The shiny metal taunted me.

Slowly, I bent to pour the pieces out of their chintzy box, the kind big factories make out of dusty, recycled paper, too flimsy to hold the weight of the light aluminum inside of them. The poles clinked together as they bounced on the flowered pattern of our queen bed’s quilt.

At least we share a bed, not like some couples who after a spell together take to separate rooms entirely, content to dither away their time separately, as if they were alone, as if they had never met anyone or shared a bed at all.

I didn’t know why I had bought that old shower caddy in the first place. Nothing would please him. He’d somehow gotten it into his head that he wanted a full-range receptacle that hung from the neck of the shower head itself. I hadn’t the heart to tell him it didn’t exist. For weeks, that summer, I trolleyed about, looking for the pretend caddy. Finally, it was enough. I just bought this standing thing. We’d had one growing up, and I don’t remember it being so bad. One could get quite used to it, I’d found.

The thin tubing betrayed me. My thumbs wrapped around it in clumsy fashion, all odd angles and unfitting pieces. At the end, there looked to be a fisherman’s pole, and this made me want to cry. It was my own hodge-podge creation I was looking at, no pole at the lake. There would be no defenseless, flapping fish at the finish of this project. Just me in my bathrobe and a $20 shower caddy.

I tried again.

As I wrestled the contraption together, sliding tabs into holes and slots into slots, rubber rings onto chintzy metal, it looked far too cheap, too gaudy. No, it would never do.

Looking cheap had never stopped me before, and nor would it now.

I attempted to stand the unwieldy thing up in the shower stall. It was chrome, at least. Last week, he’d sent me back to the store because I’d bought a darker metal. I’d no idea until that summer that matching bathroom fixtures was of utmost importance.

I’d put the baskets on wrong, I realized.

I would do such a thing, always bumbling about whilst others maintained a supreme calm. I was sure they all could put on shower caddy baskets the correct way on the first try. Looking at that gleaming, thin metal, I couldn’t find the heart to disassemble it all again. I tried to prop it up with the pole upside-down. If it worked one way, it could work just as well the other way, I reasoned.

I heard a crash, which echoed in the small chamber that was the shower stall.

A sticky, moist force pushed me toward the tiled flooring. For a minute I didn’t think anything had happened, and then I knew it had. Unable to support the weight of his dozens of shampoos he insisted he alternated with each wash, the contraption had come hurtling down upon me.

I smiled a sad sort of smile and thought about how that was life’s way with me.

I felt around with only mild disgust. My backside was wet, having landed in the one puddle in the stall, and sitting there, I wrangled the baskets off, then back on again, the whole while wishing I were somewhere else, perhaps reading a book and smoking a cigarette. I wished I were lying on my back under my covers, or better yet in the long grass of Central Park. I wished I were dead, or not dead, but simply non-existent. It was comforting to know I was alone, which was as close to not existing as one could get.

Right side up, now, I pushed the long pole into place and stood back to admire my work, though it warranted no admiration. It looked bad. The angles were just slightly off. The black plastic seemed too showy against the shiny chrome. The baskets were tilted under their newly acquired weight.

I inclined my head, hoping that if I held my eyes just so the standing caddy would somehow turn into a hanging caddy large enough for all his vanities. It didn’t.
The children were yelling. I had to abandon my task. He’d come home and see. He’d see the caddy and with it all the ways I always fail.

I fixed a false grin on my face and walked with a steady, determined gait to meet the children, as yet so full of hope, so lacking in shower-caddy oppression.