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In a different bathtub, in a different time, one where the people you communed with shouted they loved you over 4am beers stacked on credit cards maxed out from city-living, you sunk yourself low beneath the water, raised

a hand an ear a lip

above the surface

like a siren sulking to shore and dialed an unlikely ally.


“I think I’m losing my mind, mom.”


For weeks you’d been seeing flashes of light. For weeks your head throbbed on a level so deep your brain stretched itself beyond the landscape of your eyelids, shot flares into your mouth.


S.O.S

S. O. FUCKING S. BITCH.


You were sure you were hearing things.


You hushed your voice to a low groan and continued steadily, an attempt to hide your crumbling psyche from anything that crept beyond the bathroom door.


“Do you think I’m schizophrenic? I’m past the age of onset, aren’t I? I’m going to be okay, right?”


You hear your mother purse her lips on the other end of the receiver, a tactic she’d long mastered to catch the words she really meant.


“Honey, you’re fine. You’ve been stressed. Finish your bath. Relax.”


Years later, in a different bath, in a different time, you run the water so hot the body is directed to flex and expand,

eventually giving in to the scorch so desperately craved

to grant clarity.


You still see flashes, but the rumbles have stopped.


And even though you know why, now

as the tattooed lady dances under a veil of moisture

glistening, distracting,

you can never make out what begat what

– the mind, or was it the body?


In the years that have followed, the timelines, the medical journals, the introspection and everlasting wrestling of words, ruminations and ruinings, you aren’t sure it even matters.


As you soak, your mind tempts your body, jovial at first:

Let the water turn cold. Stay longer.


And like a switch, sinister:

Turn wrinkly, rancid. Rot.


And then a careful voice, crackling.

Not from here. Not from this tub. Not from this time.


But an ally,

shelved deep away in the one corner

the body keeps secret from the mind:


Get up.

Drain the water. Wash your face. You’re fine.

You’re fine.


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Pearl Bruget is a pseudonym of a Columbia College of Chicago graduate from yesteryear who barely passed copy-editing. She writes a lot and edits far too little. 

Barzakh Mag