Shower: A Short Piece on Anxiety

It was one of those rectangular prisms—a box just big enough to stand in—and whenever I stepped inside, the flimsy glass rattled. Each time I’d have the faucets turned to their hottest point so that when the water spilled out it would sting my shoulders red. It meant the three glass doors were always fogged and the bathroom around me was repeatedly reduced to a clouded blur. In some ways, my mind tended to follow suit: the longer I stayed inside, the hazier my head would get.

If my anxiety was bad, it was terrible in the shower. The walled-in space was a chamber of perturbation and no amount of scrubs and serums and wildly overpriced shampoos could ever distract me from that. The humidity would allow my thoughts to grow like weeds, creeping up the subway tile, wrapping themselves tightly around the shower head. Sometimes they’d even bloom crimson; siren red and blinking like an emergency light.

Showers were the perfect catalysts for overthinking and like water, anxiety spilled over me, rushing from my head and down my back, pooling itself at my feet. I’d let myself sink into it like quicksand. As I washed my hair I’d go over year-old conversations in my head until my brain hurt. What else could you expect from air that always seemed to be thick with old memories, burnt bridges and regret so fresh and sharp-edged that its corners still cut when you thought about it?

I’d leave each 20-minute session exhausted, wrapping myself delicately in two towels and resting on my bed for a moment to let the anxiety burn out of me, escaping through my pores like steam. I’d follow the slow rotations of the ceiling fan above, the tops of my shoulders creating soft wet patches on the clean duvet, my body still red as crushed strawberries and raw from the boiling heat.

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