2004-11-22 - 5:57 p.m.
“Has anyone come out of the bathroom…in, like, a while?”
“No, but I think they’re almost done. I think he’s just naming the baby.”
Sundays, by their very nature, are riddled with an odd texture. Bathed in either the euphoria or embarrassment of your Saturday night adventures, and sprinkled with the cognizance of yet another weekend coming to a close without a single productive moment passing in the interim, Sundays tend to feel a bit off. No longer the weekend, but still room to procrastinate, it exists in a kind of limbo; a day designed to be entirely wasted or slept through. Keep in mind this is the only day dedicated to brunch. It is so universal a fact to sleep through Sunday, that breakfast has all but been eliminated.
“Steve?” The woman beside me was apparently interrogating the men’s room door.
“Yeah.” And it answered.
“He’ll just be a minute.”
Having splurged on a comic book sale, and then thoroughly reading them in a sports bar, while Giants fans yelled at the screen, I trekked homeward, with the dreams of a full eight hours of sleep slowly drifting away as the minutes passed. While the gentle rocking motion on the subway can be soothing, sometimes to an unfortunate degree as certain late night journeys have found me at the end of the line, miles from home, it can also have an adverse effect on one’s bladder.
Thankfully, just outside my subway stop is a diner, staffed by a group of individuals who carry the standard late night “Dear God, whatever!” mentality that allows me to abuse their bathrooms on a regular basis.
Usually, I can stroll in and out with my head down without notice, but today Steve had apparently taken a liking to the restroom, and was possibly considering a three-year lease. I spent about twenty minutes leaning against the mirrored wall beside the restroom, an unheard of block of time for the male gender.
The women’s room was taken as well, so I got to enjoy the procession of women skipping in and out with ease, one even moving at a pace that would shame the piss-standing-up crowd. Her boyfriend and brothers probably never hear the end of it.
My first contestant spends her pre-pee time fixing her punk style duds in the mirror behind me. With a cell phone attached to her ear, she kept up the conversation, inflecting this and that with great attention, while oddly throwing glances and odd hand gestures at me. Not brimming with patience she rapped on the door after each lap, to the increasing annoyance of the woman inside.
I’m not one for repeated knocking. On certain occasions when I’ve been enjoying a private moment alone, a sudden loud knock has jolted me out of the Zen urination state and thereby doubled my pee-time. I’d rather not disturb, but since I’d been waiting longer than she, and there is nothing embarrassing than waiting outside an empty bathroom, just because the door was a little jammed, especially when there’s an equally impatient mob behind you, I made my move.
“Just checkin’ man.”
After fixing her thermal black top to ebb down to the halfway point of her ass, and adjusting her hoodie zipper so it brought out her chest properly, she slid into the stall, sharing the modern equivalent of bit thumbs with the Lady on her way out.
I must call her Lady, as, despite looking to be no older than I, she adorned herself in a Shiraz red floppy hat that you’d expect to see on the noggin of the slightly slutty cousin in a Jane Austin adaptation on the BBC. To match the tone and tenor of the topper, she threw on a pair of satiny pants, purposely overdosed on fabric so a world worth of folds would prance about her legs. Her ankles together these pants looks exactly like a skirt; an article of clothing sure to confound men in a manner similar to the mind-fuck that is skorts. “Was she wearing shorts? I thought it was skirt. Was it the same person? Did she change? Does she have an evil twin? Wait a minute…” This is about the time a small part of the medulla oblongata ruptures.
Still this wouldn’t be enough to earn the moniker of Lady were it not for the vintage sweater which perfectly matched the hat, and the vintage collared shirt which perfectly matched her vintage jacket. Each piece of the entire ensemble interlocked with amazing precision, making me wonder if any individual from the group ever sees the light of day without her sisters.
“Love the hat, hon.”
In answer, she pulls on the flops, framing a smile.
Apparently, waiting on Steve, she sits and sighs, taking a quick glance at the punk rock girl sitting two booths back, still yammering into her cell phone.
“Can you believe her?”
“Well you have to knock. Maybe not fifteen times, but you have to knock.”
“The door is locked.”
“Still, I like the knock. Jiggling the handle…You’re sitting inside, in a somewhat vulnerable position, suddenly the door handle starts jiggling? Kind of an Elm Street moment.”
My point was punctuated by some grunting noises from Steve.
“Plus the fact that sometimes you forget the lock, or it doesn’t work…”
“I get walked in on all the time. We have a locker room at the restaurant I work it, but, well…the girls always ending up using the bathroom.”
The pieces of the Lady’s personality started to fall into place at this moment. She dropped her occupation with the intensity and pride an Ivy Leaguer drops the words “Cambridge” or “New Haven.” Working in a restaurant in New York has almost the same appeal as working in one in L.A. There’s a hidden code behind it, just as there is with dropping the town of your alma mater rather than the name of the school itself. It says boldly that you are an artist, and a starving one at that. Somehow this little piece of information is supposed to convey to you the immediate street cred of being a struggling but pure purveyor of intellectual and meaningful expression, not yet corrupted by the corporate forces out to destroy such paragons of virtue. Given the attire and the cadence that ran forth from her lips, my money’s on actress; all ready in costume and living the part.
“I’m not sure if the lock is broken, or the waiters are jut pigs.”
Still, the artist thing is a common bit o’ hubris. I still have my moments, facing down the “What do you do?” question, saying, “Well, what do I do for money, or what do I do?” We’re all just looking for compatriots in the foxhole.
By this time fifteen minutes had passed, and I could have made the walk to my apartment, still waiting on Steve. In a moment of mercy and kindness, the Lady saw the women’s room unoccupied, and shot a “psst!” in my direction.
“Go for it. I’ll cover you. Nicer bathroom anyway.”
She was right on that. With a quick flick of the door, I snuck inside to find a room where nearly sixty percent of the available wall space was not covered in band stickers. In fact, outside of the loose cover for the florescent light, the bathroom was immaculate. This in contrast to the men’s bathroom that looked, well…like a place people shit after eating at a diner. I gave a knock from the inside.
“Coast is clear.”
You have to appreciate the help. While it’s always entertaining when women take to the guy’s restroom, so long as it’s a multi-stall, there always remains a pervy vibe about a man exiting a women’s restroom. Somehow the desperate need to pee affords women the right to cross gender lines, but men, even if they’ve spent twenty minutes waiting for Steve to pass this Thanksgiving’s turkey through his colon, are expected to cross their legs and hold it.
The Lady greeted me as I came out.
“Thanks. He gonna be okay?”
“Steve? He’ll be fine.”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“And for the conversation.”
“Don’t worry about it.”
I smiled and she bobbed her hat at me, turning here eyes back to the men’s door with a sigh. Making my way up the aisle, punk-rock was single-handedly paying for two Verizon employee’s Christmas bonuses, all the while seductively playing with her zipper for the enjoyment of the hipster across the booth.
A couple waiters gave me the stare down as I made for the door. Twenty minutes spent lounging in their diner with no chance to a tip. I don’t glance at them, my hand already out of the door handle, but I can still watch from the periphery as their indignation deflates, and they lean back against the counter.
The streets are cold and still, dimly lit browns, grays and blacks. The diner is floodlit through the night, a fine lighthouse for the hung-over, be it from emotion or liquor. I have one last cigarette. As it sparks, through the long windows, I can see Steve is still in the bathroom.
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