Everything goes smoothly at first. Just as she had expected from first appearances. He is smooth, polished, and she buys the image, purchases it wholesale. She had been looking for something new. Now she has it, and her expectations seem to have been well-founded.
She gets into bed at night, alone between the cold sheets, and closes her eyes. She sleeps soundly, knowing that by the time morning arrives things will be returned to their rightful state – shiny, warm, steaming. She awakens each morning to that smell that assures her that she is safe, that nothing has leaked in the night, that everything has come clean as she lay dreaming.
She has never had this before, this ease, this confidence. Each day is the same as the one before, and each morning she feels happy, almost proud, when she opens her eyes and remembers that he is there, taking care of her.
She calls him Samson, even though that’s not really quite his name. It suits him, though. He’s big and strong and yet she knows in some ways she really controls him.
But something soon goes wrong. Nothing big, just one little piece, a tiny part of the whole. In fact, she’s not even sure what it is. It’s insignificant, she thinks. One night the timing is off, it seems to take him longer than usual.
The following Tuesday morning when she wakes up, she notices that things aren’t quite as nice as they were at first.
She begins to worry. His power over her lies in the fact that he could stop functioning at any moment. There is no guarantee. He can’t leave her, because he belongs to her. He is hers. But he could simply fall silent, or utter only low moaning sounds.
Once he threatens to do this. For an hour he grumbles softly. She can’t understand what he’s saying, though she listens anxiously. He barely moves. She waits, sitting on her kitchen chair, her eyes fixed on his face. This cannot go on and on, she thinks. And then it does. In a panic, she kicks him, just once, with a shriek, then runs away in shame. When she comes back, he acts as if nothing happened. He seems to be rinsing the dishes. Did she imagine the whole episode? She was on the verge of picking up the phone.
For now, she can fix it. A self-repair. A little coaxing, a little voodoo, a little love, or a kick anyway. And everything returns to normal for a few days. He cares for her just as he used to. She sleeps soundly again.
But soon, another problem, and she begins to toss and turn. Visions of filth and grime and she wakes up, sweating. An indefinable stench (Is it eggs? Or something metallic?) arises from that part whose meaning or function is opaque to her.
She goes down and looks in. Nothing seems to flow down there – there was always something dirty about it. You are supposed to clean it every day but she can’t imagine that anyone really does that. She herself doesn’t even want to touch it – there always seemed to be an inch of standing water down in the bottom. How can something with standing water in it possibly be expected to get things clean? And standing water is not just disgusting: it’s dangerous. Mosquitoes might grow in there, or other diseases, things that breed other things and might invade or slowly take over.
And isn’t it all connected anyway? Aren’t all the pipes sort of interconnected inside the walls, like veins in a body? And everyone knows that veins aren’t neat – they can all infect each other. Can a house go septic? she wonders. When she was small, she knew a man, a friend of her mother’s, who had gotten some kind of minor infection and subsequently “gone septic.” She had seen him, well maybe not literally seen him, but she remembered him turning into a sort of putrid puddle of muck, lying in his hospital bed, gradually seeping into the mattress. Perhaps that might happen now, with them, with her house, with the system that has been working so well for them both.
But she hopes not. It has never come to that before, why would it now?