Content Warning: Contains Suicide References
The heart-shaped doughnut sat comfortably in the empty soap tray, watching over my bubble bath like a sugar-coated confectionery guardian. I'd placed it there to keep it safe from a watery death, that pink icing wouldn't last a moment in there. I glanced over periodically as I wiped my dirty body clean with soap suds. It was the only thing inside the bathroom that wasn't ripe with decay, a far prettier sight than staring up at the ceiling, covered in damp constellations; I could see a mouldy Andromeda amongst the spots, chained to the unpainted drywall since flat rentals began. Of course, I was going to eat the doughnut as soon as I felt clean, it was a ritual I'd been planning all day, the sugary finale.
Once the room was suitably steamed, to the point that there was no chance of catching judgment in the mirror, I lifted the heart-shaped doughnut from its pedestal, raising it up to the light. It felt so heavy, so full of jam. If I had picked out a ringed doughnut, I'd have been blinded by its brilliance, its iconic imagery, certainly not by the LED bursting through the absence of a centre, Hanson Gregory would most certainly have agreed to that. This novelty shaped doughnut was just right for me, it allowed me to enjoy a sweet treat in the bath with an air of the dramatic, for eating a jam- filled heart was surely symbolic, and certainly not a limited-edition holiday themed product made for the mass market. No, it was made specifically for me and my moment.
It was love at first sight when I spotted it in the doughnut store, to think we have stores specifically for one form of fried dough. A whole row of hearts were on display, but I knew the one front and centre was the doughnut for me. It's pink icing simply glistened as I walked over, like a special wink to draw me closer. I pointed excitedly at it as the employee took my order, he had glazed over eyes as he pulled it out from the rest, I imagined the other heart doughnuts saying, 'No, pick me' as he did, but they should have glistened earlier. I demanded he place it in one of the cardboard boxes rather than a paper bag, so the beautiful craftsmanship wouldn't rub off, the thought of seeing the heart smudged like lipstick would have felt all too relatable and real.
'Hey, you look like Hayley Atwell.' Was the last thing the doughnut man said before I rushed back. That was a new one. His kind words would not fill the heart-shaped doughnut's role, not one bit, and I hoped he hadn't made the fresh batch on display, that would ruin my little role-play.
In the steamy bathroom, I held the heart-shaped doughnut up to the light. It still looked beautiful, it had made the journey home without a single blemish, I'd cradled the box with a pinky finger under the flap to prevent a single smear. As soon as I returned to the flat, the doughnut was moved onto my finest ceramic plate, and then the bath planning began, it was time to leave the doughnut so it could breathe. The thought of taking a bath in this place was the next obstacle to hurdle over. When you live on the second floor in an ageing apartment block, any bath can bring danger.
It wasn't just the mould in the ceiling that gave me bath time fear, it was more the way the floorboards creaked upon each step, each piece laid out like rotting flesh, praying to finally decompose, for it can barely keep holding me up any more, their life had already been lived. I'd seen enough movies to know just how dangerous such soggy wood could be, from the dripping cinema ceiling due to sea man sex in The Shape of Water, to the fear of
a tap left running in the manic manicurist thriller, Repulsion. Just seeing such scenes play out on my tiny television screen prevented me from dropping bath bombs in case of it detonating the whole room into flat 101. But after months of short showers and dripping wet towels, I felt it was time to turn the taps and let my doughnut dreams drown my sorrows.
Holding the doughnut up into the light really laid bare the individualistic nature of the heart shaped lump, I could see every imperfection shyly hide underneath the slather of pink icy glazing, which was uneven and uncertain in its own spread. Creases and bumps could be felt as I walked my fingers around each bend, baked in birth marks that its brethren batch wouldn't be sharing. To have such markings made it feel more personal, and I could comfortably have my own doughy folds and armpit beauty spot exposed in its company. A twinge of sadness washed over me as I lightly squeezed it, how easily I could burst the heart in my palm, make it unrecognisable to anyone but myself. Though instead I carefully pressed the sugary surface against my lips, and took my first bite, merely a nibble, into its lower rounded point. A sudden noise from upstairs startled me, and already I'd forgotten its taste, what a waste.
