April 27, 2011
Christina used the toilet paper dispenser as a handrail and lifted herself off of the tile floor. She flushed the toilet and watched the remnants of her expensive dinner swirl down the drain. Dark pools of wet mascara collected around her eyes. She sniffled and tried to pull her black hair back into a ponytail. Just in case I have to go in for round two, she thought to herself. It was those Lemon Drops.
The bass thumps from the club’s PA system echoed off of the cold stainless steel fixtures. The rhythmic booms disoriented her. The stall seemed to rock back and forth. Maybe I should just sit back down. The partially digested sushi was still begging for freedom. It wanted out of her oppressive stomach. She sunk slowly back towards the white ceramic rim of the bowl. Her cute little blue tank top was wet in odd places.
“You ok in there?” a voice called out from the sink.
Oh no. The bathroom attendant. Christina had forgotten all about her. She usually ignored those people. She could never understand how someone could sit in a crowded bathroom all night, doling out paper towels and cigarettes and spritzes of cheap perfume all night long. How do people live like that?
She thumbed at her BlackBerry. 12:41 AM. In 9, wait no…10 hours she would take her last final at Duquesne University. She had already accumulated enough extra credit to ensure a passing grade, which was why tonight she didn’t have studying at the top of her priority list. It was senior week. Time for drinks.
“Miss? You ok in there?” came the voice again.
“Yes, I’m perfectly ok,” Christina meant to say clearly. But, “Yeag. Ahm, purrfurctlyogaayye,” was what came out. A chasm had grown between her brain and mouth. Those lemon drops.
“Ok then,” the voice called back. It was soothing and matronly, like warm chicken soup. Thick footsteps moved away.
Christina hoisted herself back up, flushed the toilet again and unlatched the door. Great. I’m going to have to give this lady some money now, she thought to herself as she reached into her purse. She pulled a wrinkled dollar from her soiled Prada bag. She felt a begrudging reluctance to depart with her single bill, even though she had puked on a hunk of cloth and leather that had cost over 500 as much.
“Here,” she flung the bill into the wicker basket next to the Blowpops on the counter. She fumbled to remove the hairband from her ponytail and her dark hair fell back onto her shoulders. She began teasing it back out.
The older, heavy-set African-American woman hopped gently off of her stool. Tight braids snaked across her head. Thick glasses encircled he droopy eyes. She went to retrieve some paper towels from the dispenser.
“I don’t need your money Christina,” the woman said. Her voice cut into the resounding bass that filled the large public bathroom. It was delivered in perfect syncopation with the snare drums.
Christina furrowed her forehead. “How d’you know my name?”
“I am a part of you. Part of the same shadow at least.”
Christina blinked as if that would help her hearing. She swayed gently and grasped the countertop for support. The floor felt like a waterbed. It was hard to adjust to the undulating peaks and valleys.
“Wha?” she replied with a short halt. Her eyes narrowed. Christina knew she was drunk, but she didn’t like when people messed with her. She was an Anthropology major damn it!
“We’re all chained in up a cave, with only the light of a fire behind us. We know the world by watching the shadows on the wall,” the bathroom attendant handed her a stack of thick paper towels. “Here you go.”
“D’you’thenk I’m…stoopid?” Christina replied annoyed. She took the towels and dried her hands. “I’m not a shadow. I’ma person. Tri-Delta for life.”
The bathroom attendant took out a handkerchief and gave her nose a quick blow. “We sit in darkness with that false light and don’t think that this existence is wrong or nothing. It just our existence — we don’t know no better and we don’t complain none.”
“This’s retarded,” Christina replied. She took a few more swipes at her hair.
“If the we was suddenly freed and let out into the world, we would know our previous life was just a shadow of truth,” the older woman said as she walked back over to her stool.
Christina scrutinized this strange black lady. “That doden’t even make sssense,” she slurred. “I…you…have to exist, right? Ah’m not a shadow.”
The old woman just shrugged her shoulders. “If you say so.”
Christina stood in silence. She stared at herself in the mirror. Thoroughly confused, she opened the bathroom door and started to walk back into a great unknown. She paused and looked at the bathroom attendant. “I’m not a shadow,” she whispered, her voice shaking. She stepped out. More bass beats greeted her. More sound. More darkness. More shadows.
Around 3:30 AM Marjorie Peterson sat down at a corner booth at Denny’s.
“Hi Margie!” hollered the waitress. “How was work tonight down at the club?”
“It was pretty good,” Marjorie replied. “I think I got about 15 drunk sorority girls to question their own existence.”
“15! That’s pretty good for one night,” the waitress replied. “Do you want your usual?”
“Yes. Please. And I’ll have tea instead of coffee tonight dear.”