My shower’s so gross I’ve been hooking up with people to use theirs.
Whoring myself out for a clean shower is a new low. Worse than not having an actual trash can, just a bag hung over a cabinet door. I used to be humiliated about the trash bag situation. Now it’s a high-water mark.
I didn’t mean to let it get this bad.
As soon as I saw black dots, I was in there with Clorox wipes, Lady Macbething the crappy plastic floor. When they were pencil-eraser size, I called the landlord, really hamming it up with some story about black mold, since he doesn’t send anyone over unless he thinks you’ll sue. When the dots grew to quarters, I ceded to the enemy. It’s hostile territory now.
I tell Ivy all this when we’re in too deep for her to kick me out. I’m a pro: I know to gnaw my leg out of the bear trap when a girl starts looking for the U-Haul, but there’s a sweet spot before that. The ratty-bra-but-sexy-panties point. The part where she’s comfortable enough not to shave but hasn’t worked up the courage for sober sex yet. We haven’t graduated to spending time together just for the sake of it, so Ivy probably still thinks I’m using her. Which I am. But her shower’s screwed now too, which throws a wrench in my plans.
“It’s not mold, is it?”
“I wish,” says Ivy, digging through the fridge for leftover Thai takeout. “I don’t know what it is. Smells like garbage and won’t drain.”
“Lucky for you, I’m a pro. Unless it’s mold.” I steal the shrimp she was going for. “But it’s probably hair.”
Ivy gags. “Don’t say that!”
I weigh the costs of helping her out. I like Ivy and I like her shower, but I don’t want her getting all grateful-clingy about this. Then again, the U-Haul thing is only a lesbian stereotype and she’s had guys over before, so I’m probably in the clear.
“I could fix it, if you want.”
Last time I checked Facebook, my old high school was losing its collective mind because some kid threw on a clown mask and stood around looking creepy. People kicked up such a fuss that a news van arrived, momentarily stopping everyone from talking about the teacher who got fired for banging a sixteen-year-old.
I tell Ivy all this while I’m up to my elbow in her nasty shower drain.
“How horrible,” she says. “Like the creepy teacher guy, but also that.” She nods at the gunky black place where my arm disappears.
I keep digging, pretending not to hear. “That was a few years ago, but people still talk about it. There was this rumor that she dropped out of school and he divorced his wife so they could keep hooking up.” My fingertips brush something cold and slippery. “But it wasn’t true. She moved.”
“I’m gonna puke. Ugh, it smells,” says Ivy.
My hand closes around something heavy and wet. As soon as I’ve got a good grip, I realize I’ve trapped myself: my elbow is stuck. I try not to panic.
“I think I found the problem.”
“Oh, thank god.”
“You sure you want it out?” That probably sounds weird, so I catch myself and backpedal. Of course she wants it out. Her drain doesn’t drain, which is the whole reason I’m here. “It’d get the bathroom floor all gross. It might stink worse in the trash.”
“I’ll get a bag,” says Ivy.
I want to tell her, don’t leave me alone with whatever extradimensional horror I’m about to yank out of your drain. I want to say, I can’t face this ugly thing alone. But I don’t, because I’m being cool and helpful and getting all U-Haul lesbian clingy is not cool or helpful. Instead, I twist my arm, unscrewing it from the drain inch by inch.
There’s this email a guy sent me after I turned him down, about how I was the mythical artistic love child of Yoko Ono and Stanley Kubrick and my selfish refusal to give him a chance was ruining his life. I saved the four-thousand-word screed in my inbox unanswered so I could skim it if I ever needed a laugh. The thing was a riot, a real tour de force of entitled-dude literature.
But he killed himself a couple of months after sending it, so it’s not funny anymore.
When I found out, I got this weird feeling that if I deleted it, I’d forget it happened. I’d remember him as the guy who killed himself, instead of that creep who followed me around for two months. I’d forget his red flags and fall into the trap of feeling sorry for my stalker.
With my arm down Ivy’s drain, I worry that, even if I pull this thing out, it’ll just fill up again. But my arm comes free all at once, cold and numb and stained like it fell prey to a giant leech. The clog’s greasy length hangs heavy from my hand, soaked with soap and scum and thick with the leftovers of all Ivy’s past lovers and roommates. My own straight, black hair stretches past everyone else’s, reaching desperately back down the drain. Its sheer size makes me think of cutting down a tree to see its rings.
I’ve killed something ancient. Either that, or I’ve ripped it from its womb. It lays curled in the trash, still and slimy—a shriveled, half-formed thing we were never meant to see.
“Yuck,” says Ivy, and then, “Why are you crying?”
I don’t know. She probably didn’t mean to let it get that bad. No one does.
Hanna Rosenheimer is majoring in mathematics at Chapman University, where she is a sophomore. Hanna serves on the editorial board of Calliope, Chapman's art and literary magazine. More of her flash can be found there as well as in |tap| lit mag. She writes on themes of isolation, internalized homophobia, and lesbian identity.