Life in the Time of Soap Scum

by admin on September 13, 2011

Life in the Time of Soap Scum

I’ve had a strange last few days and I honestly don’t know where to start with this but here goes…

I was taking my morning shower, getting ready for yet another fun-filled day of standing on my feet and waiting tables, dreading the hour long subway commute ahead of me. I have stopped using bar soap some time ago; it stemmed out of women telling me how gross it was and how bad it was for my skin so consequently, I’ve switched to using body wash which may be more expensive in the long run, but my skin does feel differently and I guess I’m doing my part for the environment and saving animals simultaneously.

My bathtub has a mine of its own. Since the first day I moved in, it has never cooperated with me. Sometimes I get hot water when I turn the knobs, sometimes I get cold. Its always a gamble each time I enter the shower, never knowing while I stand there butt-ass naked if it will be a normal shower day or a count-to-ten-and-just-get-it-over-with day and jump in, as the Arctic cold water shrinks my testicles back up inside of me as soon as I step foot into the spraying mist. My water knobs are also labeled incorrectly, with the ‘C’ for cold really being the hot water. Luckily, I ironed out the change in the first week of moving into my apartment but  every now and then I do forget and stand there perplexed, wondering why I have no hot water once again as I run late for work.

Anyone who lives in Brooklyn or in an old brownstone can relate to the slow drainage of their tubs. No matter how much Drano you buy, no matter how much hot water and vinegar you pour down the drain (the latter remedy coming straight from my landlady), you will NEVER get a properly draining tub. It’s just not in the stars. As I finish my shower each day, I have a good five to eight minute window of watching my tub’s water level rescind along with the suds my body wash has left behind. I’m bushing my teeth, shaving, cleaning my ears out with Q-tips this entire time, having grown accustomed to this after a year of being here. I purchased a slip-resistant bath mat way back when I first moved in. It sits in the bottom, right in the center, its little suction cups adhering to the tub’s floor. It begins to show itself through all the water and suds after about five minutes of the slowly disappearing water. All of this is nothing new to me. This is the same routine, day in and day out that I perform without fail and without surprise until a few days ago.

I have showered, shaved, choppers brushed, getting ready to exit the bathroom, pleased with the speed in which I had performed this ritual when I heard a long, guttural gurgling coming from the tub less than two feet from my naked frame. This caught me off guard; needless to say, as I have never heard any noises such as this one since I’ve been here. Investigating, I pulled back the shower curtains and liner, hoping that nothing had come up from the depths beyond. You hear crazy urban legends about alligators that are disowned, flushed down toilets and roaming the sewers of New York and that is what popped into my mind first thing; some reptile has made its way up from the sewers and is now residing in my paint peeling tub. Silly of course, but that sound was foreign to me and honestly, I was scared.

But it wasn’t a killer croc. It wasn’t a busted pipe. It wasn’t a figment of my over-active imagination. There was nothing there except a small pool of water circling around the world’s slowest drain; waiting and spiraling impatiently for its turn to depart. I sighed in relief, thanking God that there was no immediate problem that I could see with my tub.

And then, I saw it.

It was small, almost shaped like a clover, black as night. It couldn’t have been any larger than a dime, spinning around in the water, caught in the miniature vortex created by the hungry drain. Leaning in, I watched further, trying to figure out exactly what this strange form actually was, and although foreign, there was a familiarity about it and that’s when it hit me. Soap scum. An accumulation of dirt, peeling paint, dry skin and bacteria which had taken refuge under my bath mat, hiding in the space between the suction cups. Don’t get me wrong; I am a VERY clean person, it’s just the bath mat is probably the absolute last thing I think about when it comes to cleaning. Having ascertained its origins, I went back to studying the event before me.

It spun around in silence, dancing in front of me, unashamed as if I wasn’t there. It’s movements spontaneous, free formed; no choreography on earth could have compared to the dance before me. So bold. So beautiful. So graceful. It would cross directly over the mouth of the drain, as the water level diminished with each passing second, back flipping and spinning wildly. At one point, it dove down partially into the drain, only to reemerge with more vigor than previously. Inevitably, the water level reached a point where there was no option but for the debris to coincide with the exiting water and exit the tub, leaving me standing there in awe at its performance. But it didn’t go down without a fight. No, this was a different breed of scum. It fought for its life. A small portion hung onto the lip of the rusted drain, clinging on in defiance of the suction of exiting water rushing past and over it. In its last moment here on this earth, it let go, slowly releasing its grip on this world, crossing over into the next without so much as a whisper in its wake. Beautiful.

The tear that splattered on my right knee bought me back to reality. I found myself sitting on the tub’s edge, flesh upon porcelain, moved by what I had witnessed. A grown man with forty plus years on this earth, weeping over swept away debris. Wiping my eyes and quickly getting dressed after realizing the time, I make my way off to work, leaving my home and its bathroom behind, only to have it haunt me the entire day. As I went through the everyday mundane routine of commute/work/commute again, I couldn’t let go of that image. When I arrived home, I went straight to the bathroom, throwing back the shower curtain and liner. Dropping to one knee, I leaned in as close as I could towards the drain but of course nothing was there. Not even a drop of water, as it had dried or evaporated in the time of my absence from home. In disappointment, I stood back up, turned off the light and closed the door of the bathroom, heading to bed but not without one last thought of earlier.

Why was I moved by such an insignificant event in the grand scheme of the world? What could possibly have happened in that bathroom that could move me to such an emotional response? Better yet, if it had any revelency to my life, what could it mean? I struggled with the answer, racking my brain but coming up with nothing.

And then in a moment of clarity, it came to me. The answer, you see, was right in front of me the entire time. I was just too blinded by people, places, and things to notice it immediately. That’s how the simple and obvious things are; much too small at first glance, but they carry the biggest impacts on your life. Life has a funny way of sending you messages; this was mine.

Hang on to everything that life has to offer. When the tides of the world wash over you and you feel like you’re drowning, fight back and brace yourself against its onslaught, as terrible and as hard as it may seem. You may not always come out clean, you will get roughed up and banged about, but you will have YOUR life and nobody can take that from you unless you allow them to. Cling to your loved ones and family. Let them know that they are loved by you with all the love your pathetic little heart can muster. Your friends, your dear friends, cherish them as if they are your own family. Stand by them through the fire, support them in their times of need as they would do the same for you. Take time to relax, allowing your imagination and thoughts to flow through you like water, clarifying your troubled soul, purging out all that isn’t pure. You may feel dirty at times, you may very well BE dirty, but even dirt wants to live life on this planet. It took soap scum to bring that to light for me.

You think I’m crazy. I may very well be losing my mind. I might even be certifiably nuts. All I do know is that I will start to look at things in a different light, embracing change and believing that we are all here for a purpose. If that is crazy, I’m guilty as charged. You might not get what I’m saying but one day your message will come to you. It probably won’t be in the form of scum or mildew such as mine, but it will come.

One day.

Replacing my bathmat come Friday,

Gregory McCant

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Sylvia 09.13.11 at 10:26 pm

Nicely put, Greggy! No, you’re not crazy. Clarity. Amazing how the lense in which you look through changes based on your experiences. Reflective. Without even going there, you are in that current state…hence, finding meaning under your bathmat…relating it to yourself. Brave. For being so brave and transparent with your thoughts…almost testifying.

I love you for many reasons. I love your work because it makes one think about themselves…clarity, reflective, balls and courage. That’s my brother!

Madd love, Greggy!

Your little sister,
Milvie (AKA “Bucket”)

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