The University of Iowa University of Iowa

An Iowa City Life: “Silence of the Tubs”


TubBy Ben Evans

I made a huge mistake. It was one of those mistakes that stay with you; While I am enjoying my purespa portable bubble spa that i have got at Inflatable Hot Tub Center, relaxing myself I suddenty realized that mistake. one of those mistakes that you make and immediately you wish you could take it back. You know that it will haunt you for the rest of your life or, at least, the rest of the fiscal year. There is no one I can blame but myself, though I wish I could. It would be easier to point an out-stretched finger and clearly state, ‘He made me do it’ or ‘I had a gun to my head.’ But with mistakes like these, this is never the case. So I have decided to put it all down in words, in order for you to understand why I did what I did, and perhaps you can learn from my faults and stay innocent, just for a little while longer. Herein lies my confession:

I watched Silence of the Lambs. To make it worse, I watched it in the middle of the day.

Let me explain. It started two days ago, when one of my professors quoted Hannibal The Cannibal in my Politics lecture. He was talking about political philosophy and why politics is just the study of the Nature of the social human being. Notice, reader, that I capitalized ‘Nature’ in the last sentence. That is because it is important. So, Professor D started quoting Hannibal’s bit on Mark Antony, the part where Jodie Foster makes one last-ditch effort to extract the name of Buffalo Bill from Hannibal’s brain. This is before Hannibal cuts off that guy’s face and wears it like a mask on Halloween. We good? Okay. This sparked my interest in the movie and gave me the urge to watch it; don’t ask me why. I’m pretty sure the idea of a serial killer cannibal quoting philosophy was too delicious for me to just forget. But, the hunger quickly faded as I went from Politics to Jimmy Johns and got a J.J.B.L.T. which was also delicious.

The next day I went to work. At my job in the City, I do nothing. Revision. I answer phones. I take ticket orders over the phone in a world that does its ticket ordering online. Don’t get me wrong, we get a few calls; but these calls are mostly from gambling addicts who are looking for the toll-free addiction hotline, which is one number away from our toll-free ticket hotline. This is annoying. I suppose society dictates that I feel sympathetic for these lost souls, and at one point I did, but after being yelled at thirty times for not realizing that they were ‘feeling low’ and that they didn’t want to ‘see a show,’ I decided to screw the pleasantries. Sometimes I just go along with it, listening to their problems, and then directing them to someone who specializes in their particular gambling addiction. ‘It sounds like you are having quite a hard time, ma’am. You are right, those casinos are crooks. Let me have you talk to someone in that department.’ I then give them the number for the gambling hotline, which is pinned to the community board above my computer.

This day, we had no calls. This is usually when I start searching through Netflix to see if they have decided to put any good movies on the watch instantly list. And that is when I found it. Just staring at me. A suggestion from Netflix. Watch now. By the time I should have changed it to something else, it was too late. I was hooked. I couldn’t stop. The mistake had been made.

I have always been interested in serial killers and worried, stupidly, that this might mean that I am one; that one day I will go on a spree at the local Burger King. But my worries have always stopped when I actually think about the mechanics of the process. Like I wonder if Hannibal ever worried about getting AIDS? I know I would. It’s just kind of one of those things. Wash your hands, clean your dishes, test your human before you eat him. This is a smart guy, but for some reason it seems like he misses the basic hygiene of eating raw meat. You don’t bite into it while it’s still alive! What is this, amateur hour at the Cannibal Club? And I’d say pairing liver with beans is fine, but adding a nice bottle Chianti is just wrong. Unless, of course, the guy was Italian because that would make a little more sense. Liver and beans is more of a cheap whiskey meal: a poor man’s drink for a poor man’s steak. If I were eaten by a cannibal, I would like my best pieces of meat paired with the proper sides and drink. My ribs with corn on the cob and an American beer; my breast meat with a light vegetable medley and a cold Chardonnay; the prize cut, my lean abs, with a potato starch and a glass of Malbec. I don’t know how I would let the chef know these preferences or if he would even respect my wishes. I am guessing that the trigger pullers at the slaughter-house don’t jot down the cows’ opinions on how best they feel their bodies should be prepared. I know Buffalo Bill wouldn’t.

These were the kinds of thoughts that haunted me on my long walk back to my apartment. Hannibal’s eating habits to my preferences to cows’. By the time I opened my door, I was thinking about how dirty the conditions were in Buffalo Bill’s house. I was disgusted by this, unable to understand how he could properly work in those conditions. This is when I realized that my bed-living-TV-dining room was an absolute pit, something like the workstation of a demented serial killer who had his mind set on making a woman suit out of real woman skin. I immediately dropped my bag and started furiously cleaning anything that resembled an unkept existence. I made the bed then dusted the couch, followed by picking up all the clothes strung around the room and dusting my television screen and Xbox 360. It was when I was on the floor, cutting the little strands of carpet that stand up unevenly, that I realized I had yet to do the bathroom. I finished trimming the area rug and started Cloroxing every inch of my bathroom.

