Bathtime Disintegration / by Bryan Woods

We are in the small bathtub. My back is contorted into a C-­shape against the bathtub and my legs are splayed into a diamond, with my heels touching, and your whole body is within that diamond, and your skin, which usually looks translucent in its off­whiteness and its hints of light pink, seems darker, its pigment yellowed from the low lighting and rouged from the heat of the steaming water. I notice that the circumference of your skull looks very large from my angle above, as I am kissing the first wisps of hair growing on the back of your head, which is too massive to be forever supported by your tiny neck, and which I am propping up with the fingertips of my left hand, gently, in order to prevent you from an otherwise certain death from drowning, while my right hand squeezes a soapy sponge over it. And as I squeeze the soapy sponge over you again I am surprised that this is new, that I have only sat with you in this small bathtub an even smaller number of times, and for the first time I feel connected to my ancestors, that long line of some men and many women with their own sponges, and soap, and bathtubs, or lakes, or nothing, and I feel a responsibility to the future, and I am finally convinced that indeed I will die, because if it is possible for me to create a life then I most certainly am a mammal. And as your tiny fingers pinch my thigh, and as I reposition your little body on my naked lap, I remember that I was afraid. I was afraid that my fear of harming you would make it impossible for our bodies to ever be close: that the water would surely destroy the activity in your brain from a failure in your lungs, just as my skin and my hair and my organs floating in the water would damage some other part of your brain, just differently. And as we sit together, a warm pink mass half submerged in water, with four ears made from the same shaped cartilage, and four azure eyes ringed with the same navy, even thinking words like “my” and “yours” and “me” and “you” becomes for now a violation, because with my body I protect yours, and over your body I hold a temporary ownership, and I know that one day when I open a bathroom door without knocking, or kiss you too warmly in front of your friends, you will see my assumption of intimacy as a violation of its own, but right now that seems as impossible to me as the possibility that I ever inhabited my own mother’s body, or ever felt comfort in my own father’s hair, and skin, and warmth, and smell, and organs. And when your body is fully clean, and the lavender scent of the soap has filled the bathroom, after I ring out the sponge and washcloth, I sit back against the wall of the small bathtub, and I put my hands in your armpits, and I slowly push you away from my chest toward the tap, and with your swimming instinct your arms stab at the water and your legs kick like a frog, and for three strokes or four you glide on the surface, and I am barely holding your chest, and I am proud like a father, and with a giggle you stroke once more, and as your fingers come almost in touch with the other wall of the small bathtub, I watch your neck crumble under the weight of your skull, and I hear the sucking sounds of your mouth just below the surface of the steaming water, and I pull your body out of the water and turn it toward me so you can feel comfort, and your bottom lip is quivering, and you cough many times while you look at me with terror, and in a moment your lungs are clear and again you can breathe, and the terror in your eyes becomes a clear look of betrayal, as you empty the air in your lungs and replace the lavender in the room with the echos of your screams.





Bryan Woods is a computer programmer from Brooklyn, New York, who is slowly working on a collection of personal essays. Recently he has been thinking about the ways things disintegrate