Outside, there are footsteps, rushed and out of rhythm, followed by a hollow thud against something wooden. A slow wail rises like a fire-alarm. Another rush of footsteps, this time rhythmic. The nanny’s voice shhh-shh’s like a water sprinkler over flames, interspersed with exclamations over the stupidity of the hazard creator.
I am content to be far away from this scene. I suppose I should be concerned, but my soul is limp against the bathroom door in relief. My limbs are suspended over the potty seat and my brain is on a beach bed somewhere far, far away. I could kiss the blank wall in front of me. Blankness is an underrated state of being. In a world full of must-haves and to-do’s, to draw a blank is therapy for the mind, whether you do it on a yoga mat or a commode.
With every passing ‘plop’, I am levitating higher on a cloud of steam, quite literally. There’s a bubble of mist from the hot shower I’ve left on. It has me giddy and through the fog, I see things clearly in my mind. This rushing to rescue the toddler or the husband or the nanny or every sorry dog who poops by the front door has got to stop. I can’t be in 20 places at once.
No more. Starting now, this very minute, I am going to turn things around. I will get up from here and take a leisurely stroll to the shower, where I’ll lather soap in leisurely circles and watch bubbles leisurely drift down my elbows. Leisurely, leisurely, oh so leisurely! To loiter before the mirror and run an indecisive finger over several cream bottles. To choose four different types, for the face, the eyes, the hands and the remainder of the considerable canvas. To rub, massage upwards, anti-clockwise, until each pore is glimmering with moisturised contentment.
Time. That’s true luxury after all. Time for the “self”, after it flushes “lessness” down the toilet and dwells on the larger questions of life. Like did the two ants dead on the soap dish mistake the soap for a load of white sugar and overdose? And what reason could the cable guy possibly have to show up four times for maintenance checks in the month gone by, if not hots for the nanny? And who was that crazy woman by the breakfast table this morning, cajoling two 5-year olds to drink their milk and overturning drawers to find the eighth tie of a 38-year old who wouldn’t wear any of the seven already hanging in his cupboard to school – oops, office? Not me, surely. I don’t have that kind of patience, never have. But those children are mine, all three. The office I should be rushing to now is mine as well. I built this life, bit by bit, year by year. Yet here I am, hiding from it. In a bathroom of all places. Is that bizarre? Maybe not. Maybe the bathroom was always meant to be the last refuge of the free spirited. The place they run to from the chaos outside in a final attempt at sanity before rushing out the door or crawling over the balcony and disappearing forever.
Well, I can’t keep hiding like this. I am turning things around, starting today. I just won’t respond when someone comes calling. I’ll stick my nose in a book and pretend not to notice. One day, when I’m old and content, I’ll gather my grandchildren around and tell them how the happy story of my life began on a potty seat with one, singular resolve to take it easy.
‘Mama, Bira needs a bandage. Now!’.
Bandage? Does he mean Band-Aid? Gosh, is Bira bleeding or something? what, what … WHAT? Is it on the head? No, no, not the head! Or the eye? No, no, no, no, no, NO!!
‘Wait, I am coming!’
Heaven knows why they put so many endless zips and buttons on simple office clothes. And where is that hair-brush when you need it??!! Never mind.
The bathroom door flings open and a half-dressed, half-combed Jesus emerges in a halo of steam to save his disciples: a panicked toddler, his sobbing, elbow-bleeding sibling, and their even more uncontrollable nanny.
‘Its ok, you’re ok’, I pat the bleeding elbow, and the nanny beside it, ‘I’ll get a band-aid’. A part of me is still standing in front of the mirror, hovering over the creams. But that part is forgotten as I dig into the medicine drawer. I just don’t have time for her. Time.