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Notes from a Cast-Iron Bathtub at Christmas


The landscape has disappeared behind a curtain of silent, glistening snow. The wind is fierce, chilly, full of mischief. It's approaching dawn. I'm sitting in a small moderately groomed living room. The Christmas tree partially fills the space with a gentle greyish-blue light, a timeless stillness.

The streetlamp outside glows soft like a distant fire. The cars are all white and the trees are dressed in snow. The pale winter sky protects the silence. A silence that permeates the snowy icy depths. The scene is compelling and delicate. I think of my mother and father's grave covered in snow, the sparse trees nearby eloquent in grief. My parents lie in cold, unimaginable silence.

The weather forecast confirms that the snow is causing mayhem. This is how it must be. I shake my head. One should not dread snow for it gives warmth and deadens the monotony of pale skies. Such days are not lost for they are tenderly captured by one's measureless, evolving memory, to be evoked perhaps on a warm afternoon, or evening, when peace and quiet abound. 

I decide to take a bath. The fact that I bathe in my neighbour's cast-iron bath tub with his girlfriend ensconced in its interior causes me little concern. Her warm green eyes, soft hands, and calm smile beckon me to join her. I do so with profound pleasure. A hot scented bath with a young woman hardly accrues to bitter disappointment so close to dawn. I make an absurd effort to shroud the flight of years which have ravaged my body. 

Nicole - her long, silky blonde hair spread over her shoulders - tells me she is about to take flight with another man. Indeed, it is her intention never to be in this part of the world again. We drink champagne and celebrate her good fortune.

'I always leave a man in December,' she ventures. 'I must be alone each January. I adore the fresh air and sunlight. It's vital I recharge my batteries before embarking on each new love affair.'

'Of course,' I reply. Nicole's exceptional beauty justifies my response.

'Anyway, I dislike being in love. The thought that a man would believe I could love him day in, day out, forever, is frankly horrifying.' She understood her power over men, or women for that matter. And I knew nothing about her.

'I see a look in your eyes I've witnessed a thousand times.'

'Really?' I say, murmuring and trying to smile.

'There are few moments of true passion and exhilaration in one's life. In fact, most of one's time is illusory and wasted.' Nicole leans towards me. 'How old are you?'

'After sharing this bath ... Talking to you, I'm not sure? After thirty I stopped counting. To do otherwise ...  well, it seemed pointless and troublesome.'

Her wide green eyes stare at me. They sparkle with desire. 'Everything must come to an end.' Her lips part in a sweet, delightful smile. 'Maybe we should just embrace this moment. I'm a woman, which I see you've noticed, and life is always too short.'

Nicole enfolds my hands softly, pulls me towards her, and kisses me. My body gives itself up to pleasure and rises from the dead.
*    
Reflection:  Even though Christmas Day is tomorrow some people are looking forward with ill-conceived eagerness to warm spring mornings, roads without snow, trains and planes running on time, and going to work in heated offices and shops.

A delusive yearning to embrace a brash, fast world is visible in their cold eyes, bored faces, and weary demeanour. They fail to notice the immediate radiant beauty around them that will soon fade.

I have no wish to sound overly eccentric, but it appears that human folly remains fashionable and contagious, and dominates, to a terrifying degree, the eternal mind of human life. Quite disheartening, really.