I wrote this about a year and a half ago, and these days are very busy for me, so I’ll just repost it. And I know just how they feel.
The limo that had picked her up at the airport stopped in front of the house she had only seen in the picture her uncle had sent her. In person, it looked better than she had hoped. She waited for the driver to open her door, the cage on her lap as she brought one leg out of the vehicle, and then the other. She ignored the driver’s startled stare at the cage’s content, and the impoliteness of his absent hand in assisting her. She figured he was afraid. So many men were, these days.
She didn’t watch him drive away. Instead she stood on a paved path she knew belonged to her although she had not stood on it before today. She knew she would find many boxes inside her new home. The moving truck had already delivered them the week before. Her heart felt a pang as she thought of her country, her family, all the friends, the culture she had left behind. She had abandoned it all for her new job. Almost all. She hadn’t been able to leave him, after all. She felt the weight of the cage dig into her curled palm, and took solace in it.
Her uncle had moved to this land many years ago, but she could still remember sitting on his lap as a child as she listened to the stories he told about his travels as a businessman, but it had been his brother Carlos, her other uncle, the doctor, who had burned in her a need to see the world through scientific eyes. It was because of him she had done what she had done, and because of him she could now carry a man in a cage as easily as others carried cats.
She closed the front door, and breathed the air of her new home. Her uncle had picked it out for her, and she had accepted his gift with gratitude. She could have picked any home, anywhere. She could do anything now, because of her uncle Carlos’s work. No one else would have been able to bring one of them to this country without miles of red tape and weeks of quarantine, but she had only needed to express her reluctance to part from him, and they had even sent her the cage, padded and readied for the small shape that would occupy it. She set it on the floor, and opened its grated door.
“There, little one. This is home now. I know it’s only boxes now, but with a little work we will make it look- hey!”
She watched him bolt from the cage. His legs scissored madly as he ran blindly, his shoulder bumping into a box that read “books 19”, but not enough to stop him. He rounded a cardboard corner, and was gone from her sight.
“Pequeñito, come here!” she called, looking around and into the dark alleys the many boxes shaped.
He’s still afraid, very afraid of me, she thought, chagrined. No amount of tenderness had calmed his terrified resentment, and she had a difficult time blaming him. The virus had started shrinking him only one week ago, and he had been infected intentionally, without his knowledge. She did not think he would ever forgive her, and the sorrow she constantly caught in his eyes had been the main reason she had brought him along.
“Where are you?” She looked in the kitchen, and the main bedroom. Most of the other doors were closed, and at twenty-two inches in height, he was unable to turn the knobs to open them and hide. Finding him was a matter of time. She spotted the main bathroom’s door. It was cracked a few inches.
A-ha! she thought, There’s my Little One.
She slipped her feet off her shoes and took quiet steps she knew he could feel even though the carpet absorbed most of their shock. She pushed the door open slowly, and lo, he stood on the tile floor, shivering with fright, his head low as he covered his eyes with diminute, masculine hands. She sighed and gasped when her feet moved from carpet to tile. It was cold to her, and many times more so to him. He did not run as she kneeled close to him, extending her palm for the first time instead of grabbing him. She pressed the back of her hand against the floor, cold as it was, and waited. She knew he could see it when his hands moved a fraction away from his face.
“Please don’t be afraid of me, Little One. I will never hurt you. I will always keep you with me, and protect you. You will never be alone again. I’m sorry I did this to you, but maybe one day you’ll understand I had little choice.”
She heard him sigh, and when her little feet began to move in her direction, she had to swallow her relief, biting her lip at the tickling sensation of his toes on her fingers. He dropped his knees onto the ball of her palm, and curled his body, his hands only leaving his face to slide toward the back of his head. She lifted him slowly, bringing herself up on her feet as well. Her eyes never left him as she began to kiss his back. Once, and again, until his arms extended for an embracing hold.
She stood there for a while, feeling his small bottom sink into her forearm, and his arms stretch around her neck. He was breathing into the hollow of her collarbone, and finally spoke. His words were a shock to her, as he had done nothing but scream and cry after being shrunk.
“I can forgive you for shrinking me. I can forgive you for taking me away from everything and everyone I love. I can let go of your snatching my life away and giving me one of your own shaping. I can forget all that belonged to me. My books, my work, my money, everything. One day, I may even understand why you did what you did to me.
What I will never forgive … is this barbaric room.”
He fell silent then. Puzzled, she thought of asking him what he meant, but looked around the room instead. The bathroom was beautiful. Bronze fixtures gleamed from the vintage claw tub. A diaphanous shower curtain gathered around its side. The tile, cold as it was, was a rich off-white with maroon embossing. The sink’s fixtures matched the tub’s. She looked at the toilet, her eyes widening. She clutched his body to hers as she whirled in place, looking for something that should have been there, something that was not there, her horrified understanding growing. He clutched back, acknowledging her realization with the slightest pinching of his little fingers.
There was no bidet.
* * *
There is a group of people that moves to the United States with an important piece of data missing from their body of knowledge: bathrooms in the U.S. are not regularly fitted with bidets. Sure, we get used to that primeval lack in hotels when we visit the country, but when we move here, we realize with great horror that homes don’t have them either.
The idea of toilet paper seems, in comparison, as hygienically deficient as brushing our teeth with a fingertip. I find it risible that the Wikipedia article about toilet paper explains that people use water to clean themselves in countries where toilet paper is not an affordable solution. They have it backwards. In those places it is preferable to be assuredly clean, than to remain in doubt which is later removed by underwear streaks.