When I was in college, I chose to take a Creative Writing course with the assumption it would be a “fluff” class for me. After all, even then, I was writing short stories and other random bits of creative writing works. What I hadn’t anticipated is that it would be taught by a “poet laureate” and one who was fiercely dedicated to his chosen focus: “creative nonfiction”. That fact alone wasn’t enough to cause a problem. After all, to each their own…
The problem arose when I started turning in pieces for our “self-chosen works,” i.e. when we were given the freedom to produce our own works in our own styles. Turns out, the professor was rather vehemently opposed to fiction and particularly derided the “pulp-style” fiction I was sort of obsessed with at the time. I spent days carefully crafting two different “Tomas Sparks” serial stories and I was very happy with the results (looking back, they were a bit weak and had some flaws, but they were still very good for where I was with my writing at the time). One received a C and the other a D. I was furious and confronted the professor about it. His explanation was lengthy, but essentially boiled down to the idea that fiction wasn’t as worthwhile as a field and pulps doubly so.
Incensed, for the next assignment, I intentionally threw together a ‘prose piece’ in less than an hour and turned it in. The response can be best summed up by the glowing “A” I received for my sarcastic and enraged work. This only further infuriated me, but I was kind of a noodle back then and never confronted him about the discrepancy. Instead I half-assed my way to a B in the course with “creative nonfiction” works BS’d the night before they were due. I never took another Creative Writing course and actively avoided taking classes taught (even non-creative ones) by that professor. After a few months passed and my temper cooled enough, I looked back at the first of those prose pieces. It wasn’t bad. It’s not really my style and I wouldn’t really ever consider making another like it, but its worth sharing and archiving alongside my other works…
Note: This is probably the oldest piece I plan to post (at least unedited), as it dates from 2006.
I stand naked in the bathroom. Naked before myself and the mirror, I stare at my reflection and smile. No other place then here, no other time then now do I feel as comfortable in my own skin. I turn to the tub, and begin my nightly ritual anew.
I place my right foot in, placing it underneath the spigot. I turn the water on, hot first then cold. I play with the tub’s handles like a musician finely tuning his instrument. First very hot, then very cold, then the medium, I toy with the settings, never quite finding what I want. Finally, there, I find it. The place where it is hot, but does not burn, it is invigorating, not painful. I turn the final knob, activating my own perfected miniature rainstorm, and the ritual begins.
I feel the water rush over me in an unyielding torrent. The water droplets cascade down on and around me, creating a tiny, self-contained, torrent. The water is hot enough to shock the senses, forcing the mind to expand, but it does not harm. The water rushes downward, hastening to their eventual doom when they crash against the bottom of the tub, only to burst forth once more. The droplet’s death serving as the funeral pyre from which the phoenix of steam is reborn. The steam rises, joining its fellows in creating a fog which covers the bathroom. The fog collects and condenses, resurrecting once more as tiny water droplets on the walls and floors. All the while I live within this wonderful cycle, and I feel alive.
I can’t help but let my mind follow the circle in my bathroom. I feel the floor below me; the water rushing over me; the fires of heat scalding my skin to life; the floating water in the air. I feel all these things, and living within them I feel connected to the world.
The moment passes, but does not leave. I turn my attention back to the essential ritual at hand. I search for the tools of my labor. I find them among my feet, where I placed them before this all began. I grab a bottle, and squeeze its viscous liquid onto my hands. I wring them together and feel the strange sensation of slime. I reach up and gently begin to rub my scalp, scraping away dirt and other detritus from my day’s efforts. The liquid aids the process of cleansing and I feel the water wash away my sins. I then turn to grab my contained ingot of purification and begin to repeat the cleansing process upon my contaminated form. I scrub away my troubles, using only water and a bar of soap.
I stand beneath the waves of heat and liquidity for a moment, and I cannot help but smile. The feeling of oneness and cleanliness makes me feel like I am more then myself, if only for a moment. I turn back and complete the ritual. These tools are those of necessary vanity. Though they hold much less power; they are no less important. Conditioner and razor work separately but in unison to prepare me to reenter the world once more.
When the last of the tools have been utilized, I let out a sigh and reluctantly turn off the wondrous waterfall, and step from the bath. The ritual completed, I don my clothing once more, and reenter the world refreshed and renewed.