The water’s poured to a level my husband says is “too high.” The window is open, just enough to release some of the steam, not enough to give the neighbours a shock. One foot in. A bit hot? Nope, just about manageable. Second foot, kneel down, get used to the heat, body in. The release is instant as the bubbles swarm over my chest, shoulders and neck.
It’s early. The blackbirds, magpies and pigeons are awake, skittering around the trees. We have four baby magpies in our garden that like to make their presence felt, crying and mewing for food. Last night I put extra food out for the hedgehogs, knowing they wouldn’t eat it all, but the leftovers would give me respite in the morning from the squawking, red mouths.
All is calm in my watery world. Book in hand I dip down deeper, one foot resting on the cold tap, enjoying the contrast with the steamy water below. Then a noise. A bark. Another bark. Then the accompanying owner screeching a name the dog never would have chosen. I could stand up and shut the window, but from experience of the relentless parade of canine walkers that patrol the otherwise quiet park behind our house I know their caterwauling will penetrate the glass and find an unwelcome home in my head. The dog has no interest in the owner and is off doing its own thing, the more the human shouts, the further away the dog goes. Probably seeking some peace.
I read the same line of my book three times. Not once does it make it across the barrier of sound that is now encompassing my brain.
I sink down, water lapping at my mouth and nose. The warmth enters my ears, whooshing at first, then mingling with tiny air pockets. Tilting my head, the air escapes from each ear with squeak. Then, nothing.
I hold my body still, wedging my knees against the cold sides, to prevent any sloshing. Bubbles run along my back, seeking escape, they find a path through tiny hairs and up along my neck, tiny fingers writing their stories on my skin.
I try to remain under the water, but my brain starts to react to the quiet. “Is it good for my ears to be in hot water?” “What if my eardrum gets damaged?” “Is that crack in the ceiling getting longer?”
Sitting up the world is still, muffled. The water runs out of my ears and the sound is replaced by crackles and pops as the bubbles in my hair react to being removed from their floating landscape.
The quiet was brief, but restorative. My brain has settled again. My hearing is calm. My day can begin.