She defined her space by an 8x5ft grey tiled room.
It wasn’t particularly attractive. It had a grey western commode, a grey sink, and a grey mirror-closet, both suffering previtiligo – threatening to go white. Even the view from the window wasn’t particularly spectacular. The neighbour’s barren backyard, and a mango tree that never bore fruit, peeked between tilted serrated glass. Both, handheld and overhead showers stopped working, so she resorted to a grey bucket, coupled with a grey mug.
There, she’d spend twenty minutes in solitude, everyday, her left hand dousing her form with water. Four siblings, two parents, one marriage, one surviving father-in-law, two sisters-in-law and no children later, these twenty minutes were hers.
She liked her water either very hot, or very cold. Season was irrelevant, function was important: cold to rouse, hot to lull. But she was partial to cold water.
There was never hurry. She’d treat herself to a tiny shriek when cold water established contact and would giggle when the water forced its way into her ear.
She’d watch how water droplets, each clinging on to her nails, afraid of gravity – would extend her otherwise pruned nails. She loved the way water would course, down her eyebrows. Rivulets would run from the locks of her hair that hugged her shoulders; drip from her clefted chin.
Water would course, halving her body near symmetrically, celebrating her irrespective of her uneven tan, sprouting underarms, blackened knees-elbows, scarred shins, shaving nicks.
The mirror told her she had a healthy body, inclusive of a tiny paunch that fit her partially cupped palm. She’d wrinkle her nose, her reflection faithfully repeating. Her navel, the mole on her left shoulder and one on the right of her waist were her favorites. She’d half-smile at her firm breasts, young lowerback, arching into her full, but slightly bow legs ending in her bony, thin ankles that she didn’t like. But neither soap, nor loofah cared.
Her eyes would crinkle at their corners, once she’d examine her fresh, wrinkle-when-wet self, dried. Her eyelashes, clumped together, would match her unruly curls, now settled comfortably.
She was thankful to those twenty minutes everyday.
Not because they were sensual.
But because they were twenty minutes alone.