I have done what Palo has done. I go where Palo goes. I am who Palo is.
I have not. I do not. I am not.
I am in the bathroom in our bedroom. Because there is nowhere else to go. I sit on the toilet. There is nowhere else to sit but cold hard tile. Door, sink, toilet, shower. Shit everywhere, the figurative variety. Toothpaste. Toothbrushes yellow, orange, purple, a blue racecar, contact case, contact solution, glasses, floss, a man’s rusty razor in a bear with holes in it to hold toothbrushes that lie on the counter, barrettes shaped like butterflies and flowers and normal barrettes, rubber bands, scissors, a cup, candles atop the mirrored medicine cabinet, a sludge speckled mirror huge above the sink, a wad of clothes large and small and male and female in the corner behind the door, dust bunnies behind the toilet, toilet tank behind my back, mildewed plastic rubber duckies and plastic building blocks in primary colors and plastic dinosaurs and a brokenass plastic boat that does not float and a mildewed plastic translucent shower curtain, an oval of green soap with a thickness giving it three-dimensionality, three kinds of shampoo, two kinds of conditioner, baby shampooandsoap so they don’t cry, shampooandconditioner to save time I guess, a blue towel hung on the rack behind me above the toilet tank, a dark blue towel hung on the hook behind the door, a lighter blue towel hanging over the shower curtain rod, a towel the same blue as the first under my feet where there used be a ragged bathmat of which she dispensed. The hook on the door under the towel is brushed chrome. The trap and pipes in the cabinet under the sink are plastic. The toilet is porcelain. The faucet is chrome splattered in dried toothpaste. The faucet in the bathtub is chrome layered in soap scum and ringed by mildewed caulk. The towel rack under the towel and above and behind me is chrome, shiny and out of sight. My pants are zipped and buttoned and belted and on because I am not using the bathroom. I am using the bathroom but not the toilet. I am using the toilet but my excretory organs are not. Okay they are, for support physical and spiritual and verbal, but not the typical biologically evolved excretory organs you think of when you think of excretory organs, unless you have an unnatural obsession, which people do, not the excretory organs siphon-jet toilets are designed for, which are the excretory organs of the filthy, the toxic, the unnecessary, the solid, the liquid, the liquid that should be solid and the solid that should be liquid, the inefficiencies of the body. Which come to think of it could describe the excretory organs I do mean, even though I mean others. Okay I mean my mouth for one. My hand for another. There are others I think. Perhaps my eyes. Surely my ears. I have more excretory organs than most. I have more waste than most. I have waste that is more than most excretory organs can handle or afford or endure. I have my pants on because I’m done with pretense. She will be fine. She is fine. I knew she would take care of it, of Lilly. I know she will take care of it. I know she is taking care of it. She takes care. She always does. She is a good woman. There is a forcedairventregister in the floor. Warm air is being forced out of it. The furnace is controlled by the thermostat which is set for various temperatures during the day depending on who is supposed to be home and what those people are supposed to be doing. I should ask the thermostat what I’m supposed to be doing but it is not present with me in the bathroom. It is elsewhere and I am here and so it cannot concern me. The hot air exiting the floor and entering my space concerns me. It should not concern me. Only what happens on the page concerns me. Limiting concerns to intrabathroom concerns is a limiting limit, which is why I chose it, to take a step in the right direction. No window. The light is on. Two bulbs in a fixture for four because with four it is too bright and hot and a waste. A ventilation fan is set into the ceiling. It is off. Its switch is next to the light switch in the same switchplate, a dualswitch switchplate. Within the wall housing the switches and the wiring junctions is a doublewide dualswitch junction box I’ve never seen. I installed a light outside the garage and wired it to the switch for the light inside the garage, except with its own switch, which I added to the first switch by retrofitting the original to a dualswitch configuration. I cut holes in the wall with a skill saw and snaked wire along struts and cut holes in the ceiling and bored holes in joists and it didn’t go as smoothly as I’d planned or look as nice as I’d hoped but the house hasn’t burned down and it was all a long time ago. A long time ago does not concern me. The door is closed. It’s a cheap door. As in not costing much and of poor construction. Hollow. Light material. As in not weighing much. It does not emit light. Though it does have some shitty plastic-seeming surface treatment that makes it shinier than wood. There is no reason for its shininess. The door is functional in that it delineates my space and it shuts.
