It’s freezing in here as the water warms up, chugging its ungainly way through the maze of unseen pipes that lead to the spurting shower-head. The noise of the fan is deafening and it nearly drowns out the sound of the pathetic stream of water pounding half-heartedly against tiles that haven’t been scrubbed in far too many weeks.
“Bloody water pressure,” I mutter to myself, rubbing my numb fingers up and down my goose-pimpled arms in an attempt to stave off death by freezing while I wait. The old house was never that bad, but here the tap barely trickles even after a couple hundred violent turns of the hot water spigot and the slightest opening of the cold; in the kitchen, it takes an entire minute to fill up a water bottle. We’re at the end of the neighbourhood pipeline or something, and nothing can be done – it’s the same deal for our internet, according to the man from Optus who came to inspect our connection.
Eventually the questing hand that’s been darting in and out of the stream like it’s a nest of snakes sends a message to my brain that the water’s warm enough and I jump in, swinging the door shut behind me. Huddled beneath the lukewarm jet, my mind runs through the ordinary morning gamut of unsorted thoughts from the night before: dark musings on the government’s new budget; random snatches of fading video game footage; reflections on how cold it is and our impending death by climate change. The last one links me back to the government and I mutter a few well-chosen curse words that I would never employ in daily conversation – here in this sanctum, no one will accidentally open the door with a “sorry, I forgot to knock” and a sheepish grin on their face. I am alone, and in this unbroken and inviolable zone my frivolous thoughts run free.
It is several long minutes before I snap out of my trance with a guilty start – people in Africa don’t even have clean water to drink, and as usual I’ve stood there and allowed gallons and gallons to glug down the drain unused. Life-giving water, nectar of the gods! Still, the water is warm in here and the air I know is frigid, so I slowly fill my mouth with liquid and let it trickle out, again and again, rinsing out the anxieties and stupid ideas lodged in my teeth.
By now the steam has begun to fog up the windowpanes and I revert to a four-year-old kid, tracing nonsense patterns in the mist. Occasionally, my wandering fingers form words and sentences, over and over in that same spot as my thoughts supersede each other and the old inscriptions fade towards oblivion, but aren’t quite lost. The hobbits go she’ll be coming Oh I Wish Upon the three blind mice say undule undule! areeba! on and on and on, and then above the mess Sarah Sarah Sarah with sickening little wonky love hearts all around. And it’s stupid because I met her two days ago and we barely talked but I wipe at it hastily with my hand anyway, smudging it just in case because the water’s gone cold and now I’m running late for work.