It was seeing the clump of hair floating in the toilet that broke me.
My skin became clammy, and cold, my stomach lurched, threatening to expel the toast and cornflakes that I had for breakfast.
The bathroom seemed to shrink, and become claustrophobic, the heat seeming to rise, as if someone had poured cold water over hot stones. Sweat poured out of my body. I was drenched in a minute. I felt sick, waves upon waves of nausea had me bent over, gagging, polluting the flavor of the corn flakes, poisoning the toast.
I heaved, vomited, splattering the floor with clumps, and lumps, mixed with a white froth. The smell in the small, white hot bathroom assailed my nostrils, and brought me to my knees. I retched, coughed, cried.
My head snapped up-frightened, sweat turning cold, I looked around the bathroom, saw nothing-
I yelled, grabbed the sink to pull myself up-heart hammering, threatening to burst, skin feeling tight, ready to tear, a roaring inside my head, so loud, so strong, it obliterated any other sound. The room was spinning, spinning, making me dizzy, bringing the nausea back. All my senses seemed to become more than human. I could see infinitesimally small cracks in the grout of the tiles along the shower wall, the blue color of the tiles no longer sky blue, but a color that my mind couldn’t translate. I could hear a spider methodically spinning it’s web, the sound of the silk expelling from it’s tiny body like the crash of a wave heard through a Marshall amp. The air passing over my skin was so cold, and yet, so comforting, the taste in my mouth was rancid, foul, my tongue burned, and the smells, the smells-so many different-
The bathroom was spinning, spinning faster, and faster, colors, and textures a blur, and I felt myself in a space that wasn’t real, a place that didn’t exist any longer.
The bathroom disappeared, and I found myself floating in the infinite universe, feeling so small, so insignificant, so lost. I closed my eyes, not wanting to see all that blackness, and nothingness.
When I opened them, I was in a bathroom. Not my bathroom which was full of light, and bright colors, but the bathroom of my youth, dark, grimy, the color of mud, and dismay.
My sister, Holly, was sitting on the toilet seat, sobbing, as my father savagely cut at her hair with blunt scissors.
“TRAMP!!” he screamed as he cut, shearing her beautiful long, blond hair. Grabbing locks, twisting the hair violently, he cuts, and hacks, not caring if he cuts into her scalp, immune to her screams, the blood.
Grabbing handfuls, cutting with a manic speed, throwing the tufts onto the dirty, unwashed, curling linoleum, or into the toilet.
Holly screaming, Father hissing, spitting flecks of foamy spittle onto her almost barren head.
Mother had been dead two years. She must be on her knees, begging God to return her to the world to protect her child. God, being the most Fatherly of all fathers, ignores her, watches his creations destroy.
I was two years older than Holly, and all I did was watch with horror.
Holly, seven at the time, who had found her dead Mother’s make up bag in a box in the basement, and decided to play grown up. Holly, my little sister, who, when she colored, could never stay inside the lines, whose lips were now bright pink with lipstick, thick, and heavy, absurdly clownish, whose cheeks were so rouged she looked like Judy from Punch and Judy, and whose eyelids were painted a deep blue, all the way up to her eyebrows. Mascara was literally dripping off her eyelashes.
She looked like a clown who had been sent to hell, and vomited back up.
“DADDY! PLEASE! DADDY! STOP!”
I ran to him, beating feebly with my small fists.
“STOP! PLEASE! STOP!”
Holly looked at me with despair, blood mingling with her tears, hitching, and hiccuping.
Father let go of Holly, his eyes bulging, his face a horror of anger, and rage, full of fury, and madness.
He smiled, then punched me in the stomach. I heard a whooshing, not realizing it was me. My breath seemed to abandon me to my devices. I found myself on my knees, gulping for some air, any air. My head was swimming, and my face felt so hot, so hot.
The sound of his mad voice scared the air into me. I took a deep breath, in through my nose, out through my mouth. Relishing every molecule of oxygen.
Holly screamed loudly, and I saw that his feverish punishment had taken a chunk out of the top of her head.
He stopped, momentarily stunned by her scream, and I saw red. A nine year old should not feel the type of rage I felt, should not shake with the fury of a god, should not seethe with outrage.
I slammed my little body into his knees, and he cried out with shock, and ire, backed away, and fell into the tub. The scissors had flown out of his bloody hand. Came down on his throat.
He panicked, tore out the scissors, and blood gushed. A geyser of crimson. His hands covered the wound. His eyes found mine. I saw fear.
Holly had jumped off the toilet, wrapped her arms around me, hid her head, shaking.
I watched him die.
The bathroom shook, began to tear apart, the ceiling cracked, walls fell. A thunderous crack almost broke my ear drums as the whole house broke asunder. I held Holly tight as we began to rise toward the sky, a sky full of dark, brooding clouds, full of violence. Lightening hit the tub where the corpse of Father lay. The combination of ozone, and roasted flesh gagged me, the taste of copper, and barbecued pork made me shiver with disgust. We rose faster, and faster, and I looked down and saw a blackened lump smoking in a melted, misshapen tub. It was unrecognizable. Except it’s eyes. It’s eyes were open. They were bright. They accused.
I squeezed Holly, but she was gone. I was alone again in the universe. Alone. Lost and alone.
Heart in my throat-
plummeting back towards the world.
Closing my eyes, I await the impact.
“Honey! What’s wrong?”
I open my eyes and see my wife, Sheila, who has been my anchor for ten years. I’m sitting with my back against the toilet. My pajamas are soaked with sweat. A puddle of yellow between my legs.
Sheila stands there, mouth agape, her slim frame visible through her sheer nightgown.
“You’ve-you’ve cut your hair.”
“Yeah, yeah, I wanted a change. But, honey, that doesn’t matter. What’s wrong? What happened?”
I slam my hands against my head.
“You cut your hair!”
“You cut your hair! You cut your hair! You cut your hair!”
I sob. Shake with pure emotion.
Whore she was named. Whore she became.
Dead at 21.
Sheila knells beside me, strokes my head, whispers her love.
I reach back. Flush the toilet.