Something has to happen. That’s why I’m here. Something has to happen in the story. Some action, some reaction, some raccoon. That is a mistake. I provide action, action provides interest provides readers. Readers provide … Readers provide. Punctuation will not solve this. Readers provide: (pause) Readers provide pause – Readers provide money? Money? I want to shoot myself. Change. Readers provide change. I believe in change. Coins. No, change. Oil. No, change. Diapers. No, change. Change. Yes, I think so. Getting better. I don’t know. Getting different, then. Maybe. While staying the same. That’s the one. Character change. Character change provided by the reader? The reader’s character change. Internal change. Social change. Fiscal change. Evolutionary change. Whatever. I guess. If there is no change what is the point of writing? And if there is? Nevermind. The premise: if, then. Cause, effect. Change. Change is what I believe in, if I believe in anything, then I believe in change. Sorry, the wrong kind of if. I honestly have some difficulty in if, then statements. The difficulty being I do not believe in them outside of math. Mary has taught me about iff statements, though she only teaches me new mathematical maneuvers if and only if I do something around the house such as pick up my papers or mop or play ball with my boys or clean the toilet, but allow me to proceed. A reader wants to see a man, nay, a hero, fail. Or nearly so, depending. Wants to see what happens to a man when he is put through his paces.
* * *
Palo paces. In the enclosed bathroom smelling strongly of vomit and urine and faintly of tears and male and female sexual fluids. Salty liquids, in general. Providing their vapors to characterize the air. He looks out the window at the splash zone in the snow, snow melted in the splash zone, the splash zone plopped at the outlet of the wastewater pipe. There is a spray zone beyond the splash zone. There is a window. He has done something. Now something else must be done. Which is what happens whenever one does something. He made a choice, even if he characterizes the choice as not a choice. Now he must make another choice. Stay or go. Stay or go is always a choice. Specifically in this instance the space to stay in or go out of is the bathroom of Antoinette. If he goes out of the bathroom, the space to stay in or go out of will be Antoinette’s room-cum-cabin. If he goes from there, the space will be the top of the hill-cum-mountain, and the choice will be to stay in or go out of the top of his known world. If he stays in the bathroom, the choice will still be to stay in or go out of the bathroom. If he chooses to stay in the room-cum-cabin, in the next moment he will again have to choose if he will stay in or go out of the room-cum-cabin. Stay or go, always, there is no in between. One cannot stay and go. Or perhaps one can but let there be one black and white thing in this world. The choice does not go away. Or rather it does but the next choice is the same choice and the time between the choices is infinitesimally small and the repetition creates the effect of the choice never going away.
Palo paces. Two steps from wall to wall lengthwise. As this breadth also defines the breadth of the cabin, it follows or proceeds that the cabin is significantly smaller than it was when Palo entered. The space limitations might explain his difficulty making love with Antoinette, which was not difficult. The space limitations might also explain the plethora of possibilities breached in their lovemaking which they did not have time to explore. Possibilities he will not specify because he has no more desire to relive what did not happen than he has desire to relive what did. Reliving is infinitely more painful than living. Infinite pain might seem like a lot, but there was zero pain while living it, so there is nothing left for it but, relatively speaking, infinite pain. This kind of thing is what is attractive about the small confines of the bathroom and why he has thus far chosen repeatedly and innumerably to stay in it. As his space approaches zero, something, perhaps some nonthing as undefined as time, approaches infinity.
Palo paces. His sex-soiled shirt is a crusted wad in the corner. His pants are in the other room, the only room. With what remains of his underwear. His sticks stacked like cords of wood. Though his sticks are also here on the counter, built into a cabin. His sticks are everywhere, whatever they are worth. The door is locked, iff there is a lock. She was asleep, twitching, dreaming, when he slipped out of her, and probably she still is and will not come to the door. Unless he knocks, which would be unusual because he is inside the door and she outside from his point-of-view. Not to belabor the point, but he is not in the mood to do anything he knows is unusual. He is not concerned with the door. She will not try it. She is not waiting for the bathroom. She, Antoinette, is the kind of woman who does not mind leaking on the sheets. Even kind of revels in it. Believes that uncleanliness is living. Reb is not that kind of woman. That is a lie. Belief is too strong a word. She embraces the experience of bodily fluids. He walks, two steps, comes to a wall, turns 180 degrees, walks, one step for each foot, comes to a wall, turns 180 degrees, walks, comes, turns, walks, walls, turns, walks one step, turn 90 degrees, takes ring from light switch it is not on, inserts finger in ring, opens door, turns off light, walks.