Whoever lived in the flat above was having a stomping good time above my bath, so I placed the doughnut back in its soap tray and waited. Perhaps I should have also added a radio to my magic moment, or a portable television so I could have had a go at being Margot Tenenbaum for one day. But for the experience I was forming, absolute silence was needed, no third-party influences to splash into my sugary bubbly thoughts, the events that I had planned to take place just had to be one hundred percent me. I carried on lying in wait for those footsteps to fade. To pass the time, I envisioned which parts of the room they were currently walking on, they were probably right above me, and without my ceiling, their floor, they'd surely be trampling all over me. It felt like they were, anyhow. They were most likely going from room to room, pondering like they do in cartoons.
The water had started to cool once my silence returned, so I allowed more hot water from the tap to pour on down. As I twisted the faucet, the urban myth of the melty bath woman came into my head. She was taking a bath one evening, letting the hot water run freely, turning the faucet with a twist of her toes. But as she lay into position, a stroke struck, leaving her toes stuck against the hot taps. She could only watch as the hot water continued to spill, spill into the water, spill out onto the bathroom floor, and spill into her burning, melting skin. When the fire brigade found her, there was a wave of skin floating out into the corridor, she had only gone and cooked herself. The story sent a shiver through my spine, and so I made sure to only allow a little more heat back into my bath basin. We didn't need two melty bath women in one night. The heart shaped doughnut by my side was playing that role instead, pieces of icing dripping into the soap tray.
To return to a doughnut for a second bite is much like going in for another kiss. I could still feel my saliva on the teeth mark ridden end, giving the dough a damp tarnished tinge. I bit down hard into the centre, and the strawberry filled burst, I could feel it squirt out in all directions, and only some made its way into my mouth, for the jam had found another exit, much like the runny egg in a sandwich always tries to escape anywhere that isn't inside us. A line had splattered across my right wrist, I let it feel like it had always been there, let it stick so maybe I'd mistake it for my own, save me the bother, how sweet I must have smelled.
Of course, I licked it soon after, our instincts are often led by sweetness. I put the half remaining doughnut down, no longer a heart, now empty, torn and ugly, there, there. It's other half was being chewed beyond recognition, icing was getting stuck between teeth, the jam that found its way in was clinging onto the tongue, how sweet. The dough tasted a little too much like soap, what happened to all that sugar and spice its product description once promised? With one gulp, one swallow, that was that, only the jam was strong enough to linger, what did it still want with me, why did it strive for my happiness still? I had another half for that.
The combination of sugar and suds had started to make me feel woozy. I could only lie and stare at the flickering light, reaching without looking for the razors I'd kept to the side, waiting for such a scene to take part. They were pristine, never cut, and I knew that much like the heart-shaped doughnut, that wouldn't last. The doughnut looked like a corpse, and I felt a sadness, not a sugar crash, wash over me as I felt sorry that it couldn't rot intact, but maybe a beautiful corpse is only ever present for the first on the scene, and I wondered if such a person ever looked at the dead and muttered under their breath, 'Wow, what a beautiful death.' If not, what was the point? I'd soon remove the doughnut's existence from the room, they'd have to dig deep inside to find out that final meal, and even then, would they know it was once a glistening heart?
Such distraction in my mind brought doubt to the doughnut. It wasn't as delicious as I'd been hoping, and maybe it could have been a croissant, or a red velvet, the doughnut was merely sitting behind the glass during my moment, and I was known for having many moments. I felt like I discarded the whole thing, my skin was starting to wrinkle, I should have struck when the jam was still soft. Maybe if I didn't complete the ceremony I'd be letting the doughnut employee down, like I'd cheated someone else from a delicious fate. Hayley Atwell? Give me a break.
