Cecil hates bathing alone. More specifically, Cecil hates bathing himself. And even more, Cecil hates the world and God for making him bathe himself.
For, before she died, Cecil’s wife had bathed him. She used to draw his water to just the right temperature and sit beside the tub scrubbing his back and shoulders and head with the soap he liked – the kind that smelled like the soap his mother scrubbed him with as a child.
And Cecil’s wife sang him lullabies as she gently washed him. His favorite was Brahms’ Lullaby. His wife used to sing it just as sweetly as Cecil’s mother had. His wife sang it so lovely that sometimes Cecil cried.
But his wife is dead. And Cecil must bathe himself now so he only does it a few times a month. He says it’s too hurtful to bathe without his wife being there. Now Cecil is dirty and smells. And now, so do his house and clothes.
Now Cecil’s meals come the freezer and microwave or a box instead of the oven. And his baths are usually too hot or too cold. And instead of his wife’s singing, he plays the phonograph instead. But it’s not the same as his wife’s lullabies. And that soap, when it ran out, he’d never bothered to know where she bought it from. So now he uses whatever is on sale.
People always said Cecil was lazy, which was true. But it was also that Cecil only knew love through what was done for him. His mother’s caretaking of Baby Cecil was love. And so, his wife’s care and nursing was the greatest proof of her love too. It was a pure and simple equation – more care was more love. But now he’s left with nobody to care. Nobody but himself to care for his needs. Now is the time for Cecil to love himself – to care for himself – but he is helpless. For he’s grown too old and his time for learning passed long ago.
Now Cecil sits in tepid baths listening to scratchy records and hating God for taking his wife away. He doesn’t hate God for her suffering in death. Or for depriving the rest of the world of her kindness. He hates God for taking her and replacing her with TV dinners and Andy Williams singing Moon River.
Some have told Cecil that God loves him as much as his dearly departed wife did but Cecil cannot accept that. For God doesn’t sing him lullabies or scrub him with old-fashioned soap every night. God doesn’t bake him fresh banana bread. God makes Cecil buy and be satisfied with packs of Tastykakes.
“God will make you happy but you must try to make yourself happy too. God will not simply hand you peace.,” some have said. “You must work for it. You must earn it.”
Cecil curses his creator but, still, he cannot forget the preacher’s words.
“God’s grace is every bit as loving and bountiful as the love given to you by Rosemary,” he said at the funeral.
But poor Cecil….his sirens had only sung his praises and glory and, so enraptured he was by their songs, he never learned to give or return any praise or glory to them or God or anyone or anything else.
Those lullabies and the lovely voices of Cecil’s sirens had bewitched him – forever luring him back to the craggy shores of reliance and dependence and of their validation.
So Cecil cannot receive God’s grace for he’s never attained anything on his own. He only knows the direction of women and their gifts. And without them, he is lost.
Sometimes Cecil thinks of killing himself. But he never does. Instead he broods over his suffering. He’s learned to feast on his loneliness and pain – the most perverse form of nourishment. But, all alone, there is little else left to eat.