On the second morning, I can’t yet perceive the hesitancy holding me back from entering the shower. The first sign is that I’ve just been standing on the bathmat without much inclination at all, and only after a long moment of pondering the height difference between the old white and salmon sinks do I remember that the water is on and that I’ve set the temperature as far to the northwesterly direction as possible, toward its best rotational approximation of an absolute zero.
I’m surprisingly good at just standing. Sometimes too good. Sometimes it feels like an indelibly etched skill, but more recently I’ve found it a patch of rough ice over which I should like to zamboni a smooth surface.
To step directly into a sustained, shocking cold water isn’t a geological shift from how I’ve been showering previously. Long, languid, mindless periods of washing, standing, thinking-and-not-thinking, followed by — on the days when I can remember — a brief sprinkle of cold, limiting punctuation. But even if it’s a shift of degrees, not from doing nothing to something, but just of increased duration, the perception of fear changes how I feel about it.
Because inside a stream of hot water is a luxury that finds no satiating end. An hour into it and I’d still probably find ways to pass the time, unbored, unmoored, unrelentingly appreciating the warmth and steam and balming ebb of sedation.
The cold shower, from the start, cannot end quickly enough, a tightening spring from which a timer in my feet hopscotch to keep warm, for fear of all the bad things that happen when my feet lose their heat. No dilly-dallying. A tenth of what it would otherwise have taken, that unending warm morning shower from which I rarely wish to escape.