The steam rose slowly, stretching up towards the ceiling, unraveling towards the ceiling like a waking creature.
She didn’t mind if she never rose again. She turned the nozzle over further.
The scalding water raced over her body, angry tracts in its wake where her skin disagreed with the temperature onslaught. But her bones needed the heat; her heart and her headache needed the heat, so she just made a mental note to use her good lotion as an apology, should she ever leave the shower.
She let herself lean against the back wall, and the shock of the still-cool tile while breathing in the fresh steam almost felt like life. But it was quickly gone again, so she slid all the way down until she could stretch her legs out and close her eyes while still feeling the torturous, blessed spray.
Her hands played at sudsing her body. That’s what one does in a tub, but it wasn’t really why she was here. What needed to be cleansed tonight could not be done with her Coconut & Mango Sugar Scrub. But she pushed the little bubbles around as if it might.
Gradually, the steam pulled the hiccup from her chest that had been stuck there for three days. It was a painful release. As the heat filled her, it pushed out the slow, dull tears that too had been captive. She’d hated the weight of them within her, but the forced acknowledgment of them, even alone, seemed worse.
Then, as if she were the heirloom kettle out on her stove, the next hot drop hit to send her over, but instead of a whistle, a wail exploded from deep within her chest to meet the blistering air around her.
But it felt could to feel both the scratch on her throat from her scream at the same time the hot water attempted to sooth it, so she screeched again, and again, until it collapsed in on itself into a sob.
Reaching out and thrashing at the water, begging it to both hold her and leave her alone at the same time, as if she were once again a young girl fighting a night time bath.
She was so behind on the things that needed to get done now. She’d been on a schedule. How far behind track was this? Years, at least. An entire plan redrawn again. Some of it her fault, some of it not. Some things she’d thrown out, some things were just accidentally, irreparably lost. The few things gained could not yet be dwelled on from the depth of it all.
It just HURT. And she was tired of it hurting. She wanted to crack open her chest and just pull whatever that dark pain was out. Let the water get in.
Finally, she was just tired. She blew all the snot from her nose the hard crying had caused, thinking how that part was never included in the movies. It was gross, but she could breathe again.
She laughed. And it felt like a little joke from the universe to make her smile.
On purpose, she forced a deep breath of steam in. She wasn’t better, but that bit was out of her, for now. She closed her eyes and leaned back against the tile again.
“Oh Peter,” she whispered, “it was a rough day today.”
One more little breath, “In here!” and she heard the confident footsteps of her daughter gallop closer, then stop at the door.
A smile split over Liza’s lips. There wasn’t always the Hallmark or Gilmore Girl magic in being a single mother, but there was something about the exuberance of a child simply being pleased to arrive in your presence that just… helped.
She slid from the tub and quickly wrapped a towel around her waist so she could open the door to shout down a response, but found her daughter still there in the hallway.
“Oh! Good,” Liza planted a kiss on the top of rebellious brown curls, “I’m glad you’re home. I was just freshening up. How was rehearsal?”
“Terrible, sorta.” Big round eyes stared up at Liza, dangerously blue and filled with so many worlds. But there was still joy there, and Liza would not project her own difficult afternoon on her child; she swore it to whoever was listening and everyone else too.
“Uh oh, well let me get some pants on and you tell me about it while I show you the mess I made in the workshop today-”
Bloom (verb): When coffee grounds come in contact with hot water, they release carbon dioxide and often bubble and expand. Coffee blooming is the act of dampening your coffee bed to provoke this release of carbon dioxide.
I’ve missed Liza, and even though she was having a hard day, was so happy to visit with her again. If you need a little reminder for where we’ve seen her last, here are her big hits: Today I am Carry, Today I am Susurrus, & Today I am Steady.
I have a Chemex pour-over that has seen a few different lives. It has lived at a lake in South Carolina while my parents were dating, then had to sustain the entire family during weekend trips there. It moved to different cities in Virginia, may have dropped by Pennsylvania, and now it’s here with me, on my counter, suspicious of its Keurig neighbor.
Making a great cup of coffee does not come naturally to me. But one morning last Winter, all the elements finally came together. I heated the on the stove water in a kettle. Poured the first few drops as slowly as I could over fresh, course grinds into the sleeve of the Chemex. I waited. The bloom- that first whiff of heaven meant it was time to pour the rest of the water in, and so I did.
Renewed faith, in a mug. Spiritual awakening, sweetened with sugar. Strength, but creamy.
Sometimes all you need is a little steam to release whatever is tied up inside.
Happy heating 🙂
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