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There's a tweet going around that a bunch of my friends have been responding to. Don't worry, it's fun, for once.
Without revealing your actual age, what's something you remember that if you told a younger person they wouldn't understand?— Matt (@mattwhitlockPM) November 27, 2017
I kept trying to come up with a good answer to this, but it wasn't until I sat down to write this piece that I thought of one: when I was in school, we watched slides that had a tone telling you when to advance, and the sound came from a turntable or cassette player.
I think of that now, because one of the filmstrips we watched was a cartoon telling of "The Legend of Sleepy Hallow." I've always been a fan of the story, for it's subtle airs and clear authorial point of view. It's a story that works best if you don't expect it, but like reading Frankenstein (where the monster is not green and does not have bolts), later tellings of the story have cast it in a certain light, with certain trappings that have stolen it's original verve and intention.
This filmstrip, no doubt, was one such telling, although in my memory, it's awfully consistent with the real text. In it, Ichabod Crane is taking a bath to get ready to attend the social where he will be challenged and bested by his rival. The drawing of Crane had him in a galvanized wash bucket, his lanky legs sticking out over the side, basically only his hips and buttocks in the thing.
So, this meandering start is leading to a really simple reveal: I'm a tall guy, and that's how I feel when I take a bath. Rare is the tub that I can submerge in. I'm normally all akimbo, and in a chill enough room, that which sticks out goes all goose-pimply while the rest of me is warm and snug in the steaming water.
Generally, to be fair, I prefer showers. But a bath is an amazing thing. Reading in the bath? Best place. Watching a show on your iPad in the bath? Heaven. But it's a rare indulgence for me, due to the lanky me and tiny tub phenomenon.
But every now and again, you encounter a tub that amazes you. There's a house on Capitol Hill, a mansion, that I visited a few times because it was the conference home for my father's church, when he was both alive and a working minister. We'd sometimes stay there, when visiting Seattle from Bellingham, and in one of the bathrooms was a nine foot tub. I could lay down in that thing, and have a clear foot-and-a-half above my head and another under my soles. It was incredible — except, for one tragic flaw: water didn't run to it anymore. And given the houses use as primarily an office, it wasn't required.
That tub has been in my imagination ever since and, in fact, made an appearance in the first Christmas Ghost Story I wrote for the site.
Out in the weather, tonight, on my way home, a deeper chill than previously felt seeping in, I started thinking about being warm to the bones in only the way that a bath can provide. Certainly, all around Seattle, hundreds of people are taking a private soak, alone (most of them), and although I'm not going to Icahabod Crane myself into a thimble, I sure can imagine how good it would feel. Today, friends, is about the bathers.
The bath was the best place to get stoned. She pulled up some Sigur Ros on the phone, lit a couple candles and locked the door. Thirty minutes later, after topping off a few times with hot water, the music coming to a certain crescendo, she thought she heard the door to the apartment open, that familiar hinge-creaking sound. But couldn't it have been the music, maybe? "Hello?" she cried out. That wasn't right, only one person could possibly come in, and he lived two states away and was busy this weekend. She heard he door shut, and then, both candles snuffed out leaving her in complete darkness.
"I don't care" — "But Mom...." — "I don't care." — "I wasn't the only one!" — "Sharpie. Why did you have to use a goddamned Sharpie?" — "Mom, you just said a bad...." — "this shit never comes off, you know that? You know how hard I'm going to have to scrub?" — "Owww! That hurts!" — "Well, suits you right for drawing that crap all over yourself." — He bunched up his face, and exploded into a howl she had never heard before "It is not crap! It is my tattoos and they are precious to me!"
It was that one mole on his leg. It was in the most awkward spot, right on the back of his calf where he couldn't see the fucking thing, and this was not the first time he had cut it, but it was the worst yet. The blood dripped off of his leg into the water, spreading as it hit. Of course, tonight, when he was MCing the drag show, of course tonight, and he had his dress and hose all picked out and a bloody leg would ruin the whole fucking effect, you know. He cursed out loud, as loud as he could, then grabbed the washcloth and pressed it down hard. It slowly turned red, absorbing that slow steady, annoying, and only barely painful leak. Nothing to do now but wait and watch the bath color, expecting to see little Jaws start to circle. And that's when Kitty came in and saw him and shrieked herself. "No! You've got so much to live for!"
There was only one thing to do, and it was going to suck for everybody. He opened the faucet all the way, and then ran to the kitchen, sliding on a Lego spaceship that splintered under his feet and sent him into the wall. He grabbed the whole tray of ice in the freezer and ran back to the filling tub, seeing he forgot to plug the drain and it was all slipping away. He did that, dumped the ice in, watching the water rise. "Okay!" he cried "Okay!", and she came in holding the kid, listless against her, and so, so hot. She gave him a look. "I can't", she said. "I can't either!" He said. "But we have to." She nodded, then knelt, kissed the boy's forehead, and lowered him into the icy water.
Nothing was as good as a hot bath. She went under the water, and came up, hair back out of her face for the first time today. She squeegeed it with her hands, and lay back against the sloping wall of the tub. Settled, she flipped the excess water from her hands, and wiped them on the towel she laid out on the edge, then picked up her book, ready to while away an hour or so without a care in the world. She was already so relaxed. She read a chapter, put down her book and picked up her ice cold water for a sip. And then she picked up her motherfucking goddamned phone and looked at Twitter.