2013 | 1 | Drainages: An update on method
Back in January 2011, just a few months after QUE was born, I wrote a piece called The Erotics of Drainage. Inspired, in part, by Bruce Nauman’s Body Pressure (1974), this was my first attempt at writing a method of everyday embodiment.
At the time, I was living in a decadent Victorian house near Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods Park. The house had the most magnificently large bathroom, complete with a freestanding tub. Having spent the previous year living in Hungary in what amounted to a one-star hotel room with a stall shower scarcely large enough to contain the flow of water, I had forgotten the discrete pleasure of a long hot soak. So, inadvertently channeling Laura‘s Waldo, I took to bathing as a sort of auto-erotic practice of body work. (For a queer reading of Laura, see Lee Edelman’s  chapter “Imagining the Homosexual: Laura and the Other Face of Gender” in Homographesis: Essays in Gay and Literary Cultural Theory)
As the 2011 post established in the format of a set of instructions, the bath (or ‘a drainage’) became something of a method not just for relaxation, but also for the exploration of erotic architectures – articulations of my body with the sound and force of the old house – as well as a way to experiment with self-dismantling and reconstruction, both of which circulated around experiential engagements with weight and density.
Despite no longer taking daily baths, the method retains a cohesion which means that I can no longer simply ‘soak for a few.’ Instead, each bath is another instant in the series of moments which consist in their own temporality – a long embodied performance for nobody. Each drainage witnesses changes in my body and consciousness. This summer, I engaged the method in Italy, where I experienced a particularly powerful drainage culminating in the temporary detachment of my penis: It just floated away down the drain with the last of the water, leaving a small purple patch of skin in its place. Being temporarily freed from this part of my anatomy felt liberating, giddy, lightening; like the method was working on me. Unfortunately, after I stood up, it came back.
I have also tried the method in my new house, where, despite having a much smaller bathroom, I am fortunate to have a luxuriously deep tub. While I typically don’t write reflections on the drainages anymore, I did come across a journal entry from Fall 2013 which seemed worthy of reporting as a ‘state of the method’:
Every time I have a bath I am reborn into the weight of this body.
Senselessly hot. My heart races while my face sweats, desperately trying to cool me down as my legs, too wet with the water of first entry, refuse evaporation in the smoke thick steam filling the tiny tiled room. I am relaxing after a long day. If (and only if) my muscles give way to bone, I am lucky to float a little bit, legs jacked up on the faucet side of things, ass pointed out, yielding to nothing but senselessly hot.
A tiny bit of residual piss is the only new matter here; the bath is an art of diminishment. I promise to try to make it until the evening offering has burnt through, but I didn’t turn that damned noisy fan on so the air is overly thick with molecules of bergamot, clove, orange, nutmeg. Without the usual meditation, I let go of the golden thread of breath long enough to thoughtlessly turn the stopper. My only important decision is when to drain. From now, I take only one position, again floating 4, in a figure four turned on its side. [symbol].
A plumber came last week and snaked my drain so theres no sweet slowness. No. Water doesn’t wait now, it flows fast and, with some conversational level of sound, becomes waste. The wasted parts of today. The last flecks of my poorly peeled nail polish from this weekend’s drag.
No bubbles today to fizz and tickle my exposed parts. Once the water is out, leaving only a tidal pool on the small of my back, I’m just a wet body. I still hear the liquid sound of my heartbeat as if under water; my veins lined with innumerable tiny ears each pulling my attention in bump bump starts. But the usual attention to that rhythm soon fades back into my perpetual background ringing; a legacy of loudness, a tattoo heard but never seen.
My eyes are open now – maybe they were before, but not to see – and now they seek out some line. From my sacral nubs to the occiput, I break the curve of my spine, turning my head toward the opaque window, magnesium orange light diffused through slowly dripping tidal waves of condensation. Hundreds of tiny rivers making vertical terrain against a towering line of polypropylene bottles.
I do not – can not – move. My mind is rushed upon by these words. They’re seeking a line of escape from the bottom of the tub, but I only want to go back under wherever I am now that words replace water in this tub. They are already trying to drain themselves onto the page that is in the other room, empty in my notebook.
I still can’t move. Don’t move. Don’t want to move. I’m coming back now. Wondering if the offering is done now. Its smell still hangs heavily in the steam rising from my slowly drying body, but I cannot see where it sat because my legs have fallen open like a book with only one page in it, unsure of whether to fall this way or that. My spine is rolled out again, unbroken, pressing quite firmly into the shell of the tub. The pain of this weight, uncushioned, becomes a motivation. Still, I don’t move. I have no idea how long, but wondering makes me know: almost long enough.
I start to consider the move. Once it happens, I can’t start again or stop because the work is too hard. My muscles don’t plead, they simply refuse to animate bone. If I could float out, if I could float! But I am almost a little bit dry and the clove resin is raining back down on me, making me want to vomit and that can’t be my first move. So, I start with my hands.
I lift them from my ribcage where they had been resting, wings folded in, one hand over the other, keeping my heart contained, calm, beating its liquid stop and go sympathy. Now its an internal rhythm again and I’m stuck with the external so I reach for the outside of my knees and begin to close the book, which, indifferent to the pages, creaks from my hip until my knees meet. I release their heft to the right. This space is small and deep and not configured for elegance.
My movements are interrupted by the sputtering of rubber wet skin pulling against the still shallow eddies of the tub floor. Movement is not easy. It involves enormous and minute effort. It involves immense coordination. I may not get out, I may sleep here until I am too cold. Then B might think I’m dead. He usually leaves the bath full when he gets out “To dissipate the energy so it isn’t wasted” and I’ve not done that, of course.
I will not sleep, I am already folded as an absurdly large fetus in a water broken womb, hard edged and unwelcoming; I’d rather not, I’d really rather not. You’ll pardon the image because its me in the tub now, not Oedipus. This is nobody’s fault. All reprieves are temporary, so don’t blame the method.
I start to push. It doesn’t work at first; I feel too heavy on my own tender joints. With a swift inward breath, I push again and I am on all fours, head heavy, always the last to go, I’d leave it if I could, but, now, thats really the decapitation fantasy; not about suicide at all, but about the monstrosity of having this head demanding uprightness.
With an unplanned ease, mismatched to the moment, I grip the sides of the tub and swing my feet beneath me. Noodling my spine to vertical, meeting the window written map of condensation trails, I am, once again, too heavy to be still.
Stepping out, I furtively grab my towel. There is little left to dry that wasn’t already taken by the smoke sweet mist, now vapor, soon to be evacuated by the exhaust fan, rumbling. Another escaping particle.
I to bed.
The drainpipe will be relieved that the water’s scheduled to be shut off tomorrow.