The Shower is a Symbol of Living
CHARACTERS (in order of appearance): Subject-less-ness: a tenant and a sense of being nowhere Kira: author of The Bathroom, Professor Emeritus of Architecture at Cornell University Scabies: a reappearance and a camera Narrator: anonymous, bodiless, in the 2004 channel 4 historical reality tv show Regency House Party it’s Richard E. Grant’s voiceover The Estate’s Hermit: the Estate is the one on which the Regency House Party takes place Lifehack: a push notification Love: a deer Psychologist John Bargh, PhD: a researcher at Yale University
SETTING: Offstage, SUBJECT-LESS-NESS sits with back to the shower between two doorways in an office chair that once had functioning wheels, watching the video assist on a monitor. KIRA, offstage right, faces the shower.
SUBJECT-LESS-NESS: Last night, I fell asleep while Kira was talking to me about what love is.
KIRA: “Scabies (sarcoptes scabies) has reappeared worldwide in all strata of society and is no longer the sole problem of the poor.”
SETTING: The actual issue, presented here, is not that scabies is on the scene, (enter SCABIES) but that, according to KIRA, it’s infiltrating the wrong strata.
SCABIES: This discussion of “vermin” — previously “eradicated from the developed nations of the world” — is weird.
KIRA: If, one day, I’ll hate all I love, I know it’s you.
SCABIES: I want to thwart the equation between work and love through which I (you) am (are) only lovable if I (you) have work and am (are) moving towards success. (Equally, that in order to get good work, I (you) must be lovable.)
KIRA: (writing from the 1960s) “The world’s young people” are “in rebellion.”
SCABIES: I also know I will miss this range and should love it while I have it.
KIRA: (writing from the 1960s) “The issue of responsibility, expectation, and implied authority also raises the very basic question of the degree to which we each practice personal hygiene because we enjoy it or believe in it, or both, and the degree to which we cheat but carefully maintain the expected facade of cleanliness.”
NARRATOR: (narrating) “In short, what we find in such periods is not ritual cleansing, but, rather, ritual filth.”
SCABIES: (zooms out and pans to find THE ESTATE’S HERMIT) “Away from the romantic merry-go-round,” having “more basic concerns.”
THE ESTATE’S HERMIT: “Everything’s wet, and there’s a conspiracy afoot to completely starve me. I must have lost about two stone.”
KIRA: “Emotional needs” might be fulfilled by not bathing. (Refers to the intimacy of living in one’s own dirt.)
THE ESTATE’S HERMIT: “Really hungry, all the time. And they’re like, ‘he’s a hermit.’”
NARRATOR: Of course, others argue the same needs are fulfilled by bathing.
THE ESTATE’S HERMIT: “Like, ‘he doesn’t need food, he can just eat grass or something.’”
LIFEHACK: The longer you’re in the shower, the lonelier you might be. If you’re taking longer showers, this might be a key sign that you’re lonely.
SUBJECT-LESS-NESS: (offstage, glancing at the monitor) Lifehack also asks me if I’d like to take a survey to see if I’m achieving my full potential. I am not, probably.
THE ESTATE’S HERMIT: “‘I’m not a deer. I do need food.’”
NARRATOR: “But the hermit has found love.”
LOVE, a deer, enters.
KIRA connects “apparent cleanliness” primarily to “sexual attraction.”
KIRA: (holding LOVE’S face in his hands and moving its mouth, ventriloquizes) “Oh, it looks lovely but it will show every footprint or fingerprint.”
THE ESTATE’S HERMIT: I try to love it more than I aim to be entirely antiseptic, until I become worthy of Love.
LOVE: When someone loves me and says it, that says more about them than me. But I’m not sure what it says. You could love me like playback. And I mouth the voice, metronomic.
THE ESTATE’S HERMIT: So, I can eat in light of it, watching Khloe or Kim or some other loved Kardashian having an arranged salad in a plastic bowl on the screen?
NARRATOR: What about your loves, lusts, and allegiances?
THE ESTATE’S HERMIT: (licking NARRATOR’s hand, then licking the salt) You knew to call it “Love.”
NARRATOR: I have never been loved like this. Like I am now.
SCABIES: (zooming in) I think, also, of The Estate’s Hermit cutting his fingers every time he cooks, and how I wonder if there’s extra danger in being exposed to more of him than I already am through Love.
KIRA: I’m the man that you presumably love.
SCABIES zooms out, then tilts.
SUBJECT-LESS-NESS: (the office chair offstage will grow mold in its seams if not monitored) He was also talking about love because he’d just arrived at my place after a 14-hour workday.
KIRA: Most love is platonic. The best it can be is symbiotic, not parasitic.
SCABIES pans away from KIRA.
SUBJECT-LESS-NESS: (hunched over the monitor, offstage) He said, “what is love?” And I laughed because, obviously, “baby, don’t hurt me.”
THE ESTATE’S HERMIT: (to LOVE) Love, I want to write a poem and give it to you not to read.
LOVE: (to SCABIES) They’re in love with me. I don’t say “I love you,” but I do and let them use my shower.
THE ESTATE’S HERMIT and SCABIES: (in LOVE’s shower) Today I’m not feeling it. I would skip it if I could, but I convince myself it’s good preparation for the future. For tomorrow, when I’ll have to wake up and I’ll want to work so that I can feel accomplished. But also, because I do genuinely love my work, I put on a honey face mask and set the timer for 10 minutes.
THE ESTATE’S HERMIT: (to SCABIES) When you care for me, I nearly cry. Not for joy, but for terror. I look for your cracks. I love you.
KIRA: Your interpersonal skills will be difficult to monetize. Think about this all day and weigh up the risk of getting involved.
THE ESTATE’S HERMIT: (to LOVE) I am lonely when I am making promises. I want you around to keep my mouth in the present.
LOVE: To say “I’m lonely” is sometimes to say “I’m not in control and perhaps should be.”
SCABIES: Nobody watches the body be lonely. It is not a social failing.
LOVE: (to THE ESTATE’S HERMIT) Your shower times are quick.
NARRATOR: Today’s was longer for some reason.
THE ESTATE’S HERMIT and SCABIES: I think because I had to mess with the empty curtain clip I hang a loofa on. Somehow, it got tangled in the clips that hold the shower curtain. Also, the shower is spraying at the wrong angle, but I avoid adjusting it because the clip is already cracked and breaking. It’s only held together with electrical tape.
KIRA: (writing from the 1960s) “Colored fixtures” “show dirt more readily than white fixtures.”
LIFEHACK: (in the voice of PSYCHOLOGIST JOHN BARGH, PhD, a researcher at Yale University) “The lonelier a person is, the more showers and baths they take, the hotter the water, and the longer they stay under the water.”
NARRATOR: “The Right to Be Lonely” is a response you might give to questions of…
THE ESTATE’S HERMIT: (interrupting) So I don’t love you, I don’t. I love you when you bite your lip.
SETTING: There is some concern that THE ESTATE’S HERMIT might try to live off LOVE.
SCABIES: That your partner love reacts…
LOVE: “The eyes fell in love with vision.”
NARRATOR: Wayward Hermit, [it’s a happy ending].
27 February 2020
Ashley Barr is researching a creative-critical PhD at the University of Sussex on conceptual and process-based poetries. Before moving to Brighton, they lived in Boise, Idaho for a long time. They have a chapbook, Call the Bees To Come, out with dancing girl press. Sometimes they’re on Twitter.