The day after
I take a shower
I clean my kitchen. There are dishes piled up in the sink, and I work to pick them off one by one. I cover my stomach with the water that splashes on to me. I scrub my pan, rinse it, and then scrub it again until the bottom is clean.
I take out yesterday’s food and order groceries. I’m not hungry yet, but I don’t want my food to be frozen when I am.
I get in the shower. I told a friend yesterday that there’s not a lot a shower can’t fix. I stand under the stream of water and comb out shed hairs. I’ve been wearing my hair up too much.
Sometimes, I cry. Today, I stand in the water until I can’t feel my shrivelled-up hands.
I try not to think about the previous night. My knee is still a bit red from where I slammed it against my fridge.
Instead, I think about a philosophy reading that I did last week. My ethics class this semester has been about Kant, and I’ve been spending a lot of time reading Groundwork.
The argument goes something like this. There is something wrong about bad things happening to good people and good things happening to bad people. There is some necessary connection between being good and being happy. People must be virtuous to deserve happiness.
That summary is not quite right. I’ve butchered it somewhere in my brain.
I lather my hair with conditioner, feeling how slippery the product is in my hands. Some of it falls onto the floor. The water has started to feel too hot on my back, but I’m still shivering.
Kant commits himself to the view that good people deserve to be happy.
Yesterday, I left a Zoom call to stare at my ceiling. I’m in a new dorm, so there were no visible cracks above me like there were in New House. My shades were open, but it was too cloudy outside to see the sun.
This all doesn’t matter. In the shower, the only light is the fluorescent bulb above me anyway. I scrub at my back with a loofah. I want to be more gentle with myself, but I’m not sure how.
It’s easy to think that Kant is wrong; people usually tell me that everyone deserves to be happy.
This morning I woke up and reread a letter my friend sent me. She said that she owed it to me to write it. I’m never sure whether that’s true.
How good do you need to be for love to be owed to you?
I wash out the conditioner and other products from my hair. I wash my face with my shower-exclusive face wash. My skin feels too bumpy under my fingers.
My therapist keeps telling me that there are many ways to do good in the world; I can just pick one of them.
My mom asked me once what the difference between therapy and philosophy is if both are supposed to guide my life. I told her that, for me, therapy is less about which decision to make and more about helping me once I’ve made it.
There are a lot of ways to do good in the world, but there are more ways to do bad.
I don’t need help making the right choice; I need help feeling happy.
Kant says that hardly anyone is virtuous enough to be deserving of the happiness they have. Maybe I’m only happy because the world is imperfect.
I get out of the shower. The bath mat my mom sent me soaks up the water dripping down from my head. I’d forgotten, last night, that there are people who love me. I kept asking myself, am I good enough to be happy?
The question has changed, today.
Do I deserve the happiness that I have?
I don’t know, but I want to.
I brush out my wet hair. I eat breakfast cold.
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