by Carly Waller
This piece was awarded first place in the second 2022 Swinburne Sudden Writing Competition.
The bathroom bench is dirty; no one has cleaned it for months. There are splatters of white from my broken dry-shampoo bottle, bits of grey hair from when Dad shaved for his new job but forgot to clean it up, and a million little bits and pieces: hairbrushes, scrunchies, bobby pins, toothpaste and tweezers.
When it’s night-time and everything is calm, I notice how gross it is. My eyes zero in on each speck of dirt and grime, and I wonder how we’ve been living like this and no one has said anything. Usually, Mum will berate the entire family for the dirty surfaces – bathroom, kitchen or lounge. But she’s been busy, up before me and home after me. I know she’s gone because when I step into the bathroom for my morning shower, she’s left her pyjamas on the floor.
The bathroom has now become a place to be by appointment only. I’m up at 5:30 so Dad can shower at 5:45 but make sure Jack is in there by 6. I think Mum had a shower at 3, but I never heard her. She slips out silently each morning and I think about it too much – how she’s perfected the art of overworking. We hold secret meetings when Mum is late, her dinner plate sitting at the table without her. We talk about how she’s gone, why she never comes home on time and how we worry. Mum arrives home tired, eats dinner and announces, ‘I need a bath.’
If I’m annoyed that she chooses a bath over family time, I won’t say it. Instead, I buy her bath bombs and hide them like Easter eggs: one in her bathroom drawer, one by the bath, one where she always shoves her pyjamas on the floor. She doesn’t say thank you, but I see pink residue left in the bath. It’s just another dirty thing I notice when I brush my teeth at night.
Our bathroom is disgusting.
Photo by LeeAnn Cline on Unsplash