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  • "I've slaughtered my legs."

    "What, babe?"

    Droplets of blood dotted my shins and streamed down my ankle. I'd already applied a handful of bandages but they did little to staunch the flow. I rolled up my capris, patted my legs with bits of toilet paper and waited for scabs to form.

    "This is the worst shaving job I've done since I was 13 years old."

    Part of it may have been the lack of hot water. Goosebumps that rose under the tepid-toward-cold stream were quickly shorn with a very new blade and part of it might have been the very new blade. More than anything, though, I just wasn't thinking.

    On some level very close to the surface, I was scared of the shower. Two days earlier, I had fallen in my shower at home, making such a ruckus that the neighbors called to check on me. I got up. I cried. I threw up and cried more. Pain radiated from the tips of my fingers to my shoulder and a bruise blossomed from somewhere mid-forearm past the elbow and into the bit of flesh that had hung loosely since I'd lost so much weight so fast.

    "It doesn't look that bad," he said two days later.

    "That's good. It really hurts."

    And it did for a week.

    The fear lingered longer. I couldn't even remain upright in my own shower. I didn't slip. I didn't need gripper strips or a handle. The hot water made my head spin and I just… fell over.

    In Quito, the cold water reassured me at first and then froze me a bit. It gave rise to the goose bumps and the bloody mess I made of my legs.

    Sunday wasn't the first time I'd fallen in a shower. A few years ago, I fell in Peru. My travelmates blamed intoxication (I wasn't drinking) while I blamed myself for just being me. The hot water made me dizzy. I slipped. I fell. Something happened and my hip ached from blunt force trauma along the Inca Trail.

    I'd been distracted then, too, after a restless night. I'd awakened with the distinct feeling that an old woman was sitting on my chest trying to steal my breath. At the time, I knew nothing of sleep paralysis. I didn't know that the hotel was built on a graveyard, either, but the experience left me slightly disoriented and I blamed that, myself, and my klutziness when I fell in the shower, hurting my hip, making myself bleed.

    The shower in Quito was the same sort of shower with the same sort of tiling and very low ledge keeping the water in and the outside out. I'd propped my foot up on that when I tried to shave as I'd wanted to do before falling at home but life had other plans. I walked out of the bathroom feeling more like an adolescent than I had in years. At least, I remained upright.

    A few days later, the cottage offered a bit more promise with water hot straight from the tap. A sign on the wall advised that the water was heated by gas and one needed to let it run for a minute or two before taking a shower. By the time I'd wet my hair, the heat had disappeared. The water that remained was colder than the tiled shower that reminded me of the hag who'd stolen my breath.

    In the cloud forest, I had the best shower of the trip. I even managed to shave again (although my ankle still ached) as the hot water flowed in uneven spurts from an misdirected shower head into the tub, the bathroom and the bedroom beyond, and I feared that I'd fall again with a wet floor.

    The next day, waterfalls terrified me with their thundering rush as did hiking a narrow, muddy trail. I couldn't remain upright in my own tub. What made me think I could do this? What made me think I could do anything?

    Somehow we made it.

    I didn't fall. I didn't bite off his head in my terror. Not completely but close. (He's a good sort of sport. The best, really.)

    When I made it home, after hours of flying, I climbed into the shower, my own shower, the sight of the most recent fall, and enjoyed hot water and constant pressure. It scared me, of course, but at least, I ended up clean, scented and smooth without looking like an extra for a horror film.

    At some point, I will have to get over my fear of the shower. I'm not quite there yet, but I'm getting there. In the meantime, my pipes have frozen so showers are off and I long to return to Ecuador.
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