I’d been talking to my showerhead.
At first I just moaned into it like it was an inverted microphone, broadcasting my despair. My boyfriend and I had just broken up and I was spending most of my time in the shower, gulping water, touching grout, reddening my skin. Rejecting the serenity of a bath, I thanked the showerhead for its steady stream. I asked it to pelt me for hours at a time.
Black dots of mold appeared on the ceiling after a few days of constant showering. ‘Look at that,’ I told the showerhead. ‘We made that,’ I affirmed, a bit wary that it might be that deadly kind of mold I’d heard about in ads for the news.
I slept in the shower that night.
The next morning at work I researched toxic black mold. It creeps into you, I read. And it can give you headaches, dizziness, rashes, chest pains, and even excessive menstruation. I did not want these things. The pictures were disgusting and destructive, nothing like the patterned specks growing in my shower. I was so excited to tell the showerhead that we were safe. I couldn’t wait until I got home, so I made ShowerheadKoplow@gmail.com. We have beautiful mold, I typed in a quick note.
By the afternoon I’d sent several long messages to my showerhead. I attached mold photos. I forwarded a nasty email from my ex. I linked to kitten videos.
At my desk I signed into the showerhead’s account. The bold, unread messages made me a little jealous. In a blue font I replied to me, I like your freckles.
After work I rushed home to the showerhead, eager to continue our conversation. I stripped and sat Indian style beneath the stream. But the water was suddenly lacking. I needed a more engaged response, so I left the bathroom and wrote more emails between us. If you were a person, I typed to my showerhead, I think you’d be witty and French and androgynous but with a mustache.
The showerhead wrote back. Of all the people who’ve lived in this apartment standing naked where you stand, the showerhead said, I’ve enjoyed showering you the most. I was on the couch for hours, sweating, emailing back and forth, indifferent to how infertile-hot my laptop made my crotch.
Everything, I decided late that night. I wanted to talk to everything.
My toaster, my spaghetti, my upstairs neighbor’s stomping, my stolen patio furniture, my ceiling fan that won’t quite stop spinning. I didn’t sleep, creating addresses and sending emails between everything in my apartment. Connecting all of us, I made them chat. I made them brag. I made them real.
It took nearly a month to email all the individual pills and products in my bathroom. My ex-boyfriend’s acne cream (You don’t work well. This pleases me now), the three ants that crawl from the crack below the mirror (Are you always the same three ants?), the throat lozenges (I’m still coughing. Should I have bought the non-generic brand?), my toilet paper (I’m sorry for what I will do to you), the mold (There is much more of you now. You promise you’re not toxic?), my disposable razor (You are so unnaturally orange that I imagine you taste delicious).
Stubble, skin, and other bits of me clung to the razor’s dull blade. I remembered when I was 9 and I paid my sister a month’s allowance to teach me how to shave my legs. With the slow strokes she showed me, I had stopped at my knees, because I thought that’s where my legs stopped.
‘Every time you shave your legs, you lose a layer of skin too,’ she’d told me. ‘And eventually all women die from shaving off their skin.’
Sacrificing my first layer of skin, I was careful to get every flossy hair. I lingered in the tub. ‘If we die from shaving our legs,’ I asked, confidently including myself as a woman, ‘then why do we do it?’
‘Boys,’ my sister had said, as if there were never a more obvious answer.
In my dank bathroom, I put down the razor and created an email account for that memory. You are an expanding memory, I messaged it. Every time I think of you while shaving my legs, I also remember all the times I’ve thought of you. You grow and grow but remain only mine.
Yesterday I was typing an email to my decreasing reluctance to only wear yoga pants, when an error message popped up. My original account was full. I scrolled through the thousands of messages I’d amassed over the past month, intricate exchanges between me all my possessions. I realized what I’d been neglecting.
Akoplowatgmaildotcom@gmail.com, an email address for my email address. I owed it the same identity I’d created for everything else. I spent so much time on email. It was so important to me. I needed it to love me back.
Sitting in the recliner that had told me it was perfectly ok with the black tape patching its tear, I waited for my email address to accept its identity. I imagined it taking a craggy shape as its own email address grew from it like a tumor.
But I was rejected. My passwords had changed. Every account I’d made, all the conversations I’d had, were suddenly inaccessible. Enfranchised, my email was unsheathing itself from me, taking everything I had.
I needed help from my showerhead, the real thing. The black mold in the bathroom had covered most of the ceiling. Layered and foul, it was no longer pretty mold. It had bled down the grout, creeping up the showerhead’s neck. Pinching my nose, I tapped the showerhead’s coated metal but there was no response.
What made me smother everything around me? All I can think of is that condescending answer my sister gave me twenty years ago when I was naked in her tub.
Photo by/CC Beto Ruiz Alonso on Flickr
Previously by Alex Koplow: Thoughts of a dog passing its own missing dog sign.