By Will Seefried
Garrett wakes up. His eyes slowly flutter open and recoil at the square sun ceiling, kicking him in the skull. He surrenders to his side and glances at the dirty laundry littering the floor. A waste-bin full to the brim with crumpled papers, discarded drawings, and bill notices. Already, a pinch of anxiety grabs at his cheek. Anxiety is a friend of his grandmother’s who hasn’t realized that cheek pinching has become taboo. Waving a second white flag to his overzealous disquiet, he rolls to his other side and sees Gina’s face. She breathes with her mouth hanging open.
Morning breath. Thick. Insects and bugs swarm from her mouth, the pestering scent of dreams being exhaled.
He turns back to the ceiling, his brow aching. The ceiling raises its eyebrow in the shadow of passing clouds; “Now what?” it probes.
To the bathroom, he directs himself. Painfully, he pulls his heavy limbs from their splay upon the half-price purple tee-shirt sheets Gina bought for their full-sized bed. Garrett hates purple but he loves a bargain and so does Gina, and they’re shit-ass broke, so compromises had to be made.
As he inches his way towards the bathroom his spine seems to recall its job and half-heartedly lifts his head back on top of his torso’s pale frame. Garrett passes by their mirrored closet door. A flash of his protruding Adam’s Apple, pink hairless nipples, crooked knees, cracked toenail, and boxer shorts trapping his morning wood in a prison of dancing Christmas trees. Impressed by the height of his own tee-pee he steps back to catch another look. He contemplates tucking it into the waistband of his boxers but decides against it, liking how the suspended weight of his junk pulls him forward into the day. Gina is still sound asleep, anyway.
Speckled in flying toothpaste and mementos of zits passed, he comes face to face with himself in the bathroom mirror. He makes a face. The reflection imitates his snarl.
Can’t even think for yourself.
He chides the adolescent-man before him.
He decides to be the bigger man and walk away. He turns on the shower that spits and chokes on rust for a minute before producing a tense explosion of water. Dreading the inevitable transition of showering that leads to clothing that leads to eating that leads to commuting that leads to working that leads to overwhelming existential questions about what a guy is supposed to do with a degree in philosophy and seemingly dispensable ambition, Garrett retreats to the bathmat. He balls-up a towel under his head and pulls another over him like a sheet.
What once was an invincible cocoon of terrycloth engulfing his entire body, now barely reaches his knees, even in his fetal position. His young adult limbs seek comfort in this familiar texture, this ritual of escape that he has practiced since he was a child dreading the cold tile of his mother’s shower, the heaping bowl of oatmeal at the kitchen counter, and the plastic scent of brown oversized school bus seats. His skinny crooked limbs grow heavy. His heart beats gently against his ribs, a predictable and calming duet with the shower’s roar. For a moment their song drowns out his thoughts, fears, hopes, ambitions, and the ever-impending self-awareness that his generation can’t seem to escape. For a moment he has nothing to examine. Nothing to philosophize. Nowhere to go and no one to be.
As all moments do, this one ends. He emerges from his makeshift cocoon into the bathroom, thick with steam. He sees a shadow of his reflection, his form veiled by a steamy sheath on the mirror. He recognizes himself for the first time this morning. More than the copycat he chided, and the tee-pee wielder he admired, he sees himself here. A blur in the moment of inevitable transition. The sound of Gina’s alarm clock hollers outside the door. The rustling of sheets and the smacking of snooze buttons. Pigeons outside the bathroom window coo and flutter. Water rushes into the drain beginning its inevitable transition to the apartment below. The mirror steam condensates and rushes to its leap of faith onto the tile countertop. Garrett is suddenly lonely, standing still in the middle of all this motion.
He steps into the stream of it all. He washes his hair, careful not to get shampoo in his eyes.