I froze in my tracks. My hand was halfway doing up my fly, but that, too, was stopped in mid-motion. I turned towards the source of the voice. The man stood with his legs akimbo, peeing at the stained metallic urinal that stretched along the length of the wall, streams of water gliding into the trough below to wash away the excrement. He was fat, balding and red-faced, wearing tattered grey overalls. I’d never seen him before in my life. "I beg your pardon?"
He zipped up, turned and walked towards the sink. His eyes – beady and bloodshot, narrowed in a look of suspicion and resentment – didn’t leave me, not for a second. "I said," he growled, and thumped on the liquid-soap dispenser that ejaculated three white streams across the marble around the basin, "you got something against fuckin' urinals?"
"Urinals," I replied flatly, and blinked like an idiot.
"Yes," he barked, "urinals."
"I – well, I don’t have any particular affinity for them, but I don’t mind them, no."
"Then why didn’t you pee in the urinal?" His portly fingers began to knead among themselves, working up a great lather. I could smell the pungent perfume of the soap – jasmine, or something like it – mixed with the acrid stench of the toilets and the harsh, overfamiliar smell of loo deodoriser. I stared at the man curiously, one eyebrow cocked, my hand still frozen at my crotch. He repeated harshly, "Why didn’t you use the fuckin' urinal, mate? Huh? You got something against it?"
Right. Okay. When one gets into this kind of situation (and let’s face it, one does not usually get into this kind of situation), one would normally turn and walk away as quickly as possible: this being the presumed reaction of the regular human being. But this man’s query had piqued my curiosity: I could not help but wonder why he was being so passionate about a peeing point. Also, I prided myself on not being a regular human being, but that's an exercise in digression. Thinking hard, and thinking fast, I licked my lips, inhaled toilet smells, and said, "I’m not sure … I think I’m just more accustomed to using the stalls, peeing in the toilet bowls."
He rinsed. "You’re a cruel motherfucker, you know that?"
"I – beg your pardon?"
He slammed one fist against the soap-streaked marble, sending clouds of foam and droplets of water in all directions. His round, fleshy face began to take on an alarming shade of red, as if all his blood were gathering around his nose. Viagra for the olfactory organ, I thought irrelevantly, and tried to suppress the grin that crept upon my face. The man continued to rub his fingers together, interlacing them as the water from the tap spilled upon them; as I watched, the task began to grow increasingly violent, increasingly abrasive. It was as if he were trying to chafe the skin off. And when he spoke again, his voice was more strident, his breathing more ragged and harsh: "Urinals are … for you ... to pee in, you twat." Gasp. Pant. "It’s people like you … who drive me … fucking mad! God, if they wanted you to pee into the toilet bowls, they’d have made them in the shape of the bloody urinals, don’t you think? No, you don’t think! Far out!"
This was an interesting start to the day.
"I’m … sorry if I’ve offended you," I said slowly.
"Sorry!" he barked. "Sorry! Jesus!" He thumped a fist against the dispenser, and another squirt of liquid soap coated the fingers of his other hand. Again, he lathered aggressively, his breathing heavy, audible. And when he rinsed, he shook his fingers with so much force that I thought for a moment he meant for them to drop off. "God!" he raved, and lashed out verbally some more: "Thanks to little shits like you, all the toilet bowls are filled with piss, and the bloody urinals go untouched. Can you imagine what it must be like to be wanting people to stand in front of you and use you, to just fuckin' use you, only to end up being disappointed each fuckin' time because you people prefer to relieve yourselves in the bloody stalls?" He shook his head vehemently and spat into the sink as if for dramatic effect. "If you were a woman, I’d understand, but you’re not, you’re a fuckin' guy! You bastards are so goddamn insensitive!" he shrieked, and turned the tap off with one frightening wrenching motion.
Time for me to leave, I told myself, now that my curiosity was sated and my neck hairs were erect. "Thank you for your candor and concern," I said, flashing him my best smile. I zipped up quickly and began to make my way to the door.
"Not so fast!"
Something in his tone of voice caused me to freeze.
"You fuckin' sons of bitches think you can get away with anything and everything, don’t you?" The sound of his footsteps thundered in my ears. Even though my back was to him, I could tell – and it didn’t take a psychic to realise it – he was storming towards me. "Well, little sister," he mocked me nastily, "that’s not the way things run around here!"
I took a deep breath – jasmine and naphthalene and urine, oh my! – and started towards the door again. But I didn’t get very far – his cold, wet hand grasped the back of my collar and pulled me backward. Dear God! For a fleeting instant my life flashed before my eyes – strangely enough, a montage of private moments spent in the water closet – and I coughed and choked and gagged – Jesus, the man is strangling me! Well, no, he wasn’t – he was simply pulling me away from the door, dragging me towards the blemished urinal with its murky water and its age-old mothballs clogging up the waterhole. He shoved me roughly, and I stumbled, landing on my knees, pain shooting up my thighs as I sputtered, "With all due respect! You have some nerve pushing me around – !"
"Say you’re sorry!" he cut me off.
"I beg your pardon!"
"Say you’re sorry! To the urinal!"
"I – what?"
"Say you’re sorry! Say it! Say it! Say it!"
Red-faced and incensed, I began to push myself up, and for a moment I thought he would jam his foot upon my back to keep me down. He didn’t. On my feet, I looked him straight in the eye, shaking my head at the indignation of it all. "I’m not saying sorry to the bloody urinal! What the hell is your problem? You’re sick! You’re bloody twisted, you know that?" I yelled, quivering in fury.
Without warning, he produced a huge, rust-spotted wrench from one of his overall pockets, and began to wield it swiftly and dangerously as if it were some form of sporting equipment. "Say you’re sorry!" he screeched, swinging the tool wildly. I could feel and smell the sour breeze as the weapon-of-sorts whizzed past my face. "Say you’re sorry, or you’ll get a faceful of the Plumber’s wrench!"
A wave of fear swept over me. "I’m afraid," I uttered, dodging the intended blows, "that you’ve spent too much time with your head in the toilet."
"Say you’re sorry!"
I was backed into a corner here. Suddenly weary, I held my hands up in defeat. "All right!" I cried, my voice tight, high-pitched with fright. "All right, all right, I’ll say I’m sorry!" Anything, I told myself, to get the hell out of this restroom and back into the rational world where I belong.
The Plumber smacked his tool against his chubby hand. "And you’ll use the urinal next time," he prompted.
Fine, fine. Anything to please the guy. "And I’ll use the urinal next time."
Suddenly, I heard noises from the stall in which I’d just relieved myself. Sobbing noises – a child crying and sniveling. Startled, I froze, my mouth locked open, my heart pounding as I listened to the child, sobbing and bawling like a baby. Who the hell is that? I inquired, and then realised I’d not spoken aloud. Turning to face the Plumber, who had a look of disgust on his face, I began to speak; but he abruptly stormed over to the toilet stall, poked his head in and screamed, "Shut the fuck up, you little twat, he ain’t gonna piss in you no more!" To which the crying grew louder, rising in a hysterical wail of despair and mourning…
And behind me, a gaping hole appeared in the stained silver wall of the urinal, complete with yellowed teeth and a mean, pink, sloppy tongue. I gawked at it in utter shock and disbelief as its dull, metallic lips opened and shut, and a low, guttural voice growled, "I’ll hold you to your promise, young man!"
I screamed in horror and got the hell out of there as fast as my trembling legs could take me –
– And realised I’d wet my pants in the process.