Eating an Apple Taking a Shower
Usually when I take a shower I don’t feel the need to eat anything, possibly out of fear of diluting my food. You wouldn’t bring a fortune cookie in, would you, or anything crisp—like toast? But an apple, hell, it comes with its own skin designed to protect the meat of the fruit, if that’s the word to describe it, from possible contaminants in the sap moss detangler and the harsh soap I swiped from a Southern California motel. You could bring walnuts or coconuts in the shower with the same freedom from care, though eating them would be a different story, wouldn’t it? Are there foods moist on the outside, crispy on the inside? Maybe shredded wheat in a bowl of milk? In my head I pictured myself debating whether to try to take a shower before eating the apple, or vice versa, and in the interests of expediency I thought of trying both at the same time. Not only for the reasons advanced above, either. Perhaps there was an erotic component to it, the twist the serpent had in mind when he enticed Eve to reach up and pull that apple off its branch or whatever.
“Just touch it,” whispers the snake. Red and round, the apple lolls on the tree, nearly ripe. In Paradise everything’s always ripe, ready to eat. There was just one thing God didn’t want her to do. She could have had any other apple in the universe.
The shower too comes down to us with its full component of myth. Picture Danae, daughter of Argos and Eurydice, who Argos kept locked up in the tower of bronze where no man could get at her, for it had been prophesized that her son would grow up and destroy the world. Horny Zeus got past this restriction by appearing to Danae as a shower of gold from a cloud, impregnating her and begetting Perseus. Was there something seminal about rain that attracted the ancients? It was always going to be about rain making the earth moist enough to grow something in it, perhaps an apple tree.
Should I peel the apple or just eat it without peeling it? My mouth opened and my jaws closed down on one demi-quadrant of the fruit. I felt its stem scratch the underside of my nose. Shampoo and sap moss dripped down my face, stinging my eyes. Eyes closed and sore, I watched myself like a pig, a pig with an apple stuffed in its mouth. How could they make such a spectacle of the poor pig, I wondered. It was the final insult for the slaughtered beast. For minutes at a time I forgot where I was, thinking about the pig. Who was it, for example, who had prepared pigs with apples in their mouths? Julia Child? Or was it some medieval cooks in some Beowulf type movie I had seen once, as a child, strong men in armor seated at a long refectory table clanging beer steins in unison on their heavy silver plates? Singing Viking songs of conquest and doom? Meanwhile I was getting cleaner and cleaner, flakes of my own skin fleeing my body in haste, new layers appearing pink and red and soft. Still I wasn’t getting much traction on the apple. A fleeting thought appeared on the cloudy shower mirror: if I ate the apple would I be expelled from Paradise? I remembered one afternoon in Kings Park, a North Shore suburb of Long Island, when a boyfriend of mine criticized the way I took a shower, claiming that when I washed my hair I did it so hastily it always wound up looking dirtier and oilier than before. He came up with a little pamphlet made for the civics lessons of immigrants that delineated hair washing in three vital steps. The chief of them were that you must concentrate on the crown of your head, the very top of your scalp, and the sides of your head above your ears. If those places were clean, you were clean all over, for the crown and the sides of the head are where all the oil-producing follicles grow. Everything else is a mere addition. I will never forget his look of contempt and that awful little booklet with pictures and Spanish text. It couldn’t have been more than two inches tall, but kept folding out to show line drawings of men with dirty or unkempt hair being mocked by a crowd. At the time I thought there must be some citizenship requirement which stated that in addition to knowing the names of all US presidents (we were up to Gerald Ford by then) you must wash your hair in front of a judge.
The apple dropped from my mouth, crashed to the floor of the tub. A little splash resulted, but in general my ankles were streaming wet anyhow. It wasn’t something I felt, it was something I saw. There, between my bare feet, the wet apple with punctures and, I suppose, dirt streaming over it. The shower head started to scream. Steam wafted up from the apple below me. The mirror clouded over completely, all you could see was a wash of gray and my eyes, vague and red, my eyes murmuring and hurt and still, after thirty years, still ashamed about having been such a greasetrap as a boy.