Caliente: Spanish for “hot.” Though advertised as a hot shower, a more appropriate claim would have been agua no mucha fría, or “not so cold water.” Still, it was one of the best showers of my life.
That water–there was a reason it was only not-so-cold. Like most Peruvian hotels untouched by a mass of gringo tourists from the west, this one was not plumbed with hot water. But the showers had been retrofitted with a head that had an integrated heating element.
I had anticipated an immediate shower, so after I christened the toilet I had not been that thorough in my cleanup. My cheeks were rubbed raw, so I stepped into the shower extra filthy. I reached for the valve of salvation, the one that would cleanse me of my digestive system’s sins, but my hand was stilled. Not by the appearance of a messenger or some other holy apparition; not by divine intervention or some other remote will; but by a gray tube that ran out of the ceiling and into a small breaker box next to the shower’s plumbing. The box had been painted to the wall—not glued or screwed, but painted. And the small gauge wires with the loose wrap of electrical tape that emerged from the box–they disappeared into the shower head. Electricity and water mix right? Isn’t is just that sometimes people get the recipe wrong?
I turned the tap. If the flow was too slow, the circuit broke. So for five minutes, I alternated between adjusting the flow density and resetting the breaker. I bounced, rocked, and gyrated under the water’s thermal awkwardness, and twitched, pulsed, and ticked with the electric current that flowed through my fingers. But the water was too fast to be heated before it rained down. It did take the edge off though, and for those next five minutes I did work with my bar of soap.
The drain looked awful. Water spiraled and concentrated the filth: the dust of the road, my residual fecal debris, my general negativity and loathing, all down the drain. Salvation. I dried, then collapsed into bed.