Alice hunched over the toilet bowl, botanist inhaling an exotic flower.
Roomba in soft shoes reflected many times with the same look of dim-witted determination in many mirrors. FOR YOUR BEAUTY ran the writing along the edge of one, a small round pound shop looking glass. She polished it, switching over briefly to the magnification side, where her own distended eye glared back like the gelatinous eye of an octopus.
It was shocking to see them magnified: her pretty mouth and brown teeth. Interstices and broken edges. Violently huge eyes. She tried not to look so closely.
Her dress was cheap and clean, some sort of bold geometric pattern that was no longer bold because it had been over-washed, no longer geometric because the fabric was warped.
She was fast and good- a wizard at work with the top hat of a tiny pedal bin, wizard in reverse, whisking white rabbits (used cotton wads) inside instead of out, to the sound of no applause whatsoever, wearing one black latex glove.
Something dyke party dark-room about that shrink-tight kinky skin. Something about the way you look tonight…lady in keds. Or in shreds. Shreds of toilet roll. She had given up being a dyke several years before while waiting for her boyfriend in the arrivals of a small regional airport. Upon seeing two women meet and hold hands, a door closed inside with a soft floral crushing-a handful of rainy flowers crushed in the fist while passing. Sometimes she had a sense of its blurred form haunting her peripheral vision, sometimes the phantom door was a blur of roses in the corner of her eye, or a double bloom held out in the eye of a stranger. These ocular bouquets withered unclaimed. She had always suspected double blossoms were a sterile abnormality anyway.
Witch, Princess, Queen- the flowery dress-up games of little girls, played out now through chrome labyrinths.
She regretted not trying harder with the same sex. But did she try hard at anything really? sometimes she thought she was a witch but that was an embarrassment of no riches. The cupboard of her privileged past bulged with rusted roller skates, unbroken ballet shoes, half-completed college courses, desperate fans of crisp tarot cards. She had been proffered every course life had to offer and had eaten half or sent them back untasted. Perhaps to consume in entirety meant sure poisoning? or worse, being faced with a profoundly empty plate?
bending over: a rich persons dog. She walking it wearing a party dress, slow down! slow down! and her not listening, laughing and striding, the fabric stretching. Now she the walked and not the walker. The diamante dust in the egg timer runs ever thinner.
The only thing Alice had stuck to was this constant tidying. Nice and tidy, tidy and nice. Surely a witch could conjure a better trick, a better audience than these sightless toilet tubes? surely a princess would protest or a queen cut off her head?
Being away from people was a pleasure. She just wanted to go into her tiny clean apartment and close her door. Or anyone’s door. Close it and perform the ablutions of her trade with purse-lipped dexterity, gliding across bright tiles, then leave these families to their own bloody rites. That was their concern, hers only to clean granola off the walls amid the faint radioactive fall-out of their happiness and sadness. What did Alice do? she was a toilet jockey, a living room ninja, a bathroom artiste. These were the things her job might be called by a cynical peddler trying to sell it on. In other words, Alice was a cleaning lady. Leper bell and clogs, to be a cleaning lady is to be rendered permanently unclean.
‘to all the bowls I’ve loved before…’
The Peach Bathroom.This bathroom was the colour of an embalmed granny powdered in a peach she would never choose in life. A high fruity rouge. Alice could see the glow of it reflected on the white wall opposite the door.
It was comforting that of all the rooms in all the houses, despite the various attempts of various tastes, the bathrooms were basically the same. The toilet: the pit in the centre of every peach. There are only so many ways to impose your tastes on shitting in a hole.
She always used Kitchen paper with wild abandon. First on the mirrors, then on the toilet rims. Each piece began shining spotless, ended filthy. She was malicious in her enjoyment of papers corruption.
Today It had a hem-style blue line running down its length, as if it had aspirations to be a real towel or holy garb.
How she would like to wipe her arse with a real wimple! or with a very expensive tie while the man was still wearing it. Feel the silkiness on her most secluded skin.
She paused, nostrils quivering. The smell of poop lingered earthily beneath the peach. She could never work out why people wanted their toilets to smell like tangy monkey houses. Synthetic seas maybe, but why faux fruit? fruit of eternal denial: the basic knowledge that shit smells like shit.
‘Why are people so basic?’
these facsimiles of animals pretending to be facsimiles of magazines.
The next bathroom was dimming turquoise, small and old, waiting for someone.
Aimless pink roses wandered every tile, each slightly askew crawling like drunk magenta spiders.
Crawling and waiting. Crooked roses, a mystic candle wrapper.
‘Oh Virgin of Guadalupe ’
The sill was a scattering of dirty bodies who had crawled and waited, crawled and waited.
Alice was reminded of a range of holy candles in a Polish supermarket.
Small cockroaches and spiders had scrabbled in every candle and died incarcerated between the wax and plastic,
dry swirls of dead legs danced across the papal face.
Maybe she just needed to ‘settle in’?
People had babies. Washed out their mouths with imperial leather and sent them on the dole.
Dirty slivers balled up. However many times you fooled yourself into thinking it was a new soap, it broke into bits, was still dirty slivers balled up.
to be continued