Here is a preview image from my new animated music video, "The Opening Cage", that will be released tomorrow
Encounter With A Stranger in a Public Bathroom
I don't know how things got to this point. One moment I'm standing there with my dick in my hand, happy as a tree on a beach; the next I'm being slowly squeezed through a mesh of anxiety so intense that I feel as though my brains are going to pop out of the back of my skull!
I'm at one of those restaurant / rest stations that you find dotted along the 401, a place filled with different food chains and an overpriced convenience store, with high glass ceilings that make the place echo even when it's full of people. A money trap for weary travellers. After eating a surprisingly unshitty meal (food prepared for you always tastes better on the road, it's like instant coffee when you're camping), I make my way to the men's room so that I can take a piss.
It should be noted that I am taking this particular trip during the off season, at a time when there are few travellers along this stretch of highway. And so the bathroom is completely deserted when I enter it. As the door closes behind me the music that has been blaring from the loudspeakers in the foyer drops to a muted thrum. I cross the linoleum floor and step up to the second closest urinal, unzip and get ready to do the usual.
Now I can't speak for every man's experience when he takes a piss, but with myself, there's always this… "moment of truth" that happens, between the unwinding of the apparatus and the release of the liquid to be expelled. Its kind of like that grey area between being awake and falling asleep, in fact a lot like it, in the sense that in order for every thing to proceed smoothly, it is important for you to let your mind go blank.
Thoughts are not a good thing at such a moment. This is a no thoughts land, and as I am about to find out, it is fraught with peril.
For I am thinking, during this precise moment, and although I haven't noticed it yet, nothing is happening. The flow is a no go, because of myself with the stupid thinking. I'm thinking about the music that they've got playing out in the foyer, muffled through the closed door but still loud enough to be vaguely recognizable. I know this song, I think, but I'm not sure about the band. I think I might have even seen this band once, at some music festival up in Barrie someplace, but I can't make out the words here in this bathroom, how does it go? "My girl says" something something. Maybe out west I saw this band. I know it was an outdoor venue. Or am I thinking about that other band, the one with that guy, I went to see them with whats her name from school. It's really funny, also, how relatively cool music has replaced "muzak". I'm old enough to remember the term "elevator music", but then a while back I heard Jane's Addiction playing on an elevator. I guess that's a good thing, I suppose. The times they are a changin'. Ha ha. Okay it looks like I've been standing here with my dick in my hand for awhile now; I'd better go ahead and take my piss. Do they have cameras in this bathroom?
Just stop thinking, man. Go ahead and pee. Okay, here it. Just-
Someone kicks in the bathroom door.
My entire body freezes up and it feels as though all of my urine has retreated up into my chest. The phrase HOME INVASION flashes across my mind, but of course that's ridiculous, this isn't my home it's a public bathroom, and besides which, he didn't kick in the door, not really, the guy just hit it with his shoe or boot or whatever while walking into the bathroom.
Okay. So that happened, but now Buddy is in the bathroom, and so I will now piss. Right now.
I can sense him standing just at the periphery of my vision. I can't tell if he's looking in my direction or not. Maybe he's just getting a bearing on the layout of the place. Some guys are pretty touchy about public restrooms.
But no. He's just standing there, for entirely too long of a moment to make any legitimate sense, and even though I can't quite see enough of him, just a shape hovering somewhere towards the back of my right ear, I'm getting this feeling that he is looking right at me. This guy is staring right at me, I'm sure of it. I can actually feel the back of my ear warming up.
What the fuck, man… I just wanna piss. What's with this guy? Okay calm down. He's probably just as scared of you as you are of him.
That has got to be the stupidest thought I've had in quite some time. He's not some rare animal species in the wild. He's just some guy that walked into the bathroom and may or may have been staring at me. And now he's coming my way, his boots echoing along in time with the music outside. Then the music grows slightly muted as the door does that thing where it pauses, then closes shut, making the music go muffled but also still echoing in a weird way and now the sound of the guy's footsteps are clear and pronounced and growing louder as he approaches.
He takes the urinal right next to mine.
Okay now that is just not right. That, like, goes completely against the bathroom code. You never take the urinal next to someone – especially a stranger - unless it's already crowded. And of course, other than the two of us, this bathroom is completely deserted. Just the two of us…
Just fucking pee, man. Forget this guy. But I can't. Pee, or forget this guy. Forget this guy or pee? Which came first? But in any event, I can do neither, because for some reason I have to… get to the bottom of this? Why did this guy take the urinal right next to me? My mind races through a series of variables.
