She sits in the bath, water scalding, warmth rising past her earlobes. Her legs are drawn up to her chest, her chin resting quietly upon her kneecaps. The water covers her hips, leaving her breasts exposed to the cool air, gathering warm moisture on her nipples, sweat beading along her collarbone. She sits, steaming in too-hot water, watching the skin on her long legs turn pale pink, then fire red, burning herself alive. She is long limbed, a willow girl, breathing quietly and languishing softly. Her shoulders are folded in, closing in on her tree trunk body, holding herself together with determined muscles. She looks contemplatively at her puckered prune fingers, and speaks to them, her audience of ten.
“Rumi said that the entire universe is inside us,” she begins, and the audience is immediately silent, though Chopin churns from the stereo on the bathroom counter. “Therefore we should not be alone.”
“But the universe is large and empty, and space is dark, cold, deathly,” she continues. “There are unknown corners of the galaxy, places where even light cannot breathe, and where there is nothing but nothing.” Her fingers stare silently back into her dark universe eyes.
“I think I would prefer a quiet coffee shop to be inside me, with their lattes and frothed warm milk.” She smiles to the water, as the flesh of her legs begins to bubble and burn. “Or perhaps a park by the harbour, where I could watch the water reflect the stars and dream forevermore.”
She pauses again. She breathes.
“I think I would be lonely even if the only thing inside of me was nothing. Perhaps I would be nothing, even if I had collected everything inside my heart.”
Her fingers continue to shrivel, and she takes that as silent agreement. When her skin falls away, she is alone, she is nothing, and the universe watches, and she enjoys the eternal emptiness.