It started so innocent
ly...neither of us could afford
of our own, so joint ownership seemed the only way we would ever know the soothing
joy of an indoor rain
storm. An even split in cost and access
, we decided, would be reasonable.
At the Home Depot we shopped, wandering among the mountains of freshly-cut lumber and forests of PVC. The showers stood in an open arena of bathroom components; toilets and sinks artfully scattered on islands of tile and linoleum adrift in an ocean of concrete floor, bathtubs and bidets snuggled together in quixotic proximity; we giggled and pointed as if catching them at something terribly naughty. We strolled along the thoroughfare, opening doors of frosted glass and curtains of translucent fabric.
We finally came upon the perfect one. It was tall and bright, with a graceful curving door and HOT/COLD taps which fairly leapt into our eager, trembling hands. She removed her battered Nikes and stepped into the shower. Her white ankle socks echoed the virginal hue of the slightly textured floor. She looked at me and smiled, her eyes sparkling, and took my hand to pull me in after her. I stumbled but her soft hand caught mine, steadying my step.
My mind, however, reeled as she reached around me to pull the door closed. She turned a slow, graceful pirouette, balanced on the ball of one snowy foot, then leaned back against me to comfortably reach the taps. I shivered involuntarily, smelling her hair and skin so close.
I knew not to touch; Her friend, scandalized: "You're living with your boyfriend?" Her, reassuring: "Of course not. We're just friends...housemates. That's all."
She glanced over her shoulder at my face as I rearranged my expression away from longing and toward patient interest in the soap dish. She slowly looked back at the taps, then pushed the door open again. The moment died with a tiny soundless whisper of loss.
Back at home, shower installed and tested at length, I sat alone in my room. A damp purple towel slumped over the chair as I idly flipped through a messy stack of compact discs.
The bedroom door behind me clicked open, a sound almost hidden in the clatter as I knocked a stack of cases over clumsily.
Dripping water and trailing clouds of steam, she stepped into my darkened room. I looked into her eyes, started to ask something, stopped.
Her towel joined mine on the chair.