Something in the Way

By Nicholas Olson

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It started with you knocking on the door. Steam filling up the mirror, the air. Stale. Collecting the suds under my armpits and letting the hot water sear my skin. Telling you I’m in here. Taking a shower. I hadn’t locked the door, hadn’t thought to, rubbing shampoo in and whistling Something in the Way. You opened the door, slipped your hand in. Flipped the light off and on, off and on. Epileptic flashes as I reached for the bar of soap, told you to cut it out. You left the light off. I heard the door shut behind you, and the way the faint light filtered in, through the shower curtain, soap in my eyes so I couldn’t see it all the way. You reached your hand in the curtain and asked for the bath sponge. When I asked why, your hand stayed where it was. I gave it to you, and you asked for the soap. I gave it to you. You told me to come over, and I did. You sudsed the sponge and looked me in the eye as I tried to cover up. The water sounded like it was saying wow. You told me to lift up my arms, and I did. You asked why I shaved my armpits, and I didn’t have the heart to admit that no hair had grown yet. I said I thought that’s what you were supposed to do. You started at my chest, rubbing in circles till the soap erased my skin. You moved to my arms, added more soap so that it fell off of me in bubbly heaps, streaking down my flank and plopping onto the shower floor. I tried to shift so that the rest of me was hidden, and you told me to stop being gay. You turned the light back on. Suds got onto your shirt as you reached behind and scrubbed my back. My body was made of concrete, slipping into a great body of water and plummeting deep, past the last rays of light, seaweed covering my eyes and cold, great cold, pouring into every orifice I had. You were bending over to scrub my knees, shifting the shower curtain to see more of me, nothing but the wow of the water and the steam taking everything. When you came back up, between my legs, I closed my eyes and was in an endless room of black, featureless, no doors or windows in sight. The noises you were making stopped when I was in this room, disappeared into the corners. My fingers pulled in on themselves, retracted. I was flailing in open water, eyes burning, wide sky above, screaming for help yet making no noise. You told me to come here. On your knees, looking up at me. I reached for the sponge, said I could do it myself. You told me to come here. I made the suds on my chest migrate down below. Took care of it myself. You told me to come here. I brought hand to mouth, entered finger inside and felt the contours of my palate, the place where gums met teeth. I stuck the finger all the way down and let everything come out. You stood up. Stared at what I did as the steam swirled around and the water went wow. Your feet touched tile. You left. You turned the light off before closing the door. I stood there, nothing but the water. Cupped my hands to pour onto what I’d done. Watched it all swirl around the drain and disappear as if it had never been there at all.

Nicholas Olson