Things You Pick Up in Public Restrooms


It’s been years since I have been in a bar bathroom this foul.  You need to be much more intoxicated than I currently am not to mind the splintery plywood stalls, the once white ceramic tile yellowing like teeth, the toilet paper and paper towels stuck to the floors and countertops like confetti to sweating skin.

I mince my way through the puddles on the tile to find a stall that has a functioning lock before I sit. I have never been the kind of person who hovers above public toilet seats. I wonder if I should be.

It’s a sort of hubris, in the face of so many headlines on websites that I never click on; “The Twenty Places You can Catch Bird Flu”, “How Microbes Will Kill Us All” “The 12 Germiest Places in Your Life (Number 4 will shock you).” I don’t read them, but I am sure that public restroom toilet seats make frequent appearances on such lists.  Even with that certainty, I apply my thighs to the ceramic seat in this horrible bathroom, acknowledging that my lack of care in an instance like this could lead to my downfall.

I could wake one morning with the skin on my rump pulsing and tender with infection. A flesh-eating bacteria.  A drug resistant flesh-eating bacteria. That would be sad. I would understand that I brought it on myself and that would make it a tragedy, make me a cautionary tale.

I am thinking these thoughts when the bathroom door swings open, hits the wall like a gunshot.  High-heeled shoes clack on the floor and a voice thick with beer squeals you went to his house? Ohmygahd, Allie… Two girls stumble into the stalls to my left.  

            It’s like so, so nice for a professor’s house. The other girl—Allie—says.

           I know, says her friend.

           He bought it with the money he made from commercials.

           NO. (the friend snorts) He told you that? His wife bought the house! Her parents, anyway. She’s like an heir to some soap   company fortune or something.

          Ohmygahd. I’m so so so so stupid.

          He spends all his money on coke, Allie. Haven’t you noticed that he, like, always has coke? Like, tons of it. 

          Ohmygahd, and he’s so so skinny….

I finish and wash my hands quickly, hoping to be out of the bathroom before these girls come out of their stalls.

          You are so drunk, Allie.

          Well, it’s cheaper than an abortion.



There are no paper towels.


          Maybe I’ll, like, fall down the stairs later. For like, good measure.  

         Ohmygahd, Allie.

I hit the wall dryer with my elbow because my hands are freshly scrubbed. I am suddenly cautious, suddenly aware that I have no idea what other hands have touched this metal button.

          Or I could just have his coke baby.

          Ok, like for real. You need to take care of it. Like professionally.

          I’m doing it tomorrow.


          I swear. I already have an appointment.

There are flushes. Allie kicks her stall door open and walks toward me, buckling her jeans.

She can’t be older than twenty-one.  Her hennaed hair frizzes out of the bun at the crown of her head and she sways on top of her platform heels like a skyscraper in the wind.

I examine my hands under the dryer, watching the way it re-arranges the skin around my bones. I don’t remember growing so much extra flesh.

Through the mirror Allie looks at me.  Her eyes are dilated even in the blinding omnidirectional light bouncing around this bathroom.

            Use condoms is all I’m saying she says to my reflection in the mirror.

            Use fucking condoms.  She says again, louder, and laughs.

I pretend not to hear her over the dryer.

            Omygahd, Allie. 

Her friend clicks over to the sink, her wheaten hair covering more of her body than the ruched red tube dress she is wearing. She opens her glassy eyes wide at me, mouths a large Sor-ry as she guides Allie back into the dark bar.

            We need so, so many more shots.

I wonder where they go to school, where they have failed to pick up any adverbs more descriptive than so, so.  I wonder if the professor’s friends and family can tell he is a piece of shit.  I wonder if he is a piece of shit, or if he is just so, so sad that he cannot help but transfer his misery to everything he touches.

As I walk out of the bar, I think I should stop sitting on public toilet seats; it’s ridiculous and gross and I am old enough to know better.

But even as I think this, I know that I am too lazy, and—deep down—too hungry for something to happen to me, even if it is horrible.