There's a total of five urinals at this particular section of the bathroom (there are a few other sections of urinal in this bathroom, it's a big bathroom, but I'm not sure how many sections there are, right now standing here, not pissing with a strange dude standing at the urinal RIGHT FUCKING NEXT TO ME, I'm not completely cognizant of the layout of the entire bathroom, but then none of the other sections of urinals in this bathroom are all that important anyways, and now is not the time to get hung up on frivolous details such as how many sections of urinals there are in this bathroom, now it really is the time to piss), and I took the second one in from the beginning (urinals that is, we're done talking about the sections, let's just talk about the urinals in this section, this is where the action is happening. Or isn't. PEE, DAMMIT!) , that is the second urinal closest to the sinks and hand dryer and garbage thingy in the wall. I took the second urinal and Buddy right next to me, took the first.
And then it hits me. He's lazy. He took the urinal that was closest, not caring whether I was there or not.
You see, I always take the second urinal from the sink area, as some kind of subconscious need to feel closer to home and yet still maintain space between myself and anyone using the sink and dryer and garbage. So I can understand why someone would instinctively take the closest urinal, I mean who wants to venture any further than necessary into a strange bathroom? And yeah, you could say that he's just being lazy, but I know enough about human psychology to understand that laziness is really another form of fear.
Well, that sure is a relief! I was right the first time; he really is just as scared as me. Scared of the big old spooky bathroom, ha ha, I'm chuckling to myself in my mind, and I even shoot a quick glance at the guy, careful of course to keep my eyes up, sort of a "yeah, I get it, nobody wants to go back there", type of glance, just long enough to see that he's wearing a baseball cap and seems to have a stubbly second chin, not so much a fat second chin as an indication that he's holding his head in a slightly arrogant way. All of this registers in a split second.
Arrogant. I don't like that. Nobody should seem arrogant while taking a pee. It's a moment of profound vulnerability; doesn't he know that? I mean, who does this guy think he is?
He's a guy taking a piss next to me. That is all that is going on here: I need to stop reading too much into this. Jut relax. I need to relax. Listen to the music. The music will relax me and then I will finally start to pee. How long have I been standing here in front of this urinal, anyways? Weird. It sure is a good thing there's music playing otherwise the guy might be able to tell that I'm not pissing at all. Is he pissing yet? Can't tell, because of the music, which is a good thing, the music provides cover for the both of us.
The music stops.
I didn't even realize that the song was ending. Did the song actually come to an end, or did someone turn off the stereo? I need to know this right now. I need to know because if the song came to an end then presumably there will be another one coming on in a few seconds, and I just need to tough it out until then. In the meantime there's still the sound of a fan running somewhere and there also seems to be some pipes with water going through them. So there's still some cover, just not as much. Suddenly I realize that I haven't taken a breath for a few seconds, so I slowly exhale, careful not to catch the attention of this guy who is peeing next to me.
The thing is - I'm not sure, but I really don't think that he's going at all, either.
I can't hear anything. Nothing. Even though there's still noise to cover, really you'd think that I would be able to hear something from this guy. But then again, if I can't hear him then he can't hear me and so let's just keep it at that and to hell with anything else. Maybe he's just a careful aimer. When is the music coming back on? It's been more than the usual time between songs; somebody must have turned the music completely off for some reason. To mess with your head.
Nobody is trying to mess with my head. Nothing is going on here. It's just an ordinary moment in a normal day, this sort of thing is happening right now all over the world and every one else is managing to get through it and so can I. Ridiculous, getting all worked up like this. I can feel myself starting to relax, now. Just a stupid one off moment of awkwardness that has now passed, the moment has passed, pass, it's passing, I'm ready now, ready to go-
The fan stops. The water that was gurgling through the pipes? Stops.
No one is peeing. The bathroom is completely and utterly silent. The music isn't coming on.
There are moments in one's life when something happens that feels just so totally and utterly wrong, that your brain simply shuts off for the duration. This is what happens to me at this moment. I just completely blank out. There is literally no memory in me of having a single thought during this time, nothing, nada. Checked out.
