Window in the shower
There is a window in my shower. Not a window with a pane. Not a window that can shut. An opening to the outdoors, with just a lightweight screen.
It’s a modestly placed window, near the top of the tiled wall. Through the window I can see the leaves of banana trees, and bamboo, and I can smell the rain. It’s a testament to the tropics that it’s okay to be relatively exposed to the elements. It’s okay, all year ‘round. It’s okay, even when you’re at your most vulnerable. It’s okay. In fact, it’s downright luxurious.
The house where I spent the first ten years of my life had old-fashioned radiators; the kind you’d lay your clothes on the night before, so they would be warm in the morning; the ones your mother rattled wooded spoons on from the first floor to get your attention on the second floor. Waking up on a winter morning was a mad dash from the warmth of bed across the comparatively frigid room to clutch the jeans/shirts/socks that had been slow roasting all night. Childhood was trudging through the snow, waiting in the dark for the bus and then shivering on the vinyl seats all the way to school. The cold can teach you a lot, and I revere its tough love, and the crisp, sharp air. But the tropics encourage you to unfold. Smooth out the creases. Look up from your path and into the eyes of your neighbors. Maybe even say hello.
There is a practice, a concept, in Hawaii, called “talk story”. It’s a bit different than “shootin’ the breeze” or “chewing the fat” in that it can just as often happen between strangers as friends. Impromptu, unsolicited conversations crop up all the time. It’s similar to conversations at the pub, or the bar, but happening out on the street. I found that the unspoken camaraderie of public transport made fertile ground for random talk story events. I’ve been drawn into long conversations about transgender issues on the islands; received, after coughing, a personal cold remedy (slice of ginger root under your tongue); and been serenaded. All of this takes time. It requires being present, being open, slowing down, and not…having headphones on.
There is a blurring of the edges that happens in the tropics. My shower window blurs the boundary between outside, and in. The conversations on the street (or bus) blur the boundary between stranger, and friend. And sometimes that takes some patience. Sometimes the outside comes in, or the strangers come closer than you expect. Little six-legged critters sometimes think my home is theirs, or maybe I don’t want to talk story today. But overall, it’s okay. Because I’ve unfolded. And I can see banana leaves outside my shower window.