Today I did something I haven’t done in a very long time: I took a bath. No, don’t look at me like that, it’s not what it sounds like, what I mean to say is: I had a bath rather than a shower, as I normally do (regularly, with soap). I can’t remember when my last bath was, but it must have been at least 6 years ago, before I turned 21, because at around that age I moved into a place with no bath and never went back. It’s funny, I assumed that when I stopped bathing it went out of fashion the world over, but that’s decidedly egocentric of me, it just went out of fashion for me.

So, why did I take up this alternate approach to personal hygiene and (perhaps more pressing) why do you, gentle reader, absolutely have to know?

Well, you see, I’ve had a rather rough year, and this week has been pretty frustrating for me. For starters, dealing with a mentally ill ward is stressful in and of itself. I have also been working longer hours at work because it’s been coming close to crunch time for the project. I have been coming in earlier, leaving later and skipping lunch so that I can spend more time working. I have also beein fighting with the accountants for my company to recover the over $10,000 of my salary they mistakenly gave to the American government in taxes.
On Wednesday night (after visiting Stephen’s shrink) I baked a chocolate cake for my neighbour and co-worker Ross. You see, Ross was leaving the country on Friday and I noticed that this event was sadly unnoted by his other peers. My goal was to make a cake, present it to him on Thursday and maybe gather a few colleagues around the cake to send him off. I even told him about it and asked him if he would be around on Thursday.

Unfortunately, it transpired that Ross didn’t go in to work that day (he was packing). I left the cake in the break room, expecting to save him a piece after lunch. Sadly, the cake was all gone by the time I got back from the lab. So, I had to explain to a visibly crestfallen Ross that there was no sign of his cake to be found. I was also disappointed. I had spent hours on that cake, I even piped his name on it in white icing.

That day (Thursday), I lost my rag in the lab and yelled at someone. My boss is detail-oriented and stubborn. For a software developer these can be good traits. Unfortunately, she is also, more often than not, wrong. Being wrong and stubborn on a time-critical project can be a very bad thing. For example, she wasted about a month vainly trying to get our third party software initialized. I figured out what the problem was, once she let me. Anyway, so, I yelled at someone I respect and admire because he asked an innocent but (to my mind) rather dumb question. I apologized afterwards, but it still didn’t make me right.

Then, on Friday, I paid the (rather expensive) bill for the ambulance because Stephen’s useless insurance doesn’t cover “transportation”. After over a week of (literally) praying at the mailbox, I received a response from the State Department of Health Services for Texas explaining that they could not provide Stephen’s birth certificate and I would have to ask Tennessee. I sat through an hour’s session with Stephen & his shrink in which we made little to no progress and finally, when I got home, discovered he was not hungry and wasn’t feeling well, so we skipped dinner altogether.

I needed a break. I needed some “me” time. I couldn’t do it at home, I had to get away. After much arguing with myself, I decided to go see a movie and maybe have some ice cream. Stephen didn’t want to go out, but I desperately needed to get out or I would go stir-crazy (as they say here in Texas). I don’t usually go out on my own anymore because of the time I left him home alone and consequently had to go looking for him, something I may elaborate on sometime if I can convince myself I won’t be telling too many of his secrets.

The movie was sold out and the ice cream place was busy, so I just went grocery shopping and returned home. So, I was still in a foul mood. I needed an escape but I didn’t have any means of unwinding. Watching Stephen play his X-Box just wasn’t quite relaxing enough. I finally took a page out of his book. When he’s severely depressed he’ll go have a bath and it usually helps him somewhat. I decided to do that and I can honestly say it really does work.

When last have you drawn a warm bath, and gingerly lowered yourself into it? When last have you let your limbs float buoyantly in the water as you placidly contemplate your own belly, the warm water suffusing your pores? When last have you rolled around, vainly trying to warm one side of your body, while your shoulder and one ass-cheek freeze as the hot water evaporates off your exposed skin? It was incredibly relaxing. I could feel the muscles in my back and neck un-tensing, my vertebrae clicking back into place.

The bath is a source of powerful memories for me. Perhaps my most enduring is in my grandmother’s home when I was about 10: she’s scrubbing me relentlessly with a face cloth (a thing to be feared in her hands). Whenever I think of the bath, I think of those quiet simple times in Granny Goose’s home. The water from the bath drained into a plastic bin that my grandfather used to water his plants. The side of the bath opened up to reveal enough toilet paper to last through another world war. It’s the little things that you remember.

As a child, I would spend hours in the bath till my skin was well beyond pruned. I would spend my time making “magic potions” out of shampoo, flakes of soap, bath salts and any other vile soapy thing within reaching distance of the bath. I certainly didn’t drink it but it made cleaning the bath a whole lot easier. It was in the bath where I first discovered the joys of masturbation. What did I do as soon as I figured it out? I rushed to the kitchen and told my parents, of course. Yes, I know, I was (and am) a very strange boy.

If you haven’t done so in a while, I encourage you, gentle reader, to indulge yourself with a bath. It’s the cheapest selfish thing you can do for yourself and you deserve it.