He was awake.
“What time is it?”
It was a torrid slumber. He had two styles of sleeping. Either he slept in a manner that could make a casual observer confuse him for someone dead or at least in a comatose state or it was a sleep punctured by sleepy, incoherent muttering peppered with the occasional swear or three and sudden awakenings where he would jump out of his bed with an unexplainable adrenaline rush that would rapidly dissipate as he struggled to decide what he should do now that he’s awake and fresh before he felt sleepy again. Sometimes he would wake up, sit in a corner and contemplate about absolutely nothing, but contemplate nevertheless.
He decided he wanted to take a bath.
It was cold; unseasonably cold for a mid-October morning. He didn’t know that he was shivering while asleep and even though the cooler in his room was switched off by his room-mate, who was watching ‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford’ on the nearby desktop, there was a discernable chill in his room. His feet would’ve felt the cold floor if they weren’t sheltered by the socks he had been wearing continuously for the past three and a half days. It should be “almost continuously”. He had been wearing them throughout with the exception of ten minutes a day, when he removed them to take a bath. The left sock was blue and a very good quality one he had got as a free gift when he bought a brand new pair of shoes from Reebok (He had two pairs of shoes, both bought from Reebok. He didn’t even like the company that much). The free socks were the least they could give him in exchange for his act of brand loyalty. The right one was white and had been bought two weeks ago at a department store which were selling them at 149 bucks for three pairs.
He headed for the bath room he shared with 4 other people. The space between bath and room is accurate, as it wasn’t a bathroom – the toilet was a separate room. A pedantic individual might’ve described it as a bath cell. A normal human being would feel claustrophobic inside it. At 6 feet 2 inches tall and 85 kilograms, he was larger than a normal human being and felt constricted having to bathe in a room where he couldn’t move in any direction without stubbing his elbow against the wall. The floor looked clean, but that was a misconception. He opened the tap and stared as the water filled the plastic bucket, making a racket which he believed would be sufficient to wake the person in the room nearby. He touched the boundary of the water with his fingertips, gauging its temperature.
He went outside.
He went downstairs to the kitchen and opened the fridge. In the freezer lay two plastic bottles, each filled to the brim with the regulation two-liter capacity. They had been there all night and were just beginning to freeze. He pulled both out and went back up to the bath cell. He emptied the bottles into the bucket and let it fill. He took of his clothes and stood there, waiting. He touched the water again. Better, he thought. He couldn’t imagine how, but there was a cold draft in the cell. He shivered just a bit. He continued to stare at the water, feeling it occasionally with his fingertips. He would’ve liked it to be even colder. He finally lifted a mug, dunked it so that it was three-quarters full and then lifted it to eye level. He took a few drops and rubbed them across his eyes. This, he thought, will sting. He took a deep breath and lifted the mug over his head. He breathed out, slowly and emptied it over himself.
As he felt the frigid water pour over his body, his closed eyes allowed him to see his biggest fear. He could never describe his biggest fear in the form of an abstract noun or even a proper noun; which is why he was perennially inconsistent with replies to any question whose gist was ‘what are you afraid of?’. The answers ranged from darkness, ignorance, failure, death, a life filled with mundane mediocrity and bees, wasps, hornets and any insect that could fly and sting. In reality, his biggest fear was a scene. It featured him in the middle of the Antarctic Ocean on a cold winter’s night, floating with the support of Athe-knows-what in waters you couldn’t see through because they were that cold and the night was that dark. All around him, all he can see are heaving waves that somehow never reach him. Then, he would see below his feet the form of the largest animal to have ever existed on this planet – a blue whale. Though he knew it subsides on plankton and poses him no predatory threat, he would feel an unnameable fear that was darkness, ignorance, death and insects with stings and wings multiplied and raised to the power of a googolplex. If the same creature were to turn and then break through the surface of the water to take a breath and release a mixture of air and sea-water from its snout, he would at that very moment die of sheer terror. He continued pouring the frigid water over himself and felt his thoughts shift from his fear to his memories. He felt a funny taste on his lips and instantly recognized it.
“You have to be kidding me.”
For someone who doesn’t eat a lot of fruit (unless you count mango shakes), she does taste very fruity. Like apples or strawberry ice-cream or the 3-rupee raspberry icicles you used to get at Bethany High.
Another mug of water over his body. This time, he thought of the drawing he saw somewhere, of how fashion was at the top and nature at the bottom. He then hoped that the “artist” meant nature in the way physicists talk about nature, as opposed to environmentalists. He thought about how nature encompasses everything. Right from him, a dung beetle, the planet Earth, the Andromeda Galaxy and vast tracts of general emptiness between our galaxy cluster and the next. He decided to try to always refer to the environmentalists’ interpretation of nature (trees, animals, clear lakes reflecting the snowy peak they’re situated next to…) with a more accurate word. Biosphere will do.
He was finished with his bath. He didn’t wipe himself off with his towel; instead he just wrapped it around himself and went outside to the balcony to feel the cool breeze against his wet body. This innuendous act complete, he retreated to his room and dried himself. He put on his socks, the blue Reebok on the right and the white local on the left. He wore his clothes, he can’t remember what. He rarely remembers what he wears. He lay down on his bed and went to sleep. He woke up three and a half hours later by shouting “What!” thrice in a row.