My inaugural act of 2018 was taking an enormous shit in a toilet that wouldn’t flush. All my pipes were frozen because I forgot to leave the water running. Habit nailed into me by years of repetition. Turn the faucet on and then turn it off when you’re done. Don’t waste water.
I left for work hoping the pipes wouldn’t explode. I’d work all day and then come home to my latest domestic disaster. Horrible hissing sounds. Jagged, broken pipes spurting foul liquid. A drowned cat.
When I got home nothing had exploded. The landlord went into the basement and heated the pipes with a giant, tubular blowtorch. I was finally able to flush.
It’s torturously cold. I’m a political prisoner in Siberia, wasting away in a frigid cell. The Cheka would strip their victims naked, hose them down with cold water and then toss them out into the streets where they would turn into statues. This is as close as I’ll come to the agony of a purged Russian peasant. I’m a lucky man.
I’m not a twisted ice sculpture of death but my house is even more unsettling than usual. The bearings in the furnace are wearing down and making a high pitched, grinding noise and I’m letting the faucets run to prevent the pipes from freezing again. The effect is ominous, a droning portent of a ghoulish crime. The house has no doors so there’s no way to block the constant whining and trickling sound.
Noise is the ferry of madness. Soon I’ll be a babbling lunatic. I’m listening to music but whenever there’s a break between songs I hear the running water and the piercing, discordant furnace. My concentration is already ravaged by years of tedious jobs, drugs and electronic stimulation. Now the blistering cold and noise have shattered my attention. I can’t think but being thoughtless never stopped anyone from writing.
Each season brings its own affliction. The summer sends ravenous insects through the unsealed windows. Winter brings freezing winds and darkness. This house isn’t secure enough to protect me from the subzero temperature. I’m wearing gloves as I type with a space heater pointed at my feet and I’m still cold.
I think about what it would be like to live in unforgiving times among hardened people, in northern climates without modern technology. You need to maintain a fire or you’ll freeze to death. Someone has to chop wood, think ahead, think of the group. Every day is life or death and consequences are acute.
Not like my childhood, when I needed to study the right subjects and get the right scores to set up a comfortable future. It was all too abstract, too distant. I didn’t care. But now I’m living those remote consequences of my youthful disregard. I shiver in front of space heaters listening to the death rattle of my furnace in the record setting cold of a merciless winter.
The furnace broke and I didn’t notice. That’s why it was freezing. An afternoon of unfeeling fingers bludgeoning the keyboard. I worked on this piece for hours before I realized the heat was off. I want to think it’s because of my devotion to my humble craft. But it’s more likely that I’m just dense.