It was at this moment that Kevin always found himself hesitating.
“Why?” he would sometimes ask himself. “What is there to be afraid of?”
Asking himself didn’t do any good though, because he knew the answer. He knew exactly what he was afraid of. It really wasn’t fear, either, that caused the hesitation. It was worry, anxiousness, nervousness and other similar, familiar feelings that would all creep in on him at the same time, making him hesitate.
Memories of the previous times he had been through this only served to make him hesitate longer. For as long as he could remember, this had been a difficult thing for him. He knew it was unique, he knew that most people did this every day, sometimes two or three times a day, and it wasn’t this difficult. In fact, it wasn’t like this at all for them.
He stared down at his reflection in the faucet and other chrome surfaces. Since he always hesitated, he had spent a long time staring down into the chrome. Every day. He always loved the way his face would distort, squashing and stretching. Past the faucet was his canvas, his enemy. The white of the porcelain glistened with a light coating of water. Water. Yes, perhaps a little more water.
He reached, toothbrush still in hand, to turn on the cold water. A little more. He opened the valve all the way. Maybe with enough water it would all wash away quickly. Maybe he wouldn’t even get a glimpse. If he didn’t see, he wouldn’t have to be worried. He wouldn’t have to hesitate any more if he could simply wash away the problem.
Before continuing, though, he rinsed the toothbrush. Washed away all the suds and germs that seemed to hate him so much. Why? Why not anybody else? Useless inquiries, just like the useless hesitation. At least he wouldn’t waste water in the mean time, he would rinse the toothbrush.
Hopefully, this time, there won’t be blood. He shuddered upon remembering the last time there was blood. Bits of food, the suds, anything else is fine. Blood doesn’t represent good things. It always means trouble. Bad trouble.
Keven put his hand back on the cold water handle, locking his arm out so he could lean against the sink. He contemplated turning the water back off, but did nothing. Hesitating. He looked straight down, trying not to look at anything, but instead watching the water pour from the faucet. He watched intently. Waiting. The texture of the oxygen charged water flowing from above, quickly shooting down, a white-water rapids going straight down, crashing into the smooth, white surface of the bottom of the sink. He followed the stream down a little further, into the drain, wishing he could go there too. The whole sink should be a drain, he thought, because that way there wouldn’t be any way to see what he knew he was about to see.
“My teeth are healthy enough,” he told himself out loud. “How bad would it really be if I only brushed once a week?” Going through this mess once a week would be a lot better than every day. He remembered one of his earlier visits to the dentist, as a small boy. The dentist had advised him to brush his teeth at least twice a day, maybe three times. Little Kevin had laughed, thinking it was a joke. When he saw that the dentist was serious, Kevin became frightened. He recalled the ride home in the car, still crying. His mother assuring him that the dentist couldn’t really make him brush three times a day, it was just a suggestion. The thought still gave Kevin chills. Twenty years later, it still made his skin crawl.
Another rhetorical question crossed his mind. “Why is it so much easier to start brushing than to finish?” Of course, it is true. If he knew so well how much trouble it was to finish the job of brushing, why would he not hesitate to begin? As a very small child, the habit had been instilled before the experience of finishing really got bad. Then, things weren’t so heavy, so intense. Now, it wasn’t so light and easy. He would begin brushing each day simply because he knew he had to, but once he began he would have to finish.
There he stood, hand on handle, leaning on the sink, mouth full of suds, hesitating. He focused his vision again, watching the white water crash down onto the white surface, with the little white bubbles dancing into the drain. The dark drain.
Nervousness set in heavily as he prepared to spit into the sink. He would aim for the drain, as he always did, but he knew something would splatter onto the porcelain. It always did. He would try to look away, like he always did, but he would see it anyhow. He wasn’t ready yet. He pulled his face away and looked up at the ceiling.
Ah yes, the ceiling, another of many all too familiar features in the bathroom. How many times had the hesitating led to this, looking up, away from the dark, white porcelain. Looking up always made him think, “I should just swallow the suds, that way I don’t have to spit them out.” He knew how well that would go over though, he had done it a few times before. Every time it led to very bad things. Sickness, vomiting, tense muscles. All of that, and the next day’s spit would always be a thousand times worse. No, he knew it was far better not to swallow. Spitting was, in fact, the lesser of two evils. Two dark, sinister evils. Spitting and swallowing. In any other context it would be humorous. Kevin had very little to laugh about though.
There was one time, a long time ago, that the spitting brought something to laugh about. Among a lifetime of darkness, that one day shone like a candle, a bright light that Kevin always hoped would return. It never had, though, and what that told Kevin was that he was destined to a life full of sadness, darkness and horrors. His hope of another something to laugh at had disappeared forever.
He let his head fall back down, looking down at the water. Watching and listening to the running water was soothing, but he was beginning to feel bad about wasting water. He remembered television ads he saw as a child. They always had suggestions for conserving water. He never left the water running while shaving or brushing his teeth. Just like the commercials said. Now he stood there, leaning on the sink, watching the water.
What did it mean? He stared more intently at the water. The water didn’t seem to be saying anything. It doesn’t mean anything. It had nothing to say.
No, he wasn’t ready yet.
He could carry it around all day, in his mouth. That way, he wouldn’t have to spit it out, and he could just leave it in there and brush his teeth again the next morning with the same… No, that made his stomach sick just thinking about it. Plus, he had to talk to people. That’s hard to do with a mouth full of toothpaste suds and bits of food.