My bathroom is small but has its charms: like the quaint tile floor and the deep porcelain sink. But by far, the bathroom’s best feature is 1920′s style tub. This tub was the second facet of the apartment that had caught my eye, only second to the East-facing windows. But what really features the most in my bathroom is the purespa portable bubble massage spa that I bought 2 years ago, and always receives compliments from friends and family who have visited my home. The beauty of this tub is in its shape. At first glance, it is just like any bathtub seen in movies like What Lies Beneath or even Hitchcock’s Psycho, but when inspected closer, the tub shows its true nature. The frame is square but the porcelain flows down to the ground in an oval, like a waterfall cascading to the bottom of a whirlpool, sloping in order to comfortably fit the body of a human. This tub was not made for showers. It was made for baths.

The idea of a bath has always fascinated me. The thought of a person soaking in warm water until their fingers are pruned and their limbs are weak did not seem fun. They seemed to be for old ladies, who can hardly walk in the first place and can not tell the difference between a pruned edge and the odd wrinkle. It was also the idea of soaking in the hair and dirt that previously resided there that sealed the coffin on bathing. When I was in sixth grade, I was told by an upperclassman, who I had quite the little crush on, that bathing was a waste of time because it washed the dirt of your body and made the tub into ‘a kind of human stew.’ The hormonal boy that I was, I was envisioning this girl in a large Whirlpool bubble bath, but this comment changed the visual a bit. The water became brown; the bubbles became potatoes and carrots; the tub became a giant, black cauldron. Needless to say, I no longer had a crush on this girl: hormones are no match for look into a human bouillabaisse. And I vowed never to take a bath again.

But even with this visual, baths were a mystery to me; a sort of forbidden fruit that I would slap myself for thinking about. But I would think about them anyways, while plotting story ideas or day dreaming, or while doing mindless tasks like cleaning my bathroom; something I found myself doing as I was on my knees, bleaching the serial killer out of the tub. This time I didn’t slap myself, but thought, ‘Well, this is the cleanest it will ever be,’ and for the first time in my adult life, drew myself a hot bath.

I quickly realized that bubbles are not just for fun, but are necessary to the bath-taking process. They serve one purpose: to hide. No matter how much you clean a tub, there will always be the odd, gross looking hair or unidentifiable black fleck at the bottom of the tub. I immediately noticed this at the tub was filling with water and, not having formal bath bubbles, reached for the only liquid soap I could find: a bottle of Old Spice ‘After Hours’ body wash. This is the kind of body wash that smells like a stripper’s perfume or an old Italian pomade, which I had bought when I was a freshman thinking that it would easily attract ‘the ladies.’ I don’t know who ‘the ladies’ are, but they have always been spoken about as if they are the most beautiful women in the world, who must also have the worst taste in the world. ‘Look at this belt! It has a bottle opener on it, man. I bought it for the ladies’ or ‘This Hawaiian shirt rocks. It’s for the ladies’ or ‘The ladies will love my new Axe body spray.’ I have never found any of these to be the case; this is what I found with the Old Spice body wash and promptly put it away, where it followed me for two years, unused and open, waiting to be made into bubbles for my first bath. So I squirted half the bottle into the filling tub and the Old Spice seemed happy, bubbling up and hiding the dirt floating around in the tub.

I slid into the tub and found that the bubbles not only hid dirt, but also hid unflattering cellulite and untoned fat pockets. I was in the middle of planning to start an exercise schedule for the ladies when it hit me: a bath. Oh, oh, oh, a bath. Every muscle in my body relaxed and every worry in my head disappeared. The warmth overtook me and I began to feel a sort of comfort that I had not felt in years. The Old Spice began to not smell so bad and my eyes became hazy. I laid my head back on the edge of the tub, which felt like a smooth, firm pillow, and proceeded to daze off into nothingness. I felt sophisticated and well-traveled, clean and precise in what I did; I felt like nothing could hold me down, that I could get through any situation, no matter how bad it could get. I felt that I could do anything. I began thinking about my world and how I needed to appreciate it more and worry less. I thought of how I should have taken baths instead of done therapy, which lead me to think about how crazy psychiatrists are, which lead me to think about Hannibal.

I suddenly realized that Hannibal was clean and sophisticated; he was precise and capable. I snapped out of my daze and shot out of the tub, spilling bubble and water everywhere. I began to think that everything I had done in the last two hours, cleaning the bath tub, clipping the carpet, picking up my clothes, would be exactly what Hannibal would do if he were in this apartment. I half-heartedly dried off, threw the towel on the floor, and began to arrange clothes on the floor and in the corners of my apartment. I messed up the juxtaposition of my throw pillows and poured out the spare change I keep in a glass candy dish I bought at Goodwill, looking at my now messy room, realizing that it looked somewhat like it originally had when walked into the apartment in the first place. ‘Buffalo Bill could live in this apartment,’ I muttered to myself, sighing as if I had failed at not being like a serial killer. I fell onto the couch, defeated. If I am to become a serial killer, I might as well do it my way.

But I had forgotten the difference between me, and Buffalo Bill and Hannibal The Cannibal: I don’t kill people, which is one of the top qualifying factors to being a serial killer. That is pretty much the difference between everyone and a serial killer: we don’t enjoy killing people, and, hopefully, we’re just a little bit cleaner.

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