Chuck stared at the man in the urinal next to him. He knew it wasn’t right, that it basically went against all social norms to not only use the urinal directly beside someone, but then make—and maintain—eye contact, but what was he going to do? The only other option was the kiddie-sized one, which was simply out of the question. Chuck was six-foot-six, and the last thing he needed to do was to pee all over the handle of a children’s urinal. Plus, the guy next to him was the one talking to him, conversing while they stood almost arm-in-arm, peeing next to each other. If anyone had shattered the social standard, it was that guy.
“I’m fine,” Chuck said, turning his attention back toward the wall ahead of him.
“Everything going well on your end?” the man replied, the sound of his urine still audible as it crashed down onto the plastic mat below.
“I guess so,” Chuck said. He was actually having a bit of trouble going, a little “stage fright,” as his friends back home called it, but didn’t think it was necessary to mention. Something about having a conversation with the man next to him following brief eye contact made it a little difficult to pee.
“Hang on,” the man said. “Some freak next to me is trying to talk to me while I’m peeing.”
Chuck leaned backward slightly and peaked around the man’s shoulder. The urinal next to him was empty, save for a small puddle of what Chuck guessed wasn’t water on the floor beneath it. Either there was a tiny man hiding just out of his vision, or Chuck had made a terrible mistake.
The man turned toward Chuck and shook his head slightly, a small, metal object attached to his right ear.
“What do you want?” he said.
“Sorry,” Chuck said, turning his attention to the light blue tiling above the urinal ahead of him. “I thought you were talking to me.”
“Freak,” the man said, taking a step to his right and resuming his admittedly impressive stream against a new urinal.
Chuck sighed and zipped up his fly, admitting defeat. He still had to pee, still had a burning sensation in his bladder, but knew there were other bathrooms he could use. He didn’t need to continue embarrassing himself at this particular one. He turned and walked toward the sink, immediately making eye contact with a man in a maroon suit standing next to it. He held a soap bottle in his hand, a series of towels stacked behind him. If anything, the guy looked more like he belonged outside of a hotel entrance than inside of a Macy’s bathroom.
The suited man smiled at Chuck as he walked up to the sink, the bottle of soap held out in Chuck’s direction. He stared back for a moment, unsure of exactly what was going on. He’d never had a stranger offer him a bottle of soap before, but didn’t exactly mind the idea of free stuff. After all, he was running low on soap at home – it would save him the extra trip of buying another. He leaned forward and grabbed the bottle of soap out of the man’s hand, then slipped it into his back pocket. It fit almost perfectly, as if it were made specifically to slide in there.
“Thanks,” Chuck said, smiling at the man in the suit. He leaned forward and began washing his hands in the sink ahead. He could feel the man next to him staring at him, studying him. Chuck glanced back at him. His head was tilted to the side, a distorted expression on his face as if something were out of the ordinary, as if Chuck were the one acting strangely. Here was a man literally handing out soap in a men’s bathroom, yet suddenly Chuck was the weird one.
“Sir?” the man said, glancing at Chuck’s rear pocket. “What are you doing?”
“What do you mean?” Chuck said, his voice cracking heavily at the start of his sentence. It had been almost two decades since he had gone through puberty, yet still his voice just seemed to abruptly decide it was time to shatter a few windows. He cleared his throat in an attempt to hide his sudden soprano.
“You took my soap.”
“What?” Chuck said, his voice again cracking. He cleared his throat again, then repeated his “what” in a much deeper voice.
“You put the soap in your pocket, I need that.”
“But I thought you were giving it to me?” Chuck said.
“I was going to squeeze it into your hand, I’m a bathroom attendant.”
Chuck froze. He had no idea why he hadn’t thought the guy was a bathroom attendant. The suit, the hat, the stacks of towels, it made so much more sense than him just being some weirdo hanging out in the men’s bathroom. He was there to help move things along, to wash hands and squeeze soap.
“I am so sorry,” Chuck said, immediately pulling his soaking hands out of the sink and grabbing the bottle of soap from his back pocket. A cold, wet feeling spread across his behind as he pulled the bottle. He knew he’d just accidentally squeezed it against the back of his pants, and now likely had a giant stain in its place, but he’d already made a fool of himself enough. It would be best not to draw attention to it. He turned to the left to hide his pants, then handed the soap back to the attendant.
“Thank you,” the man said, placing it back on the counter.
Chuck returned his hands to the sink, then waited. He needed soap, needed something to scrub his hands, but wasn’t sure of the process exactly. Did he wait until the man offered him some? Would he offer him some? Chuck wouldn’t in his situation, he’d already had enough time with the bottle. Plus, he knew he needed to get out of the bathroom—he didn’t want to wait around anymore, it had been long enough. He casually lowered his hand and rubbed it against the back of his pants, lathering it in the soap he’d recently applied to his jeans.
“The fuck are you doing?” said a voice from behind Chuck. It was clearly the man from the urinal before, the voice of a man who already had a pretty heavy disdain for Chuck.
“Nothing,” Chuck said, immediately returning his hand to his front. “I was just, uh, soaping. I was soaping my hand.”
“Are you insane?” the man said.
“No,” Chuck said. “I just, I needed soap.”
“Hang on,” the man said, glancing up at Chuck through the mirror. “The fucking freak is talking to me again.” He paused. “What the hell do you want?”
“Sorry,” Chuck said, “I thought you were talking to me.” He stared down at the sink and focused intently on it, hoping that he might disappear if he thought hard enough.
“Well I wasn’t,” the man said. He glanced down at Chuck’s pants. “Did you shit yourself? Did you shit yourself and then rub it on your hands?”
Chuck stared at the man in the mirror. Was he talking to Chuck or did he ask that to whomever was on the phone? It was so specific, so oddly circumstantial. Still, he had no idea, but knew it was probably best to ignore it. He returned his hands to the sink and began lathering them up, the soap from his pants working well enough. He had to get out of there, had to go home.
“I’m talking to you now,” the man said. To whom? Was it Chuck or the guy on the phone? He had no idea, he was so confused. He continued washing his hands, focusing everything he had on the way the water cascaded down his hands. He still had to pee so badly, but he needed to get out of there.
“Here you go, sir,” the attendant said, finally holding out the soap bottle. Chuck had clearly just finished lathering his hands up, but figured it would be rude to reject the offer. He turned around and placed his hand under the nozzle of the soap, then waited. The attendant stared at him, his head tilted slightly.
“What are you doing?” he said, pulling the soap back slightly.
“I thought,” Chuck stammered, glancing at the bottle. “Soap. Hand soap.” He had given up on full sentences.
“Not for you,” the attendant said, nodding toward the Bluetooth man.
Chuck spun around back toward the sink. He had to get out of there, it was becoming too much. He reached his hand out toward the towels, immediately knocking them over and instead punching the mirror behind.
“Sorry,” Chuck shouted, his voice again cracking. He lunged forward to grab the towels as they fell, instead knocking them directly into the still-running sink, his footing slipping out from beneath him. He tried to catch himself on the edge of the counter, yet instead smacked his chin against it with a tremendous slap. He fell to the floor, the room slowly losing color as his vision faded. Although he realized he was likely losing consciousness, he remained acutely aware of the warm liquid that was now running down the interior of his pant legs. At least he knew he no longer needed to pee, and that the ordeal was now probably over.