Time to spit. He just had to get it over with. He took a long, deep breath in through his nostrils. He held it. Drums beat somewhere inside, and things shifted. His heart moved up, a void was created near his stomach making that strange feeling you get before doing something that you know will frighten you. He felt his pores widening, he felt his forehead and arms cool down rapidly from the sweat. He put his other hand out to steady himself on the sink. “It doesn’t take that long,” he said to himself. Of course, not really. He couldn’t speak with all of the suds in his mouth.
He hadn’t had breakfast yet, so he wasn’t sure if the rumblings in his stomach were from hunger or nerves. Another good reason to spit though, it’s difficult to eat with a mouth full of suds.
He could simply close his eyes, to prevent himself from seeing the suds, but that hadn’t worked in the past. For Kevin, spitting the suds was like sneezing, except backward. When you sneeze, you have to close your eyes. When Kevin spits the suds, he has to have them opened. If they’re closed, he’ll miss it, and that’s not the way it’s supposed to go.
He did it quickly, but for him time seemed to slow. He watched the stream of liquid flow down to the sink. Some of it went straight into the drain, but the rest splashed and sloshed around the drain, speaking to him. Patterns formed, arrangements of bubbles, colors and textures showed him signs. His heart fluttered when he saw swirls and streaks of red. Blood always means bad things. Wait though, over there. Is that a bit of carrot? What does it mean? What about that pair of little bubbles sliding into the drain? Oh, and over there…
What is that?
A will, that’s what it is.
The white noise of the water pouring ferociously into the sink had vanished into the background, but the water itself swirled into the scene before Kevin’s cursed eyes. It’s true, the running water had washed the spit away three times as fast as the usual drainage, but this time, when it was all over and the last bit of suds had gone, something curios happened. Something that hadn’t happened in a very long time.
Kevin began to laugh. There had been blood, but Kevin raised his hand from the cold water handle and put his palm on his forehead, laughing. The laughter soon turned into a fit of laughter that could be heard throughout most of Kevin’s apartment complex.
For a moment he felt bad about laughing, because of the blood. “It’s alright,” he assured himself. “Nobody really likes her that much anyhow.”
He called his mother to find out how his grandmother was doing, it had been a long time since he had heard about her. It seemed she was fine at the moment. “Not for long,” he told himself.
An hour later, another phone call. It was mom. “Interesting that you should call earlier and ask about your grandmother,” she said.
“Oh? Why is that?” he replied, trying to sound casual.
“Did you know something I didn’t know about her? About her health?”
“Mom, I’m a thousand miles away and I haven’t talked to her in years. How could I know anything you didn’t know?”
“You’re right. Well, I just got a phone call from my sister. Your grandmother passed away just fifteen minutes ago. She had been healthy and was doing fine yesterday, but this morning she wasn’t doing too well, and she just passed away.”
Kevin felt bad. He heard his mother’s voice trembling a little. He knew she was trying not to sound too upset, but he also knew how bad he would feel if it was his mother that had passed on. “I’m sorry to hear that. Keep me updated with the funeral plans and everything, and I’ll try to see if I can fly out for the funeral. Work’s been pretty tough on me lately though, and I might not be able to get the time off.”
“I understand. I’ll let you know as soon as I know anything.”
“Thanks. Hey, let me know if I can do anything for you. I love you.”
“Thank you. I love you too, I’ll talk to you again soon.”
She hung up. Kevin closed his cell phone and put it back in his pocket. A little grin came. The spit was never wrong. He walked over to his window and looked outside. He pondered the rest of this morning’s experience. Grandma had indeed died. What was the rest of it? Oh, right.
Later that evening he got another phone call from his mother. It was about the funeral, which would be in a week, and the will. Just like the spit had said. Grandmother had left everything, her entire estate, to Kevin’s mother. Several bank accounts with close to the limit of what the bank would insure, no mortgages, four homes, each on a good amount of land… Mother was still in shock at becoming so wealthy so quickly. Kevin’s mother had always been very poor, and nobody in the family knew that grandmother was sitting on so much money. This morning, mother’s reaction had made Kevin chuckle.
The next morning, Kevin was curious to see what the spit had to say, and he hesitated only a little. Thankfully, there was no blood. There was a curious little episode about a friend of his calling with some interesting news, his job asking him to stay late, and the neighbor playing his music loudly in the evening, making it difficult for Kevin to fall asleep. Harmless. For Kevin, this was a terrific day.
In fact, close to a week passed with similar, uneventful spits and days. Kevin was beginning to wonder if his luck had changed, if perhaps he was no longer destined to live a life of anticipating horror and sadness.
Then, the day of the funeral came around. He knew that his mother would be traveling almost two hours by car to get to the funeral, but there was no way he could have prepared himself for what the suds would tell him next. In fact, he had gotten so used to uneventful days, that this morning sent his system into quite a shock. Plus, there was blood. Lots of blood. So much blood that he very nearly passed out.
When he recovered from the shock, he knew exactly what he had to do. This time, the idea frightened him more than spitting, more than the blood. No thinking about it though, no time for hesitation.
Twenty minutes later, the bus that took Kevin to work every day lost control on a curvy mountain road and fell four hundred feet. Everyone on board died. Keven, who had seen the whole thing in his spit and suds that morning, was not on the bus. He had been in his apartment when a gas pipe and open flame caused an explosion in the room next to his, blowing a hole two hundred feet wide in the side of the building. It wasn’t the explosion that took his life though. He had hung himself just moments before the explosion. What had he seen that was horrible enough for him to take his own life?
Later that afternoon, at the shop where Kevin worked, two police officers showed up with a warrant to arrest Kevin for the murder of his grandmother. Eventually they found his burnt remains among the rubble of his apartment complex. His mother was on the road when they called to tell her about her son’s death. When she bent over to get the call, she took her eyes off the road and didn’t notice the other car swerving into her lane.
Blood always means bad things.