It is Saturday, March 19, 2011. I wake up. I eat oatmeal. I answer e-mail.
It is then that I receive the text from my neighbor: “Do you have hot water? I’m wonder if it’s just me!”
I check the water. It is cold, cold as the killing fields. Cold as my grandmother’s hands after she’s been holding ice cubes.
Firemen come to the building, look at the boilers. The fix nothing. They leave us.
Alone. So alone.
It has been two days since my last shower. I am covered head to toe in mud and grime. My hair has grown long and matted. I smell like camel sex and sauerkraut.
I have church. I must shower.
The frigid water hits me first in the face, then the head, then the belly button. Knowing I don’t have much time, I switch to survival mode. I quickly loofah the most important regions and escape from the shower with seconds to spare.
The hypothermia has almost set in. My only chance is to create a fire in the living room from kindling and my roommate’s books.
My roommate finds me hovering naked over the fire. She tells me that it’s 75 degrees outside and walks away. She leaves me.
Alone. So alone.
The condo is a frigid wasteland. It is every man for himself. The cat is hunting me like prey, wanting to tear into my entrails for warmth.
But I have grown lean and nimble, like the flamingo. My body has adapted to the lack of warm dishwater. I weave my own clothing and forget human language.
The days have run together. Perhaps many moons have passed since my last shower perhaps none. There is no way to know.
I draw a bath before work and heat some water on the stove to neutralize the bathwater. I wash quickly, efficiently, knowing the scavengers could find my camp at any time. The cat watches from a distance, waiting for one false step. One slip and it will end me. No one will know for weeks.
My roommate comes home from a jog through the wasteland and hops in the shower. She mentions nothing of the pain, the suffering, the loofah. It is almost as if the water isn’t that cold at all for her.
She will unseat me as leader of the tribe if I do not assert my dominance, so I, too, take a shower without even 15 solid minutes of whimpering beforehand. I thrust myself into the icy waterfall of doom. I look death in the eyes and say, “Hey, how’s it going?” Minutes later I emerge. Victorious. Towel-less. Alive.
The end is near. I have eaten the last of the Girl Scout Cookies and have resorted to the crappy Mrs. Fields ones. I have not seen another human in many moons.
I catch a bird on my balcony and eat it alive, smearing the blood under my eyes to ward off predators. I have forsaken clothes altogether. Like a great flamingo I bask on the balcony, soaking in the last moments of sunlight.
Just before the end, my roommate tells me that the hot water is back on. I cry tears of joy, tears of ecstasy. I strip off my clothes in jubilation.
She asks me to please start wearing clothes again and that the loincloth I made really doesn’t cover anything.
I laugh. Oh sweet day. It is over.
It is over.