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I’m pretty bad about changing light bulbs.
If there’s any possible way I can put it off, I will. There’s probably some psychoanalytical explanation for it, dating back to when I was a little girl and I grabbed one while it was still hot, but past roommates have always chalked it up to laziness. I split the difference and admit that I’m a garden-variety procrastinator.
The point is, sometimes I end up doing strange things in the dark- folding laundry, mopping, and other household tasks. I’ve even made breakfast before sunrise by the light of the gas stove.
It’s worst in the bathroom, where the light usually comes from a row of six small, fiddly light bulbs above the mirror. I also have the entire bathroom to myself, so I’ve never been held accountable to replace them as they wink out over time. When I moved in a year ago, they were all fresh and bright.
Last Friday, the sixth one went out.
I immediately responded by... continuing to brush my teeth. In fact, my routines stayed exactly the same as the days passed. I got a strange, peaceful pleasure from closing the door behind me in the itty bitty room and going through the motions. Dark made things I had done a million times feel intimate.
The best was putting on chill music, then standing in the shower with my head against the wall; feeling stress slough off of me with the water. The room seemed alive around me, became almost womblike. Each time I had to leave my dark, humid bathroom it became more difficult, so since two days ago… I haven’t. I can’t. I don’t know how it got this bad this fast either. Even muted light is too much for my eyes now.
It’s Thursday. As bad as I am about light bulbs, I’m usually pretty good about keeping appointments, and I’m expected at a friend’s birthday dinner later tonight. My phone is on floor in my room. I shoved it under the door myself. I wanted to text her to tell her I couldn’t be there but every time I tried to look at the glow of the screen I gagged from the pain. It buzzed for a long time outside and then it stopped, so I think the battery is dead now, and that’s okay.
She wouldn’t believe me, anyway. Jesus Christ it took all my strength to put a towel over the window, I know I face an alley, but the sun was trying to get in earlier, and it almost did.
It happened when I was drying my hair. I’m going to this party, and I’m going to look presentable, and oh fuck I hope it’s dark at the bar. Rooted around under the sink until I found that familiar cord and yanked it until the resistance was gone. Stuff scattered over the floor but I didn’t care. Don’t care. I’m sitting in Windex and tampons while I write this.
I felt along the wall with my fingers until the outlet was under them- clumsily plugged in the dryer. It sparked. It does that sometimes. The tiny blue light was enough to make me scream in agony, but the pain left as soon as the spark did. I thumbed the dryer on, HIGH/HOT.
The low drone centered me immediately. Dragging my fingers through my damp hair, I flipped my head over and savored the hot air as it washed over my scalp and raised the temperature in the bathroom second by second. I could smell shampoo and mint, and even though it was pitch black I closed my eyes. When my hair was dry enough, I turned the dryer off, anticipating silence.
The dryer wasn’t off. Wait, but yes it was, I put my hand in front of it and no air was blowing out of it, but air was coming from somewhere in the room and it was HIGH/HOT, higher and hotter than the dryer ever had been. Rhythmic, like breath.
The drone continued, built on itself, crested as I fell to my knees. It became a mechanized hum, inhuman, but oh so very alive, and when the walls started shaking I felt my eardrums burst and what felt like cold water sluice down my neck on both sides, because the air that was blowing on me was hotter than blood.
The drone hasn’t stopped, but I only know because the walls are still shaking. I can’t hear anymore. Condensation is coating every surface, and the paper is starting to tear under my pencil, doesn’t matter anyway, because no one can or could read this. Try to write your name in the dark.
I need to tell you that I’m trying to be a better person. I need you to know. I found a box of light bulbs in the linen closet where I got the towel, and I’ve been putting them in, but when I do they break, and cut my palms and fingers but before they break they work. Only for a second, but it let me see where I am.
It’s a throat and I’m being choked down it. The shaking walls are pink and vascular, and the outlet is a shuddering sinus that’s taking the dryer cord inch by inch like Lady and the fucking Tramp. Every time a light bulb comes alive I see the hot green bile has gotten closer to the edge of the tub, and when it sloshes onto me it will make me part of it. But until then I’ll keep screwing them in.
If I get two on at once I win. No one told me the rules but I’ll win. I’ll win. I’ll win.