leur

grid

A collection of community posts and online content

When Bathrooms Flood

I. 

The house I grew up in was nothing special. Old enough for the back end to have sunken a few inches into the ground, but not enough to be charming. A brazen crepe myrtle by the driveway balanced out the chipping, dirt-white paint on the front porch to make it overall average in appearance.

After saying my bedtime prayer I’d lie awake in a panicked sweat before running across the hall to my parents’ room. The concept of heaven was fresh in my mind and once I failed to wrap my head around eternity the whole idea of an afterlife filled with strawberries, never-ending laughter, and giant houses they tell little kids about in Sunday school had me convinced I never wanted to die. My mom would win me over by threatening the alternative.

In third grade, I picked up all of my stuffed animals and moved to the guest bedroom on the opposite side of our house. My new sanctuary and the hub of my familial espionage, I would sit in the adjoined bathroom and auscultate whispered conversations from all corners of the house. I became all knowing, privy to my parents’ speculations on my (gay) sexual prowess and debates of their own infidelities. 

And I had my own secrets. No matter how old I was there was always something to hide in my room: conversations with unidentified boys, diaries that would have alarmed any cognizant parent, and later stashes of illicit drugs. Each their own form of escape. As I grew up, the room grew with me, complicit in as my closest ally in rebellions. 

 

II. 

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016. The air was cool but I could already feel the stickiness that accompanied summer. At 9:34 p.m. my mom texted me: 

“ We’re going to flood. ” 

The intrusion would proceed for several days and stand at two feet, seeping into the walls, distorting wooden floorboards, marring the furniture, ultimately ruining everything it touched. It was a small flood in north Louisiana, foreshadowing one much more severe to come farther south a few months later. Barely anyone in my college town had even heard about it. 

Walking home to my dorm that night I felt a glimpse of homelessness. The decrepit street lamps set the mood like an old jazz video. Spotlight after spotlight of harsh, yellowed buzzing exposed tears I couldn’t explain. 

 

III. 

It was Saturday when the water subsided. I went to the local gay nightclub with my friends, per routine. It was objectively the cleanest bar a nineteen-year-old in Baton Rouge could get into, which isn’t saying much. Fog and neon welcomed queer youth looking for a place to relax in their new town famed for football, beer, and everything masculine. 

I joked with my friends that I was a flood victim, now homeless in a humorous, cynical way. I brought it up incessantly and surprised myself each time. My new status was the ploy of the night for free drinks.

My mom had asked me to come home that weekend, but I claimed the flooded house was too traumatic to witness. There was nothing I could do anyways; I would be stuck around people I wasn’t close with, sleeping at another house that didn’t feel like mine—not that the mildew-stinking house ever did either. 

 

IV. 

The summer after sixth grade I went (was forced) to church camp. Every evening of that long week we gathered in a chapel to sing along to some obscure Christian alternative rock band—one that sounds just like every other Christian alternative rock band berating you from the radio of your mom’s Chevy suburban on a Sunday morning. I hated it. 

I was a fake masquerading for my life among a crowd I believed would turn on me in an instant. As we sang along every night, I grew more desperate to escape. This honest, open, ever-smiling mass could not know I was gay. I was more scared of them than anything they preached.

If you’ve ever even been to church camp you know what it’s like—the singing and hand holding and crying. I dreamed of an Opheliac demise in the muddy lake just outside the chapel doors. The omnipresent persistence of youth pastors preaching purity and kids too happy to be believable was driving me mad. They, and the music that played on stage, were everywhere. At home, school, on the way to soccer practice. But I never went to the lake. Instead the song washed over me from the stage:

"There is a fountain filled with blood

Drawn from Immanuel’s veins

And sinners plunged beneath that flood

Lose all their guilty stains..."

 

V. 

The night I came home from camp I waited till all the lights were off and I snuck into the kitchen to grab the grey-handled scissors from their drawer. Back in my bathroom I desperately I tore apart a 12-pack bag of BIC disposable shaving razors I had yet to need. Frantically I pried and picked and wedged the scissors in between the thin blades. Orange and disposable, it didn’t take long to break them apart. 

It must have been a queer sight to the heavenly figures I believed were always watching me at the time. I sat on my toilet with my underwear over my knees, committing the edgy yet comparably safe alternative to teen suicide. The BIC razors became a weekly ritual. Panic, fear, and hatred would fester inside of me until I need to cut them all out to stop myself from crying. 

Afterwards, I would sit on the cold tile ask, 

“God, what have you done?”

 Sometimes to myself, sometimes not.

Several nights a week for years onward I would finish this act with a shower. The steam rolled throughout the bathroom like a fog as water reddened my chest and blood washed down my leg and through the drain. I got back in bed while the pillow was still wet with tears.

"There is a fountain filled with blood

Drawn from Immanuel’s veins

And sinners plunged beneath that flood

Lose all their guilty stains..."

 

VI. 

Writing this I’m in a new house. My roommate has never been to my small hometown. He’ll never read this either. His house also flooded years ago in New Orleans.

The bathroom is my favorite room; it is of every house I inhabit, if even for just a night. They’re bright and varying, with pedestal sinks and colorful tiles. They offer privacy unjustifiable anywhere else. Your guard is completely down. You bare it all, forced to acknowledge every piece of yourself. All great horror scenes are in a bathroom because it’s the most intimate set for such a violation.

When I shower most things are the same. I still feel the hot water pepper my back. The steam still clogs my nostrils. Yet all that seeps through the drain is water. All that washes off of me is the day’s dirt. I still feel the vestigial wounds on my thighs; they remind me every morning of my past. 

Changing in front of others I wonder if they notice. When I swim I watch for my shorts to gather up and expose me. When I have sex I wonder if the man below me can tell what they are as his hands run over them. 

"Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple - "

1 Corinthians 3:16-17

VII.

On the eve of my eighteenth birthday I waited for the clock to strike midnight. My mother always told me “nothing good happens after midnight.” I always told her I was at a friend’s house, or I just slipped through my bedroom window. 

Within minutes I was in my small town’s gay bar. The same bar that compelled my mom to vocalize her disgust every time we passed by. I sat at the tall, rickety tables with men I knew as well as myself, men I had never known before. Music drowned out all but the loudest shouts as drag queens whipped synthetic hair. I never wanted it to end. 

 

VIII. 

I rejoiced that Saturday night on the dance floor, numbness overtaking my brain in a way so familiar to nights spent drowning at home. The walls of my childhood prison were gone forever. The walls that watched me expose my deepest secrets and destroy myself were no more. 

My sanctuary was gone, but so was what my sanctuary shielded me from. The flood was a victory. I spent years floundering, gasping for breath, sometimes thinking I would never resurface in that house. But the flood didn’t wash me away, only the sin I had left behind. 

 

- Ryan Thaxton is a 20-year-old from Monroe, Louisiana currently studying Mass Communications at Louisiana State University.