I turn on the faucet and tigers fall out. They drop in dollops— rolling into the bathtub, flexing their shoulders, slicking orange to porcelain. It’s been like this for weeks. I’ve left seven voicemails for the plumber, but he hasn’t called back.
No matter how long the tap runs, there are always more tigers. Always more claws and muscle and stripes and hunger. Today, I time them. I bathe naked with my knees to my chest. It takes three minutes for the tigers to reach my ankles, and another forty-five seconds to pile over my shins. I clutch a laser pointer and a piece of meat. First, I distract them with the laser pointer. They pounce at the little red dot and snarl. One tiger flicks a tail against my waist. Another bites my hip. So far there are seventy-two tigers in my bath. They are getting impatient, so I set the laser pointer on blink mode. The tigers love it. This buys me enough time to stretch without disturbing them.
By now, there are too many tigers to count. I have managed to slink low enough in the tub that I’m laying down. I shine the laser up and down my body, and the tigers scatter over me. Only my breasts and belly are uncovered, floating like islands in a sea of teeth and fur. It feels almost like water might if this were a regular bath, except that I can feel the purring. Heartbeats thrum against me in mad bursts.
The tigers are growing weary of the laser pointer and I still have to shampoo my hair. I drape the piece of meat over my stomach and the tigers swarm. This is a practiced
maneuver. It took me many visits to the butcher and a box of band-aids before I perfected the trick. As the tigers wrestle for food, I lather my hair. Just as they finish, I dunk down so my whole head is immersed in them. If I coordinate correctly, they’ll finish their meal by licking off the shampoo. It leaves my hair clean.
I stay beneath the surface for a while. Here, sound becomes new. Small growls whirlpool in the deep. Cracking knuckles are gunshots. I realize I am holding my breath, as if I were truly under water. When I do inhale, it is not air, but musk and heat. When I exhale, I tremble with the hunt. Maybe I should fall asleep here. Maybe I should let the tigers swallow me down. I am not a woman, I am water. I am an ocean. I am a claw, a streak of orange against the ebbing dusk, I am a wide jaw. Yes, just a little sleep and I will be predator and prey. What if I drag the plug from the basin? We will roll towards the drain like marbles, like hourglass sand. I will find the jungle in the pipes. I will learn to swim.