Monday, April 26, 2010


I stand at the sink and turn the faucet. My hands are drenched by the rush of ice cold water. I involuntarily reach out for the hand-wash and depress the plunger twice (not once) and work the gel into a lather. The vanilla fragrance and the sweet gush of the tap water take the edge off but the ritual is far from over. I work the lather and scrub my hands for 7 seconds exactly: no more and no less. I silently hum the chorus of a song in my head that clocks off the seconds accurately. I proceed to scrub the back of my hands. Then I knead my wrists with my soapy fingers and get it under each finger nail in quick succession for 7 seconds each. I stop. Iteration one complete. Six more and the ritual is completed. The irrationality behind the repetition of this otherwise sanitary act, confounds me. It scares the living daylights out of me. I once stopped at iteration five and went to bed. But sleep wouldn't come. My hands were crawling with bacteria. Single celled organisms that would find their way inside me and make me sick. Poison me. I yielded to the mania and went to the bathroom and switched on the light with my elbow and began the last two iterations. But the irrationality dictated that my lack of compliance to the rules negated the ritual. And when the ritual isn't completed there will be retribution. Irrationality doesn't take kindly to insubordination. I stood at the sink that night with the door locked, working my way through 14 iterations of seven second intervals. One for the incomplete ritual and one as punishment. The vanilla fragrance is no longer my security blanket and the cold rush of water berates me for my betrayal. Ever since I was obliged to the completion of the ritual.

"I cry, thinking about how my own mind has made me a slave to irrationality,but I hesitate to wipe my tears."

I finish the last rep and turn off the faucet with my elbow,grabbing a paper towel. I dry my hands and my mind at last is at ease. It is the calm before the storm, a brief reprieve from the maddening compulsions that dictate my otherwise sane life.

We all like to think that all our actions are governed by our free will. That every waking moment of our existence is determined by the decisions that we take. For better or worse, we are the judges that pass down sentence, the driver at the wheel making that life altering decision at the curve in the road, the opera conductor who makes the symphony flow forth from the collective chaos of the woodwinds, brass and the percussion. Or so we think. My actions are dictated by a cold-hearted entity that overrides my sense of will. It simply erases reason; snubbing out the purpose of repetitive action like a man snubbing out a cigarette on a cold October morning.

I cry thinking about how my own mind has made me a slave to irrationality,but I hesitate to wipe my tears. If I do, the sweet fragrance of vanilla and the gush of tap water await me.
Seven times. No more, no less.

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