After she left, I’d ask that question to myself every morning when I woke up alone. I didn’t mean it in the literal sense of course, but there still had to be some kind of answer to the abstraction. Who am I? I would repeat it over and over in my head until it beated with the words. Who am I? Who am I? Who…
The only thing that purged them from my mind was a hot shower. Despite the summer humidity, I always took hot showers. I would turn the water on and let it run. The steam would begin to billow and fill my small bathroom. I would strip and stare at myself in the mirror for a couple minutes while the water heated. Naked, vulnerable and exposed, I couldn’t hide my sorrow.
It had been a humid, rainy day in June when we met. The smell of grass after a fresh rain still reminds me of her. That first night together, we held each other. Her lithe body intertwined with mine and we watched each other intently until we succumbed to the night. We didn’t know anything about each other, but that seemed to not matter. I wish we had taken a picture that night: to stop the hour glass; to freeze and preserve precious moments in time; if only life was that easy. We had met in the morning, so the memory of her was most poignant during that time of the day.
I would cautiously step into the tub–I didn’t want to slip. The water would sting me at first, like burning needles. My skin would start to glow red and flushed as if I had just had a drink. I’d wash carefully and thoroughly, scrubbing over the length of my body. Then I would sit in the tub and let the water wash over me. My lungs fought for fresh air through the heavy steam but I needed time to think. The daily pishposh of suburban life weedled its way into my thoughts at times, along with thoughts of school in the fall, my family and their problems; but mostly, I thought about myself. I was searching desperately for the answer–searching for who I was now that she had left me lost and alone.
She had tried to be gentle but the words scalded like hot metal. She grew red and flushed with a mix of embarrassment, sadness, and frustration–one might have thought she was angry. Then, she composed herself and spoke to me softly. I let her words sweep over me. She said that it was her fault; in some small way it might’ve been, but we both knew that I had failed her expectations. The heart she had so lovingly gilded turned to lead. It fought for hope. Without her, what could I be?
I would sit in that shower only for several minutes. It was always hard to rise, but I managed–there was nothing else I could do but manage. Rising to my full height, I would exhale a long breath and turn the water off. Opening the curtain, I would retrieve a towel and dry off any stray droplets that still clung to me.
I sat there for hours after she had finished and left. She walked out the door without looking back. I watched her walk out as I looked forward. She was not going to be a part of my future as I had planned. Why had she really left? Was I simply unworthy? She left me in body, but her spirit lingered.
I slowly learned to live again–without her. It was too difficult to go back to what I had been–so I worked with what I had grown into. Still, the memories I had of her clung to me and I took her everywhere I went. I wondered if she would always haunt me.
Finishing the shower each morning, I would dress and comb my hair, and look at myself one more time. I would ask myself again–who am I?
The answer didn’t come the first few months after she left; but eventually when I asked myself, I would smile into the mirror and see two parts of me grinning back. I’d sigh and each day accept the answer that I had finally found.
Crits, comments, and suggestions please! What did the story mean to you? Any themes you noticed? Is this complete crap or one big cliche?