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OK, so it's not really a war, but it seems like one. I mean, you were there first.
Luckily your cubicle has a view of the bathroom door and you can see when people go in and out, you can wait for it to be unoccupied, like your own little airplane LAVATORY OCCUPIED sign. Lucky for you, because maybe you're like me, and you can't pee unless you're alone.
If it were up to you, you would only pee in the comfort of your own home, in your pink bathroom with the pink sink, pink toilet, pink tile walls, pink polka-dotted shower curtain and fluffy pink bathroom carpets. Your butt gets cold unless it's sitting on a pink padded toilet seat, and you get lonely without your pretty pink flamingo friend who sticks up out of the trash can on a piece of wire. You need the smell of your vanilla-patchouli soap, and chamomile shampoo to ease you into a relaxing tinkle.
But it's not up to you. You, like most people, have to work. You, like most people, have to be a productive and functioning member of society. An so here at your job, you occasionally must relieve yourself, which is fine, because they provide beverages, and facilities, nice new ones: coffee and filtered water with all the fixin's, and shiny stainless steel doors, a smooth dispensing toilet paper dispenser that allows for easy tearing, and coconut-scented pink lotion soap that comes out of a metal tube next to the sink, not from some cheap plastic dispenser. So even if it isn't up to you, it isn't so bad to pee at work, but like I mentioned earlier, maybe you like to pee alone.
You have monitored the going in and the coming out. The ladies rest room consists of two stalls. You watch one lady go in, then two ladies come out. After the original lady comes out, you decide that the bathroom is most likely empty. You remove your headset and proceed towards the LADIES (room) with much anticipation. You have been holding it quite a while and for no good reason other than that you are a good worker, and unfortunately today you came in three minutes late, so today you put your work before your bladder. Your eager bladder sings to you like a bejeweled young woman in one of the 1960s Indian movies as you dance on glass down the hall and into the special room marked Ladies, made especially for women's pissin', pooin', tamponin', and the whatnot.
As the door shuts behind you, you slip into the luxury of the handicapped stall. There are no handicappers at your work, so you do not feel guilty. You unzip, plop down, and just as relief is about to arrive, she clunks in.
She clunks in, black pants swinging round her chunky stacked heels and fine Italian leather square toes grazed by hems long enough that you can't tell how high she is from the ground. It sucks 'cuz you were just about to pee after a long-ass train ride and two and a half hours of sit-down work during which you chugged 40 ounces of free office water and coffee and it was all about to come out until SHE clunked in.
She slams the stall door. There's the sound of a jangling belt, the swift zip of a well-sewn zipper, followed by the perfect piss, a strong straight shooting stream without the least bit of tinkling confusion at the end. Short and sweet. You hear toilet paper tearing clean along its perforated line. You too tear some paper, hoping maybe she'll just think you were peeing while she was. Although, you know that you both know the sound of simultaneous pissing. What we just heard, that was single pissing with an awkward lack of sound coming from your side. So you blow your nose. Yes, maybe you have a runny nose, a really runny damn nose and that's what you came in here for, to blow it. HONK! Sniffle. Sniffle. Cough.
She is done. You've not even started. You watch her black slacks go from an ankle bundle back to the straight clean hems and crisp creases she came in with. She exists the stall clunking towards the sink. There, she washes her hands for thirty seconds, just like Oprah and the surgeon general say to, because she knows you're still in there, and probably thinks you're taking a big nasty dump while you count the seconds that she's washing her hands. Because if she has dirty hands, it makes your shit stink less. But you're not even in there to shit, all you want to do is pee (thank goodness), so HURRY UP AND WASH YER GODDAMN HANDS BITCH!
There's another bathroom one floor down. From now on you'll go down there. There you will be free to pee and poo as you please. Because, even though you prefer to do your business alone, it is possible to do so in groups (though the idea of group pooing and peeing always seemed strange to you, like three-hole outhouses, and the unisex bathroom on Ally McBeal. Hasn't man's natural instinct always been to go off alone into the woods? cover it up and then return to his tribe?), however it is more the thought of doing it around colleagues that plugs up all your holes. Will sitting in the bathroom too long doing nothing ruin your chances of a promotion? This is why you'd rather just go do your thing on the fourth floor, IMS. You don't know the people from IMS. You don't even know what IMS stands for. And though you don't know the woman washing her hands, you know that she works with you and probably recognized your purple sneakers and rolled-up jeans as you, the part-time girl in the cubicle by the bathrooms who doesn't talk to anybody, doesn't talk to anybody because she's too busy going to the bathroom all the time.
One, two, three pulls of the paper towel dispenser, a lofty wad of towel, because judging by her pants and shoes there's no way she's going to wipe her hands on her hips on the way out. Clunk Clunk Clunk and with the stifled squeak of the door she is gone. Immediately, you validate this string of odd thinking because as soon as the door closes, your muscles relax and now it's your turn for a perfect piss. Twice as long, and twice as fast, if only she could hear you now.
Later you see her, by the water cooler. You recognize those crisp creases and square-toed shoes. Had it not been Monday, ughhhh, Monday, you would've had crisp creases, tweed ones, far better than hers, but today you feel mediocre and no one knows, but you're wearing fleece pajama pants under your jeans, which you successfully hid in a bundle under your panties while you were peeing (or not peeing) with this woman.
She blocked your urethra and now you're mad. This is war, war on her ribbed turtleneck sweater, 'cuz you've got a better one at home, with a gigantic cowl, and you'll be wearing it tomorrow, with your tweed pants, and then she'll be jealous. She'll be stuck in the bathroom with hot, chunky diarrhea making bubbly farts and squirts and you'll come into the bathroom feeling confident, hair shining, tweed tweeding. Since your shoes will be tall this time your normal 90 degree sitting angle will now be acute. The angle of your legs will squeeze your bladder and, when combined with the confidence radiating off your textured fabrics, it will trigger a piss so strong and so fast it'll knock Miss Square Toes right off the crapper.
This is how you would like it to be, but seriously, this woman has 'outfits,' and you don't know what she'll be wearing tomorrow. It could be that little brown number with the matching jacket with fur-trimmed collar and cuffs. If she wears that, there will be no chance for you to top her. In that outfit even you could confidently stink up a bathroom and expect everyone to enjoy the smell because it came from your fashionable anus.
So you fill up the same old water bottle you've had for three months with the water cooler water while you watch her cute blonde bob fall in her eyes as she pours black coffee into a dainty little mug with a picture of a willow tree on it. You are jealous of her mug-it's really cute-and you suddenly feel the need to take it out of her hands, throw the hot coffee in her face and run home with it. But you resist, because you like your job.
When she is done pouring coffee she makes a new pot. Why does this bitch have to go and do the right thing? Whey's she gotta' act like she's all nice or something? Why are you getting so hostile?
You go back to your cubicle before you do something you'll regret and continue with your work for another two hours until it is time to leave. And when it is time you tie back you hair, which leaves you with no dignity whatsoever as you zip up your fifty cent coat with a safety pin for a zipper pull. Tomorrow you will wear the gray wool one, with the three-quarter sleeves and the fur collar, that'll show her for peeing when you were going to pee.
And as you leave you hear a meek little voice come from over the receiving desk. "Goodbye," she says. "Stay warm."
A graduate of Columbia College in Chicago, Penelope Memoli has published material in several esteemed magazines. Her story "That Lady," published in Hair Trigger issue 23, was awarded a College Gold Circle Award by the Columbia Scholastic Press Association in 2002.
See other articles by Penelope Memoli.
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