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Author's Chapter Notes:
This is a second short story in a series about the small differences between personalities.
Take me to the river, drop me in the water,
Push me in the river, dip me in the water
Washing me down, Washing me down

Talking Heads: Stop Making Sense 1984



Her showers have never lasted longer than necessary.

The patterns of her cleansing cycle were set early on, established when she ran the water long enough to ensure hygiene, but not so lengthy where she might have missed out on something.

Perhaps the latest sound on the radio, the most recent advertisement for ‘Beverly Hills 90210’. And the seepage of water in her ears was sure to drown out the sound of her telephone extension; she couldn’t miss the call of a potential friend or even the offer of a study mate. Any company was better than living in the status of 'only child syndromme.’

Speedy bathing ensured the element of surprise.

It kept her mother guessing as to when her daughter would actually appear and cast disappointed hazels upon the amount of alcohol she had actually consumed. It allowed her time to catch her father in the midst of sexual dalliances over the phone in his study. It gave her access to her mother before she totally wiped herself out - a five minute shower meant she would be down in the kitchen in enough time to catch Ma Tancredi's fall from grace. And cradle her towards her bedroom. It puzzled her father no end. He always thought he would have more Sara-free time when she headed to the bathroom, only to be reconnected with his willful protege several minutes later.

As a roommate, Sara Tancredi was a legend.

There was never hedging about who would have a shower when, never demands on water or mirror time, no competition for full use of the bathroom amenities. She just wasn’t interested, she had better things to do, faster places to be.

And a drug addiction that littered her body with so much junk, so much garbage, washing proved superfluous. It became unimportant, insignificant. There were so many experiences to be had, so many highs to be chased. She became consumed, she lacked common insight, she craved more than water.

Her body wandered uncleaned for days. Her soul reeked with need. Her hair strung-out with her mind - they hung together like dirty, freaking, savaged friends. Unclean. Unwashed. Uncaring.

Even during rehab attempts and times where she walked the shaky line between sobriety and muted, Sara found the shower a place of boredom. It reminded her of gross monotony. The tiles - uniform. The shower head - shiny and fixed. The curtain - restrictive, closeting. The fucking drain hole - lurking, snarly. A place where Morphine Addicts can wash away their grunge. A gap where junkies could easily slip into oblivion.

Her time at Fox River did little to enamor the washing scene to Dr. Tancredi. She saw so much mutilation resulting from time in the communal shower area, evidence of sodomy, of rape. Of hatred.

She smelled fear on the boys brought to her in the infirmary with rips in their rectums and tears of hate sheeting from their eyes. She heard the hideous stories and stifled screams that lingered in their throats.

It was obscene.

Yet the unwashed bodies insulating Fox River were equally as confronting. So she lived in the fog of indecision - would she rather them be whole and dirty, spared the inhumanity of their fate in the communal wash basin? Or would she rather them freshly laundered but ripped to shreds, a pretty smelling boy spiked with the injuries of prison life?

She didn’t know.

All she knew is that her own time washing had never been a highlight of her life.

But the smell of a fresh Scofield changed her attitude somewhat.

Especially dripping wet

****

He washed himself with the fixation of a man possessed.

He cleansed himself with the regularity of a boy establishing his life habits.

He showered for minutes extending into half hours, scrupulous in his application of hygiene, driven to scrounge ever nuance of filth from the depths of his pores.

He lathered his hair.

He discovered sexual release during moments of awakening arousal during the turbulence of adolescence.

He inspected his body intimately. For grime, for evidence of cleanliness. As though owning a spotless body would prove his worth to society.

Boy Michael indulged in the art of cleansing. He wallowed in warm baths drawn for him by surly, resentful foster families. He disappeared under the stream of showers, blocking his ears to the friction and ravage of homes that didn’t really want him staying. He used the facilities as he would a fortress - safe, warm, steamy, entombed. He would be bathroom-bound for hours on end, quiet and alone. Drawing little happy faces on foggy mirrors, sailing brightly painted plastic boats as they plunged towards the vortex of the drainpipe.

Content. Clean. Artificially warm. Alone, but with the company bought to life by reflective surfaces.

Michael loved to shower. Adult Michael reveled in the familiarity and structure of the routine. The Politics of Washing. The Control of what is Known. He was never surprised.

Strangely, his upper body tattoo felt dirty. Initially disgusting and inked and there and unremovable. Foreign in a place where Michael had always found comfort and warmth and sameness. For a while after he received his body art, Michael found an under current of panic accompanying him to the bathroom, and this saddened him. He had permanent stain, a symbol of imperfection there. Always there. And scrubbing and hot water application and exfoliating body wash and loofah brushing could not remove it’s squalor.

He had to remind himself of its higher purpose. During long hot showers, that is what he would do.

Fox River extinguished his love of a prolonged bathing ritual. There was no point, there was no privacy. There were no bounds to horror. There was no censorship to bathing exploits.

