I venture gingerly into the bath. I have made a resolve that today is the day. I will corrode away the paste that I am continually applying to my blisters. It must be done. I look at present, like I have a paper mache blob, evolving at the heart of my bosom. Poking at it is, for me, a nauseating thought. Hence, my reluctance.
I convince myself of relaxation. Top the bath up with bubbles. Look out of the window on this horrid rainy day. And imagine warmth.
In the water it’s not so bad. It doesn’t hurt. I try swishing water over, but only the last application ebbs away. Out with the flannel. Time to rub. Looks a bit red. Unfortunately, the paste appears to have developed its own love affair with my skin. Or perhaps with the blisters? Anyway, it will not budge.
There’s a door slamming. Aha, I left the bedroom window open and evidently the door too. That’s ok. I can reason it out. So everything is right in my world.
What if I chisel it? Is it possible to chisel with a soggy face cloth?
Far off I hear a strange noise. I can’t place it. I begin to feel slightly unnerved. I listen quietly for further sounds. And replay my inner tape recorder. What was that sound? I try to think of rational explanations. But I’m not really finding any. I listen and listen, but can hear nothing.
Stupid. What a nonsense. I’ll be loud. Then, if there is someone, an optimistic burglar perhaps, I’ll be notifying him of my presence. Scare him off. He’ll run away.
Of course, it’s a he. ‘The bad man’. I guess it comes from when I was a child. That stereotype. Men are bad. Ladies are good.
If you’re lost and scared, what do you do? …That’s right, go and look for a nice lady… She will help you… Unless you see a policeman… In the hierarchy of goodness, a policeman is the best. He’s A++… Yes, or a policewoman… A policeman or a policewoman is the best, yes… They will help you… But if you don’t see a police person, then look for a lady… If there aren’t any ladies?… No, no don’t go to a man. Men are evil. Shout very loud to get the attention of a good lady and if that doesn’t work: run like hell!
So, in my moment of trauma now, I am victim of a man. He’s downstairs. Snatching our computer. Ripping the screen off the wall. Wrenching at our projector. Silently. Well almost.
My defence? Splash around in the bath making a noise. He’ll realise his mistake. Drop everything and run as fast as he can out the door. His departure will be so rushed, he’ll leave the door swinging open in the wind. Perhaps there’ll be another slam.
I have heard no-one leave the house. I continue splashing but it could be that he’s still here. I pause and listen intently. There’s a booming noise and then I realise it’s my own heart beating, exasperated by the drama and heat of the water. For goodness sake. Am I so unused to being alone that I’ve forgotten just how to be by myself? My imagination is overwrought. I’m starting to remind myself of my 14-year-old daughter.
Silly me. Calm down. And you wonder why you have shingles now? No doubt all the worry you put yourself through. Would you just take a look at yourself. Pull yourself together.
Then quietly, in the background, I hear it.
A very tiny whistle. I’m straining my ears now. No. Nothing more.
Oh my God. It’s a murderer. A whistling murderer. He’s enjoying himself. Preparing… For my imminent demise. I won’t stand a chance. He’ll strangle me. I imagine my body making its last protest kicks in the bath. He’ll slash me even after I’m dead and the family will return home to a bloodbath.
I think of protection. Of course, I would be naked, wouldn’t I? My exposure making me feel even more vulnerable. Should I dress? But that would entail sneaking into the bedroom. To be honest, being naked is a more inviting option than leaving the room right now. I need a plan. I look ahead at the taps shiny surface. It’s like a mirror. I can see the door and the handle. I have an early warning mechanism. Ok: weapons. On the windowsill, there’s mould remover. Aim for the eyes. The shower over the bath. Yes, I could turn it to maximum heat and scald him. The vermin. A wet floor, yes, he’ll slip and bang his head.
Wait a minute. What if it’s Rei? What if he missed the bus? Or just came home for some reason? I might blind him or boil him. Scar him for life. But wouldn’t he call out? Wouldn’t he expect me to be shocked?
A new plan. I arise from the bath. Wrap my naked body in a protective towel. Open the door and peer out tentatively onto the empty landing. Then I shout, “Rei…?” “Rei…?” Repeatedly. Maybe the burglar/whistler/murderer will be warned off. Another man in the house… He’ll make a sharp exit. If it is Rei, he’ll answer for sure. And I can tell him, I almost showered him to death.
Maybe Reini’s lying dead on the sofa already.
Then I know my fantasy has gone too far. After all, Reini isn’t even here. I’m alone. That’s why I’m scared. Aden’s voice in my head says,”You dummy!”.
I turn. Ready to slope back into my bath. I am a fool. However, something catches my eye. Nail scissors. Aha. An idea. I route around in the drawer and then produce the hairdressing scissors. Thin and sharp. They’ll do.
Back to my bath. Splash. No noises. I sink down and rinse the shampoo finally out of my hair. Then shower it off with my dangerous shower tool. Look at the soaking floor. He would never manage to stay upright in here anyway. Far too slippery.
I finish my bath pretty pronto and head into the bedroom. Being careful to shut the door behind me. Scissors in hand.
I unwrap the towel from my head and I listen.
Quite loud now.
Winter was far too long this year. Evidently.