Friday, April 7

Not Just Baths

Around the corner to my flat is a shop that sells baths; not just baths but also various bathroom fixtures, showers, vanity units, sanitary ware, towel rails, and lights. It lies underneath another block of flats and is front by six big panels of glass—‘The baths sell themselves.’ Everyday I walk past (twice) and look inside. The whole shop is a collection of bathroom fractures, each incomplete, but standing resolutely detached. Somewhere around this city there must be at least one of every bathroom, complete and installed and just what the customer wanted. There is a showpiece freestanding bath near the entrance; the plumbing concerns me somewhat but still I ponder its capacity to withstand two occupants fucking vigorously inside. There is a discount. The bath is seventeen-fifty. The shop is run by several young men. Occasionally they will be tending the customers at the desk – spanning three workstations – and talking their hard-earned customer through the various options and installation costs. The customers never face each other or the salesclerk, instead the three of them form a sort of triangle. The customers nod when they like or agree with something the salesclerk says and that is when the salesclerk knows he is on to a winner.
That’s where the couples go. It is a couples showroom.
Passing by, I stare in through the large windows. The couples go in there to buy baths; not just baths but also various bathroom fixtures, showers, vanity units, sanitary ware, towel rails, and lights. One of the salesclerks shows them around and they stand and look at the bath or the shower and they consider it. ‘Hmm, yes, I like that.’ The couples, they are the same age as me and they are so in love that they have pooled their money together to buy a bath or a shower. They’re fixing up their bathroom. There are always couples in there, young people in love, looking at the products and eyeing the price. It could be the first bath they have ever bought. I have never bought a bath before. If I should fall in love and wish to take the next step – buying a bathroom fixture – then it would be the first time for me, too. I would not know what to look for and would probably call my father, away from my partner so that she would believe that I always knew what I was talking about.
Do they know they are being watched, by me, that devilish voyeur at the window? No, they are weighing up the price of that shower enclosure—‘Maybe you’d like to look at our misted glass options?’ All the couples are so pretty, so precious, so fixated.
I steam the glass up with my breath. My thoughts fly backwards to an ill-fated furniture-shopping trip with my ill-fated love. It was over Notting Hill. Sofas, sofas and me valuing her opinion, for her eye was much better than my own. We ran our thumbs over fabric swatches and plumped our rumps on sofas to ascertain which was most comfortable. If, for a moment, the salesclerk left us alone, and she was deeply looking at some piece of furniture of other, I would regard her and believe that my life was moving in the right direction. She looked so beautiful and the sun was shining so winterly bright & beautiful that day that I decided that indeed my life was moving in the right direction.
And so the couples consider the baths and showers and I pass on by.

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