Margaret washed herself in the shower at the same time almost every day. Being off work on disability, she had the luxury of sleeping in until noon and then lounging around her apartment for a few hours. When she heard the school bus coming up the street, she would languidly remove her robe and walk into the bathroom. Cracking open the tiny window, she would hoist her naked mass into the shower and turn the water on as hot as it could go.
There was a gentleman that watched her from a window in an apartment across the courtyard. He was most likely in his mid-forties with a terrible haircut and thick rimmed glasses. He always appeared at the window shortly after the school bus stopped on the street corner. From this only Margaret could presume he had at least one child – maybe he had multiple children. Though Margaret’s apartment had no view of the street side of the building, even if it had, she would never have cared to see what he was like meeting that school bus every day. All she knew, after she heard it arrive, that was her cue to head toward the bathroom.
She always took one cursory glance out the window to ensure he was looking before she began. Once she caught his gaze – and only ever for a moment to confirm his presence – she began her ritual. It was always the same. Her swollen hands lathered the soap and began caressing her body. She always started at her neck and worked downward methodically. She was tender and slow and patient, working her fingers in and around the rolls and curves of her form. This act of bathing herself in view of another person was in no way sexual for Margaret. It was simply the only thing left to do.
The emotional void a man’s gaze fulfilled for her long surpassed any need for physical affection or sexual attention. She had given up that ghost years prior. Years before her accident, years before the accident rendered her immobile. Years before the lack of movement made her gain more weight that she would have imagined. Years before she regained mobility through torturous physical therapy, but just could not muster the motivation, the desire, the concern with reclaiming her now massive body.
When she is finished, when she is clean, she never looks to see if he is still watching her from his window. She is unsure how she would react if he saw her in any other way than in those ten minutes. Indeed, she didn’t exist to anyone else in the entire world outside of those ten minutes. When she is finished, when she is clean, she puts her robe back on and crawls into bed.