Pain in the joints so bad I decide to get in the bath and soak in hot water. I run the water, test the blend of hot and cold, if baby turns red, I remember, don’t insert elbow in bath, water too hot for elbow.
Bath water bubbles in. I set the fan for steam extraction. Test the water. Seems fine.
High the step into the bath and I cannot raise the right leg high enough. The left leg is worse. I lay flat along the bath edge, naked, of course, and think: “How do I get in?”
The left leg will not rise. I stand on tiptoe, pushing up from the right leg’s toes: cramp, shit! I slide back down, swivel, and my belly is cold against the bath’s edge.
I refuse to give in. I try again. I raise the left leg, ouch, cramp in the right toes, and slide the left leg over the bath’s edge. I slide weight to the left, raise the right leg and slip into the bath, on my knees, face down.
I grab the sides of the bath, flip myself over, and victory: I am on my back in warm water, feeling the comfort of the whirlpool’s heat seep into my bones.
Exercises: I raise my legs and move ankles, then do the windshield wiper, left right. I feel immediate benefits in hips. Then comes the slow military march, legs slightly raised against bath end, left, right, left.
Raise both hips now, then gyrate them, left to right, twenty times, and reverse. Now up and down, raising them in a familiar though nearly forgotten motion.
Twenty minutes, they say, or else you may suffer. So I call my wife and she runs upstairs and turns off the motor. The whirlpool ceases.
Now I must get out. I have a funny feeling that something is wrong. My wife pulls the plug and water drains from the bath. The last thing I want is to lie face down in an inch or two of water and drown.
I roll to the left and slip on the bath’s bottom. I roll to the right and slide again. I grasp the handle on the left … it comes out in my hand. With nothing to grasp, I can’t sit up. So I lie there with the water draining away.
I start to panic. Mustn’t panic. I’m in pain. Not that much pain. I must fight. I can’t give in. Again I try to turn over … and again.
Tears. Sweat. I get cramp in the toes, and in the lower legs, where I push against the bath’s end. Panic now and a tightness in my chest with bile edging up in my throat to choke me. I half-turn but fall again and bang my head. Don’t struggle. Don’t panic. Think.
I ask for the towel and my wife slips it under my feet. No good: my hips still slide. I need to pee. Hang on. I can’t hang on. I tighten my stomach muscles involuntarily and urine spurts. My wife slides the towel under my knees: I get more grip but my arms won’t hold. I slip and squeeze. Oh no: my bowels are turning to water. I groan and hope but I can’t hold on and bath and body are soiled. But I have rolled over and now I lie face down, in push up position, humiliated, soiled, tears streaming down my face, breathing above the absent water.
My wife goes downstairs to get the garden kneeler. It won’t fit in the bath. I experiment with my walking stick, but it’s no good, it slips and just won’t hold. Naked, shrunken, smelling like I don’t know what, I can’t face calling the neighbors or the fire department.
My wife kneels beside me. Together we haul the now wet towel beneath my torso and finally I gain a dry base on the slippery bath; no sliding now. I curse as my wife sinks sharp fingers into my fragile flesh and helps me to rise. Together we force me into a kneeling position. From here I can empower my arms and push myself up.
It has taken me twenty-five minutes to get out of that bath. I stink and I am no longer clean. Dipped in my own excrement, I hobble to the shower in the other bathroom and hose myself down.