as i grow older, i begin to value what was once described to me as vanity.
it may very well still be vanity, but i think ________ could be an apt definition too.
The first realization that this was indeed, an incredibly unreasonable plan, came to Merana as they locked the bathroom door.
What a shame, because the bathroom was quite nice. The dark brown linoleum floor and the odd gray-tan tiled walls had a charming sort of antiquity that they appreciated, and it was delightfully warm in there. The large lantern swaying above their head shed a constant beam of cream-colored light, whether it was afternoon or night or two o’clock forty-seven minutes and fifteen seconds in the early morning of a Saturday in February.
Not that the time of day ever mattered, of course.
The only immediate fault that they could find with the bathroom was that it was not soundproof. Both ways, that is.
If someone were to scream inside the bathroom, not only would it be loud to them and the microphone behind the shampoo bottle, but it would also be of a considerable volume to whoever had their ear pressed to a conch shell pressed to the front door. And, an infinitely more applicable situation, if someone screamed outside of the bathroom, it would be heard very clearly inside the bathroom.
Even when one did not want to hear it.
That was a digression though, because it wasn’t the parts of the bathroom that were or weren’t troublesome. It was because it was a bathroom.
What do people do in bathrooms? Take baths.
Merana looks at their surroundings. There is no bathtub (this is why the plan was very stupid indeed). There is a walk-in shower however, so the plan could be modified. Probably.
Here, dear readers, is where the narrator will attempt to explain the floor plan of the bathroom. I promise that it will be relevant to the story.
The door opens into the rectangular room, the hinge on your left side. When you enter, to your immediate right is the toilet, facing you. It is a small bathroom, so on the right side side of the toilet is a counter with a sink below a splendid three-paneled mirror. Opposite the toilet and the sink are towel bars, and farthest from the doorway is the walk-in shower.
I lied. It isn’t very relevant. All you need to know is that there is very little space in the bathroom, and so one is usually situated in front of the mirror.
The “one” in this situation is Merana. And when one (remember, Merana) is situated in front of a mirror, it’s quite easy to catch a glimpse of yourself.
They look loads better than they expected, which offers them more relief than they would like to admit. In fact, the teen would say that they looked really nice. Pretty, actually. Crying had dabbed rouge on their cheeks, feather-brushed their eyelids in strawberry. The tiny pinpoints of scales that still threatened to spring up on her cheeks looked more like specks of glitter.
It was a vast departure from how they would usually look, which was as if someone had thrown them down the stairs, reminiscent of bruising instead of blush because of black ghost’s blood. And the scales, all glistening silver teardrop shapes that rapidly cut their way out of their face and partially crumbled into fine dust the minute they were touched. Crying always left their face a half-formed mess, like a butterfly stuck in a half-shattered chrysalis. It was horrifying to behold, thus the wonderment in this particular situation is somewhat justified.
“At least I look pretty when I cry,” is what Merana says, smiling. Their smile is so lovely too (so long as they don’t show their teeth), and it’s a strangely peaceful moment. Merana watches their reflection in the glorious triptych, cocking their head, switching their hair back and forth. Perhaps I should cry more often.
Oh, but the plan!
Merana becomes dismayed when they realize that they had a purpose for coming into the bathroom (other than finding out that it was, once again, not soundproof). But they couldn’t possibly go through with it now, not in this rare moment of beautiful sorrow! This must be how Narcissus felt, right?
A few more minutes is grudgingly allotted, used to commit every detail to memory. Then the teen turns the faucet all the way on and crouched down, finding a blue plastic folder they had put in the secret compartment underneath the cabinet. It used to hold school assignments, juvenile, meaningless artifacts from childhood, but much like Merana themself, it was repurposed for a greater destiny. There were several of these folders hidden around the house in spaces that would never be seen unless the inhabitants packed up their belongings and moved out, perhaps after a tragic incident or something of the sort.
There was a total of seven folders, one for each color of the rainbow and for each subject they had taken, and they all contained basically the same things. A printed, stapled document of four pages, single-spaced because Merana was never good at being succinct. A few more sheets of paper, and a felt-tipped pen whose color matched the folder’s. Now depending on the specific folder, the extra papers would have different things written on them.
The blue folder (yes, Merana picked blue because the bathroom had water) had quite a bit written on the extra papers. Merana rifled through them with disinterest: they could probably recite them from heart at this point, what with how many times they’ve already reread them. On a paper with considerable space, they uncap the pen and in neat, blue letters, describe what they looked like at that moment. Pretty. They go back and add the date in squished handwriting near the top.
Everything goes back into the folder, and the folder does not go back into the secret compartment, but on the closed toilet seat instead. Remember, the toilet is to the immediate right of the doorway. Merana closes the secret compartment, gets up from the floor, and turns off the faucet. To the microphone behind the shampoo bottle, it may appear that Merana washes their hands very thoroughly.
Ready, complete. Set, complete. Now it’s just time to go.
There are structures similar to bathtubs, Merana muses. Fish tanks. Swimming pools. The ocean. Just water, and continuous water, as far as the eye can see (this last part is not applicable to the former two). A shower differs.
A shower may not work.
Well, Merana’s already here, and the folder’s already out on the toilet seat, so it wouldn’t hurt to try. Maybe a shower would work. But Merana has doubts now. Merana doesn’t know if it’ll be a good thing if the shower works.
Thankfully, they don’t need to know if it’ll be a good or bad thing, because the second realization has arrived.
The second realization that the plan (which they had almost forgotten about; it’s funny how quickly emotions come and go) lacked common sense came when they were halfway through the shower.
It was startling actually, how they had overlooked something so crucial.
“It wouldn’t have worked anyways,” Merana affirms mostly to themself, arms drawn up over their legs, head tilted so that one cheek was squished against a knee. The shower’s spray pours over their head, neither gentle nor harsh. Just constant. They’re turned away from the shower head, so it’s not as if the water is stabbing directly into their eyes. Despite that, it’s still hard to keep them open.
The water is actually scalding now, ice-hot to the touch and Merana has to force themself from shying away from its fierceness. The blouse they have on is completely soaked, which is unfortunate because it’s dry-clean only. In their current position, curled into themself like a drawstring bag and shivering on the tiled floor, their forearms and shins are actually quite cold. Something about water and specific heat...
“It wouldn’t have worked,” they repeated, watching the silver scales float past from the corner of their eye. “I can breathe underwater.”