I'm reordering letters in my head, deciding the optimal combination for describing the sound below me.
Thoomp. Thwump. Thmp.
I'm in the tub: candles, lavender salt, merlot, ear buds, the whole nine. When the soundtrack plays itself out, I nestle deeper into the warmth, calm and, now, the quiet.
Almost immediately, I hear the sound of water dripping. Dripping steady and boldly where it shouldn't. Beneath me, beneath the tub, beneath the sub floor, I'm listening to the metered threat of a pipe leaking from my second floor bathroom onto the first floor ceiling. In breaking news fashion, my daughter comes upstairs to report that water is, in fact, leaking onto the floor outside her bedroom.
"It's coming through that panel," she said sleepily. "Y'know, where they fixed the pipes before...?"
"Yes, Baby," I said. "Thank you."
Whhoum. Thomp. Ahmp.
The heavy pulse of the water coursed my thoughts into ominous terrain. I imagi-calculate the obscene amount of money this drip will cost. The number has been escalating in my head for quite some time, truth be told. Not this drip, but the first drip that originated outside my bathroom as dimple in the ceiling paint. That drip has since matured into a gnarled hole, under which I position a plastic bowl from time to time. Okay. All the time.
I've avoided calling a plumber because I'm afraid he'll make spinning tally board in my head a real thing. I envision him on a step ladder, reaching up rugged hands into the ceiling maw. With each twist of valves and pipe, I imagine his invoice swelling by digits and commas and zeros and Pay Day loans and pawned appliances and stripper shoes and a diet of canned tuna.
I take a sip of wine and consider, for the zillionth time, seeking out a "real" job. Different from the patchwork of contracts, performances and projects that currently comprise my 80-hour work week, I reminisce about the j-o-b type jobs with my name and healthy numerals typed on biweekly checks. The kind of jobs with health insurance, a retirement plan, holiday parties and discount tickets to Summerfest. I flirt with this j-o-b diversion all the time because --all the time-- I need more money, more security and more people to keep me up-to-speed on the latest goings on in pop culture. I rarely follow through, though. Instead, I combat these attacks of panic by counting off daily confirmations on how the --air quotes-- work I do is truly my purpose. Writing. Building. Inspiring. Celebrating. The poetics of this truth soothe my nerves right. up. until. the phone screen cracks. the drivers' side window won't roll down. the garage door won't roll up. the tooth filling chips. the bathroom pipes begin to leak. again.
Thump. Whuuhhm. Hoowump.
I shift in the bath. The warm water slaps the sides of the tub and my thighs and and my breasts before settling into a quiet embrace around my silhouette. My eye follows the water line, evaluating. Yep. More of my belly is protruding above the water than usual. The rounded pouch doesn't elevate my stress, though. I know how this bonus stomach got here and I know how to shrink it back down. I know that I need fewer coffee breakfasts and turtle sundae dinners. More sit ups, water, fruit and rest. This, I know how to fix. This, I can control.
I hear my daughter clanging about downstairs. She's probably moving a pot --the one I use for popcorn or collard greens-- from the kitchen rack to a spot under the water that's crashing in syncopation outside her door. Not a soothing sleep sound. I would know. Positioning the pot there, however, will be worse: plink. plink. plink. I started tossing a sock into my plastic bowl to mute the incriminating sound: plunk. plock. plonck. Still not soothing. More like a serenade to imminent disaster. to running out of luck. running of steam. running in the wrong direction. Running, running, running.
The water is tepid. I look at the clock. The start of this bath was so warm and perfect before the dripping started beneath me. Or maybe the dripping was there at the first submerging and I chose not to hear it. Chose to wait for this problem I don't know how to fix to miraculously self-correct. Like the ache inside my knee. The broken curls of hair in the palm of my hand. The letters from the tax people. The letters from that one inmate. The soaring hormones of two teenage girls. The plummeting spirit of my only sibling. The first drip from my ceiling. The second drip from a different ceiling. The worries that elude my focused attention, my task lists, my clever ideas and fervent wishing.
I watch the small flame wriggle and stretch inside one of the candle jars I've perched along the edge of the tub. I resist the urging in my head to get out now. That my irregularly-scheduled program of relaxation is now over. That my time is up. That I don't have nearly enough time for anything. For everything.
Then I see it.
The letters arranging themselves in my head.
The best spelling to capture the dripping sound beneath me.
I solved something today, after all.