The flat had been my home for only a month, it was already a state before I'd stepped in. How could a place so stained, so broken, so temperamental, ever have anything for me to add, all possibilities had already been lived. I spent the first night curled up in a ball eating Oreos, telling myself the smell was just stuck in my nose from someplace else, and at the end of the month I spent the day wandering the nearby shopping mall on my own insisting there was no other way. City life really doesn't play out like in a Richard Linklater film, I'd been cheated by fiction, and my overfamiliarity with the neighbours came from thin wall groans and slamming doors.
One of the razor blades took a bite at my finger, all it took was one spoonful of daydreaming for it to see an opening and strike. My right index finger had a fresh new cut because of such careless day dreaming, and a surprising amount of blood began to burst out, then trickle down, a river of blood in comparison to the earlier splattering of jam. I sucked the blood from the tip, and noted how sweet it was, maybe even sweeter than that of the doughnut's. The heat of the bathroom was getting to me, so it was hard to tell. But no amount of sucking would stop the leak from bubbling up to the surface, and so submerging my hand into the water was the only way to wash it from my sight. Begone, my bloody plight. The razors were promptly discarded into the furthest corners of the room, the doughnut's corpse lying in the soap tray had reminded me that maybe I had been rash, because I didn't want to end up like that.
I elbowed the soap tray as I pulled my cut hand from the water, not looking where I was twisting, and so, as if in slow motion I watched the half-eaten doughnut corpse flip into the air, still glistening, even drenched in steam. As the doughnut started to fall, I leaned over the side in hopes of catching it. I'd even have a go at using my mouth, but of course it was only my own body that was acting out in slow motion. It fell fast and splashed onto the
floor, how strange that such a sound could be heard between some dough and some floor. I didn't have to bend my neck down far to see the sea, leaking out from under the bath. It was the bath from Repulsion, soon to be the room from The Shape of Water, all my fears were rising to the surface, and the room started to crack. The bath was now a ship lost in troubled waters, the floating doughnut corpse the one that tried to get away, unaware of a whirlpool forming. Why couldn't this be a J.D Salinger Zooey bath scene?
I could only cling on for dear life, oh, how I suddenly valued such life, and watched as the floorboards gave way, ripped apart by the sheer force of my hot steaming bubbly waters. The collapse of my bathroom was surprisingly quiet, I expected more crunching, more cracking, but the floor simply flopped down to the flat below, leaving me with the sound of flowing water seeking out new spots to fill. I didn't realise that all the water I'd been bathing in had left me for these new pastures until a sudden shiver shot down my spine, awakening my senses to the fact that I was dripping, not soaking, in the cracked basin, and my only response to seeing the source of my bathroom woes, was to stick my pinky through the hole and laugh.
I curled up into a ball and wept, how did things always end up this way? This wasn't my first mishap, and it wouldn't be the last. When I peered over and saw the mess that I'd made, I didn't yet know how worse things were going to get. Even worse than the flotsam floorboards drifting through my neighbour's own rotting bathroom. Even worse than the hand I saw hanging onto the toilet chain, the rest of the body holding its breath underwater, with no plans to come up for air, I think I'd seen that same hand smoke cigarettes out of their living room window when I often walked past, the red ruby ring gave it away, it was always flashing in the sun to make me look up, just in time for some discarded ash to fall into my hair. I didn't know what the body looked like, I only ever saw the arm dangling, nothing else, even in death.
I didn't cry for the hand lost in one final flush, I felt more sadness for the half-eaten doughnut that had carried on floating, brushing against the static hairs. The moment I took that once heart shaped doughnut into my home, this was surely the only inevitable conclusion, like a curse, I passed my perfect death down onto someone else. The hand finally slipped away, dragging the doughnut with it, and I was left wondering so many things, though mainly what would the first person say when they dragged the body out from the depths. The body would surely be bloated, and it's hard to say if the hand actually succeeded in flushing, but the first person would surely say;
'Wow, what a beautiful death.'
A writer of objects brought to life, in hopes of understanding himself and others. Joe regularly updates his blog at channelstatic.wordpress.com, and has recently written about his own personal struggles due to his disability for a SICK AF feature at clarrisaexplainsfa.com.