And he wanted no part of it.

He wanted to step into a steady flow of a tepid stream, testing the water with his hands. He wanted to slip his head beneath the pressure and allow the water to break and splatter and tributary over his body. He wanted the excess to pool at his feet and sprout goodbyes as it headed to the drain. And he wanted the process to be ongoing. Neverending. A relay of relaxation, lost time, clarity.

But prison was not the place. It throbbed with venom. It reverberated with disgust. It was a pit of disease and plague and tiny bacteria with names on them.

He didn’t think he would ever enjoy the process of bathing again.

Until her.

****

I will give you my finest hour
The one I spent watching you shower
I will give you my finest hour, oh yeah

Blondie Picture This - “Parallel Lines” 1978



“You know we can get help for this, Sara. Anything. Talking, some medication for the short term, I don’t know. Um, hypnosis.”

He is so worried about her attitude to the bathroom after her water experiences with Kellerman, he is quite sick to the stomach.

“I think you’re over-exaggerating, it’s not that bad. It’s not like you are sleeping with a total grot. I wash.”

She tries to explain her aversion to bathroom activities with a smile. She knows he’s worried about her lack of time in the shower. Her inability to wash her hair; she’s attempted it, but it was so traumatic, she nearly ran from the motel room.

“Sara. A shower can be a fun time. A long hot shower together. I think I know a way to help you get over your fear.”

He wants her in the bathroom with him. She hasn’t allowed him that intimacy yet and he thinks it has to do with her not wanting him to see the fear.

“I think I would wither away and turn into a prune if I spent half the time you spend in there. Lincoln says you’ve always been like this.”

She can’t understand why he takes so long in the bathroom. He needs no make-up, has skin that skims across their sheets it is so smooth. Needs no time for his hair. What the hell does he do in there?

“Do you trust me enough to get in the tub with me?”

She shakes her head vehemently, the thought of a bath this soon after Kellerman ricocheting her into a dimension of unrestrained fear.

“Do you feel comfortable enough to jump in the shower with me?”

He feels easier because she is not so definite in her response. She actually ponders it.

“I don’t want to spend as long in there as you do, Michael. I have never had showers that last half an hour.”

She has spent the last couple of nights with him and she is so attracted to his skin, to every single element of his body, she actually feels a gnawing in her side when he’s out of sight.

He is still unable to process their time together. He is entranced and vulnerable and aroused and aware and grateful.

He wants to help her overcome her trauma, she simply wants to move on.

He wants to protect her from the nightmare of living fears, she merely wants to forget and repress.

She wants to have her old ‘who-gives-a-shit’ attitude to the bathroom, he wants to make her reintroduction to the Art of Cleansing a major production.

She wants to wash the sordid lint of Kellerman from the nucleus of each and every cell, he would kill Kellerman if she told him the extent of her torture.

Michael has never shared a shower with anyone before, except the hairy, revolting inmates at Fox River. He simply hasn’t wanted the commitment. The Act of Cleansing seems so much more intimate than sleeping with someone. Because it has been an important ritual and routine for him, he has never wanted company.

Sara has shared a bathroom with sexual partners before, but the very thought of the faceless penises brings bile to the back of her teeth. Most aquatic experiences had to do with the Attainment of Morphine. Junk. Sex for Junk. Showering for Junk. Access to her Vagina for Junk. In light of these terrible memories, she hasn’t hankered for a lover’s shower, for someone to touch her and render her clean.

He turns the taps and seals her fate.

She undresses so slowly, she gives herself room to flee.

He reaches for her as though he is introducing a child to a monster of such wrath and terror, it causes immobility.

The sound of the water hitting the shower floor is enough to cause her to tremble. And him to respond. He uses mild, short sentences, she takes small, hesitant steps

Sara has never thought of washing as an Art of Cleansing, only a means to an end. If done quickly enough and throughly enough, she is able to move onto something better.

Michael has always had an Art of Cleansing. Master Strokes, Original Works, Depth of Colour and Pattern and aquatic design.

She finds his care and playfulness in the shower very refreshing and feels herself instantly smitten with his hair washing techniques, monumentally aroused by his body bathing attributes.

He finds her so very responsive, he is soon discovering further erogenous zones and areas to explore and provide with pleasure.

She is totally mesmerized by his scalp massage.

He finds running his fingers through her wet, clean hair one of the most erotically charged things he has ever done.

She finds herself staying in his shower for longer. And longer and longer. Sometimes so pumped-up by his nearness and nakedness and dampness she cannot contain the swell of her desire.

He is quick to take advantage of his role in her healing. He lathers and towels off and splashes and strokes her wetness until he is delirious with shower frenzy.

She smiles each time he invites her to get wet.

He smiles each time he causes her to be wet.

She is fully cleansed and free and clean each time they venture to the bathroom.

He is free, she’s clean and the staunch odor of deception and running and death is finally starting to erode.

They always share the shower.

And overwhelming gratitude.