In the shower Jaim answered to no one. There was a power in their nudity that kept company away from the bathroom upstairs where they lingered for hours. The last three days passed the same way, either at work or in the shower. Ralph’s college friends came to visit and hadn’t left. Jaim avoided the encampment of memories in the living room as it ate Ralph whole. He’d’ve forgot about them altogether if it weren’t for the shower.
They stood with one leg pulled back by the ankle, bent at the knee as they stared into the dull tiles of the wall for balance. Muted sounds of movement, new activities beyond this room broke Jaim’s trance, their daydreams invaded. They reached for the shampoo and put some in their long, bleached hair for the third time that day. The steps defined themselves, then there were two gentle knocks on the door.
“Jaim, you okay? Think you’re gonna be done in there soon?” It was Ralph, their partner.
He’d knocked all day in a range of expressions — lightly rapped knuckles, rhythmic taps, pronounced knocks, even a bit of banged rage. Jaim pictured his face, flustered as he tried to win their presence again. When Ralph was irritated, his face turned a shade of frustration that made his features furrier, cuter. His stress was sexy.
“If you’re waiting on me so everyone can leave for somewhere, just go.” They soaped their bony chest and underarms as the shampoo suds slowly washed out.
“Why you being like this, baby? I just want everyone to have a good time together and you’re the only piece that’s missing. I need you.”
The truth was Jaim didn’t know how to talk to their guests. Everyone related over a social scene dead long before they were around. The conversations were rooted in moments and movements too obscure to know. Ralph tried to keep things accessible for the excluded, but was easily pulled into the banter. The few things the other outcast said directly at them were stiff, vague, forgettable. It was easier for Jaim to take the stairs up to the wet escape on that first day.
“I can’t deal with it! Make them go! I need my place back.”
“Can we all just do something together one time before they leave? Just once?” “They’re leaving?”
“Tonight. Let’s go to a diner with them now and we can do something nice later.”
Jaim didn’t say anything. The drain was clogged with days of washed hair, the water nearly at their ankle. As they looked into the foam around the drain, a small, slimy shape darted out of the hole and through the water. It shot towards Jaim’s foot and latched onto their big toe with a stab. Jaim held in the scream as they repeatedly kicked their foot into the wall until the creature came off. It slipped back into the drain as quickly as it had come.
Jaim expected blood as they bent to look at their toe but found nothing, not even a mark. They turned the shower off and wrapped themself in a towel. As they unlocked and opened the door, Ralph backed up.
“Give me like 10 minutes,” they said with a weak smile as they kissed him on the cheek and hurried to the bedroom.
Corey Qureshi is a queer writer based in Philadelphia. He just started liking tucking his shirt in this year. He’s been published in Shoofly, CLÆR MAG and the Café Con Leche zine he makes with his partner. Find him on twitter @q_boxo