaming about who I would have liked to be.

Then I moved, and my bathroom was not that comfortable and luminous anymore. I was in this tiny bathroom without any windows and a weak lamp, to be shared with other three people. There, that very small and opaque mirror saw my tired face. It saw me looking at my face and realising that my chubby cheeks were not there anymore. It saw me briefly, every now and then. Washing my face quickly, wearing makeup quickly. I was too busy to look at myself in the mirror. I was too busy because I was looking inside myself. The showers were quick under that shower jet, too hot even for me. That bathroom, though, saw me sit on the floor for hours, talking with my housemate, my friend, my sister. That bathroom saw me talking more about me, discovering something that I had only guessed from my silent eyes in the mirror. That bathroom saw me laughing because now there were two girls singing with brushes in their hands. It became a secret hiding when some imaginative thieves were out of our door. And it heard my accelerated heart beats while waiting to discover if I was about to host someone inside me. There I fought with my love to have the priority on the washbasin. There I curled his hair and shaved his beard. Laughing and rushing away, all the time. That bathroom saw me jumping every morning into the world and coming back every night, like a boomerang.

Until that day of July, when I only jumped away. After a quick look in the mirror, I left there some cotton and a hand cream, as reminders of those three years. Ready to jump far away, in another bathroom, on an island. That bathroom met me for the first time at late night. It was different from the others because it had a weird sink with two separated taps, one only for cold water and the other only for hot water. There were no sockets. All of that did not really make sense to me. But it was different, and only for this it was already ok. That mirror met one version of me, but soon it discovered that the versions had become quickly two. That shower heard me talking in one language, and then quickly in two. It heard me fighting with myself, rubbing with force the soap granules to scrape away from my forehead the signs of alcohol and of unhealthy foods. That bathroom saw me running again, but without really knowing where to go. Too confused on which colour of hair would fit my real self. It saw me looking into my eyes and realising that the only way to rub away what I did not like on my face and in my life, was to rub it away from inside. I decided to rub, and it was painful, and long. But suddenly, one of the last days of winter, I felt the spring in the bathroom and inside. That bathroom was really luminous, my face was clean and the mirror bright. My eyes were full of something new. The mirror saw me smiling at myself, singing and acting. Taking my time to stay alone. In the bathroom. Like when I was a child. To discover myself again, because you are never complete. And so you can always find out something new about yourself, while the water flows. You look at a white wall and something flows from the most remote and secret parts of your mind. And it is the bathroom the perfect place where you can take time to become again that child who used to inspect curiously. Because it is the room where nobody could enter. None could tell you what you have to do or how long you can stay. You can spy yourself without being spied.

As I said, the bathrooms of my life are the rooms which know me better. And the funny thing is that, if they would ever find themselves talking with each other about me, they would be surprised to talk about so different persons who share such similar expressions.

Published by silvialazzaris

Italian writer based in the UK.

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