Its been raining. I have felt like the character in the Illustrated Man, the space Marine, sopping on a drenched planet. With no cover. How old was I when I saw his comrade commit suicide by leaning back and letting the rain fill him up?
Every morning this week, buffeted by juggernaut slipstreams and spray, the wind like a bully shoving me back the way I came, somehow regardless of which way I point.
So at work I have to get changed in the loos.
Richard Attenborough’s brother should film my elaborate ritual. Something spectacular is loosed from the mundane on these occasions. We watched him watch slugs mate: suspended by fluorescent greasy slime they opened up and spun like sexy tops, for his for our delectation.
What curious semantics would be affixed to my actions, by a visitor to our world?
First, there is the omnipresent threat of an interloper into the privacy. Disrobing is essential, as every article is wet. Socks up. But it has repeatedly struck me, whilst unshelled and vulnerable, that rather than being trouser-less, it is being caught shirtless that is most hard to bear. Up top is where most of the crimes against fitness are flagged: love handles, muffin tops, folds, rolls, whiteness. Imagine a large man closing like the initial time laps moments of a film of a rose going over; how he might sickeningly and pathetically close, not managing to conceal how big he has gotten.
So my top is off, and quickly I’ll slide a work shirt on. If it’s warm, broad continents of sweat emerge onto the cotton. Considering these will encourage them to darken and stretch. But once the first couple of buttons are through, it’s like the door is closed and safely latched.
Next; trousers. Because the toilet is “washed” daily, oftentimes the tiling is wet. When it is wet it is worse. The slick of dirty water varnishes motes and dirt, showcasing what has been left, leaked, washed up. Dry, the floor is a floor. Wet, there is sewerage everywhere. Partly – I rationalise – this is the mop head, that rancid tangle of strings decomposing leisurely. Partly, it is the head scattering the fruits of yesterdays mopping. Or the day before yesterday.
I wont put my socked feet down. To do so might mean later my eyes flicking open, having just fallen into sleep, urged by the shock reminiscence that the socks I still have on in bed, earlier collected filth from the toilet floor. So I balance.
On one foot, I slide my drenched cycling shorts off one leg, and now introduce further complication for unseen delectation. There’s no safe place to stand, except the relative safety of the islands of my shoes: I have four.
One foot comes out of my cycling shoe, out of the leg of the cycling shorts – a short – then, through the first leg of my work trousers. That’s not all. Then I must navigate myself into my first work shoe.
And there I stand, a half-and-half colossus bestride the twins states of sodden traveller and working man. No one has seen me like this. Yet. Holding up the two empty tubes of half-worn other garments. Next time it rains, think of me. A countdown of a handful of pips of seconds registers the danger of being disturbed in this most private of states. Trying to metamorphose quicker just creates the perfect habitat for mistakes. Concentrate. Change. Balance.
What other hidden magic dancing goes on behind plaster board walls, or in prefabricated cubicles? What does all the acres of frosted glass obfuscate from the sanitised view of grown ups?
How Attenborough would marvel at me.