|The door at the center of the controversy.|
It just looks guilty, doesn't it?
The next morning, I get up and start writing at the usual time: 4:30. I didn't have to go far; the living room sofa is right next to my writing perch.
I get in the shower, get all wet, put the shampoo in my hair, turn to grab the soap and – slump inwardly. Great, I sigh to myself. I forgot a new bar again. I pick up the sliver of soap from the tray; sharp enough to cut someone. It’s so thin, I can feel my fingers pressing through it. This bothers me. It really, really bothers me.
Now would probably be as good a time as any to provide a little background information, a little-known fact that is part of the very core of my character. I like my soap. I like my soap. I happen to be partial to Irish Spring. I like the smell of it; I like the heft of it. I even like its marbled appearance: varying (and oddly pleasing) shades of green swirled together. I like the way it curves out to precisely the right degree for gliding through those convex parts of the body, and the way it curves in on the other side to slide across the concave parts. I really like my soap. I like my soap so much, I stockpile it the way dragons are said to stockpile gold, and jewels, and candlesticks or whatever, so that I never have to worry about running out. I must have eighteen bars of it, sitting five feet away, in the cabinet under the sink. It really bothers me when I don’t have my soap. For one thing, it means that I have to borrow
’s soap, which I despise using, even for a single day. Her soap is perfumy, and hard to grasp, and it leaves an annoying oily feeling on my skin even after I dry off. Elizabeth
I stare limply at the lifeless remains of the Irish Spring in my hand, just a fragile shard. Maybe. . . I begin rubbing my hands together, at first half-heartedly, but then increasing in vigor and velocity until I feel like Mr. Miyagi preparing to administer his magical healing heat-hands to Daniel-son’s injured knee. Please, I pray, searching for the smallest sign of lather, at least give me enough to do my face. I can live with
’s Dove bar, or whatever the hell it is, on the rest of my body. Just not the face. Elizabeth
What makes the situation so frustrating is that my early warning system had been triggered three days ago, when the soap first reached the critically massless stage. This is attained precisely with the first conscious thought that the bar may be about to break. When that sensation occurs, my sole preoccupation becomes to make sure I retrieve a new bar immediately upon exiting the shower. If I don’t do it before I leave the bathroom, there is zero chance I’ll remember before getting in the next day. The three-day window is critical, because it allows sufficient room for error before reaching the catastrophic meltdown point, which is where I’m at today.
The problem with my system is that the moment of recognition always occurs at the beginning of the shower, when I initially pick up the soap. Unfortunately, that means I must run the gauntlet of the entire showering process without losing track of the fact that I need to put out a new bar afterwards. It’s a recipe for disaster; however, I have implemented a workaround for this problem as well. Because I realize that I can’t just have a thought and expect it to stick around for the six minutes necessary to complete my shower, I have developed a soap mantra, which is basically “Soap, soap, don’t forget the soap.” There are two reasons for doing this. One is to keep this single important idea in the forefront of my mind, where hopefully it can’t get lost, and the other is to prevent other thoughts or random distractions from crowding in, causing me to lose my focus. I begin saying the mantra immediately, and I repeat it in a continual loop until I’m done. I say it while I’m lathering, I say it while I’m rinsing, and I say it while I’m toweling off. I say it until there is a bright, perfectly carved new bar of Irish Spring sitting on the soap tray, at which point order is restored to the universe, and I am free to move on with the rest of my life. And yet, six or seven times a year, I find myself in exactly the situation I’m in today. Somehow, even though I try my best to follow the procedure with Nazi-like militancy, I somehow manage to get distracted, and forget. Maybe it’s the interesting pattern of the shower curtain that does it, or maybe it’s the pretty colors of the shampoo bottles. I don’t know how it happens, but somehow or other I end up sashaying out the bathroom door, blithely whistling show tunes, completely oblivious to my impending soap crisis until the cycle repeats itself the next day.
This is such a serious problem that I have even devoted considerable mental energy inventing what I call the “soapmeister,” which is a shower-mounted device that is designed to hold up to six bars of your favorite bath-sized soap. It tells you how many bars you have left, and alerts you when you’re down to your last reserve bar. The key to its genius is that when it says you have one bar left, you actually have two. And if that final bar is ever released, a loud, howling alarm is initiated that can only be stopped by adding more bars of soap, or by contacting a command center where two on-duty emergency soap guards would have to turn their keys simultaneously. That’s how seriously I take running out of my soap.
At this point, you may be wondering why, in a story that was ostensibly about a fight between Elizabeth and me, I would suddenly careen off into a lengthy, diversionary tale concerning my personal hygiene woes. Well, it’s because, as I stood there in the shower, being pelted with the utter futility of it all, face lathered with Irish Spring and Elizabeth’s disgusting cocoa-butter bar all over my body, I had a moment of recognition. I love my soap. I love being clean. My soap is extremely important to me. So, when I forget to put out a new bar of soap, it’s not because I don’t care, and I don’t forget to lock the door because I don’t care about my family, either! AH-HA! That’s it! Really, I’m just an idiot who’s unable to control his train of thought for more than 6 minutes at a time. Ultimately, it’s nothing more sinister than that. Relief flows over me like watermelon juice: sweet and refreshing. It would also probably feel a lot better than the greasy residue from the God-awful soap film that coats my body at the moment. But that no longer matters; I am practically giddy over the realization of my simple-minded idiocy. I finish showering, towel off, and carefully remove the tiny little piece of soggy soap shrapnel from the shower and lay it reverently on the counter. This little baby’s gonna get me back in with my main squeeze, I think to myself, doing a spontaneous Irish jig. I can’t wait for
to come home. Elizabeth
She calls early that afternoon, and before I can stop myself, I tell her everything about the shower, and the soap, and the moment. Even though I can’t show her the inspiration for the revelation I’ve had, I blurt out the whole story (except the part about the soapmeister; she already knew about that), and wait triumphantly for her reaction. There is a long pause.
“So . . . how is any of this,” she says slowly and emotionlessly, “supposed to make me feel better? I already knew you were an idiot.”
Ooh, not the reaction I was hoping for. “Well, for one thing, I think it clearly demonstrates that my forgetfulness is not due to some subconscious need to see my family wiped out. Isn’t that great?”
“Uh-huh. And how does that help to solve the problem of forgetting to lock the @#$%@! door?”
“Uh . . .” I paused. I hadn’t been looking at the situation that way since last night.
So, how did this whole ugly incident end? Well, I suppose I could dramatically embellish the story in an effort to satisfy those of you who thought this was all going to lead to some particularly nasty, vicious punchfest, some ultimate throwdown between the two of us. But let’s face it, we’ve been married for almost twenty-two years now, and that hasn’t happened by accident, or by attacking each other with kitchen appliances and garden tools. Elizabeth called back a few hours later, and I could tell that even though she hates the fact that I can’t be trusted to keep doors locked – or closed – she had sufficiently expressed her frustration, made her point, and was ready to move on. Plus, it didn’t hurt that she always feels guilty after hanging up on me. The tension between us began to thaw, and then dissipate. When she came home that evening, she put her stuff on the table (who takes so much stuff to work everyday? Never mind, now's probably not the time to get into that), and we mutually acknowledged my deep, and probably unfixable, flaws with a hug.
We were good again, at least for now.
Two more days have now passed since the events recorded in this story, and I have yet to put a new bar of soap in the shower. Even as I write this now, I am repeating my soap mantra, and rushing to finish this so I can run to the bathroom and crack open a box of Irish Spring. But I have to say, after three days of cocoa-butter, it’s not so bad. My skin’s never been silkier.