When my brain comes back online everything is still exactly the same. We are both still standing right next to each other not peeing, and the bathroom is still as silent as a tomb. I can feel my knees beginning to wobble slightly, and a short dull pain emerges in the small of my back. My feet have gone completely numb in my shoes. Out of my peripheral vision I can see the guy next to me glance over. My forehead flushes hot and all I can think is how in the hell did this happen, why did this have to have to HAVE TO HAPPEN all I want to do is take a pee. I just want to pee and of all the simultaneous series of coincidences to take place, I mean what are the odds, the universal odds, the universe is against me, FUCK YOU UNIVERSE THIS ISN'T FAIR and I think some sort of a chocked sob escapes from my lips because the guy glances over at me again.
The timing of it. The guy. The music. The pipes. The fan. The guy, this guy HAD TO take the urinal next to me, what the hell is wrong with him, it's a huge bathroom why couldn't he go somewhere else - is he fucking with me? Is this guy trying to start something with me?
Can I fight someone with my dick hanging out of my pants?
With one final act of will I try to make myself piss, pressing down on my bladder with my gut, wincing at the pain of the exertion. You fucking – it won't go. My dick may as well be a cactus for all of the water it's going to produce.
I'm never going to piss. The music is never going to start up again, the pipes and air are never going to make another sound, and this guy is never going to leave my side. Because this is how things are for me now.
I'm in Hell. I must have died - probably crashed my car on the expressway - and this is Hell for me; an eternity spent standing at a urinal next to some guy in a completely silent bathroom, not pissing. Until the end of Time...
Okay I'm being ridiculous here. I'm not in Hell; I'm perfectly alive and this is just some sort of really bad coincidence. Just some kind of unbelievably long shot coincidence I mean what are the odds, WHAT ARE THE ODDS the universal odds it's like some vast reality spanning conspiracy against my bladder, God hates my bladder, my dick is Public Enemy Number One. Fuck me and my bladder and my dick, yeah fuck that guy man! Fucking loser man, why should we give that guy any sort of a break – in fact, let's specifically go out of our way to make sure that he and only he gets fucked with in exactly and precisely the way that's going to ruin him completely and it's the exactitude and precision of the thing that kills me the most, the precise timing of the thing that I just can't accept, I mean Jesus Christ the guy is still standing there, not pissing, the music is still turned off and the pipes and the air are still off, they're still off and how long has it been now since the silence began?
My entire body has now tensed up into a cardboard cut out that's about to fall over. The guy next to me seems to have completely frozen up as well, and there is a brief moment where I think that maybe he's feeling exactly the same way as me, maybe he's asking himself why in the Hell did have to be so lazy as to take the nearest urinal when he could clearly see that he would standing right next to the only other guy in the bathroom, I mean what is wrong with him, is he some kind of a stupid idiot or what, man?
I hate him. I hate this guy. He should have known better. He did know better.
And that's when I realize that this has become a contest of some kind, like a game of chicken. To see who is going to flinch first, and who can stand here not peeing in the sudden and absolute silence of this bathroom, who can just wait it out and not care that no is peeing at all. How long has it been? At least five minutes since the music and everything else stopped. At least. Both of us standing next to each other like this, for that long. It's ridiculous. I can hear the guy breathing through his nose, and doubtlessly by now he can hear the noises that I am making, little strident noises of tension, kind of an anguished squeak just under my breath as the pressure rises within my brain, but-
But not in my bladder at all, it seems.
You know what? I don't even have to pee anymore. Really, there's like no pressure at all anymore. Why did I even come in here in the first place? No pressure at all, it's really no big deal, everything's cool-
GODDAMNIT GO for the love of GO YOU STUPID I CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE THAT'S IT I DON'T CARE ANY MORE I”M LEAVING RIGHT NOW!
And this is the thought that finally does it: A man values his time. A man doesn't waste his time playing stupid little bathroom games with other men. This is beneath me.
And just like that I put my dick back in my pants and zip up. Without looking at the guy I turn and walk away ( I actually turn fully away from him and do a 3/4 rotation in order to walk back around behind him), and in spite of my thought about a man valuing his time, I can instantly recognize the hot plume of shame already rising up from my belly and spreading across my face. That's it. I did it, I gave up. I GAVE UP. My legs go cold. I'm staring at the wall behind the guy, really studiously examining the tile patterns of the wall as I make my way past the guy, and along with the shame is this intense feeling of shucked up anxiety, the sense that things aren't quite over, just yet. This causes me to quicken my step and head straight for the door without stopping to wash my hands.
Steps away from the door I hear it. The sound. The guy makes that sound; that smug, arrogant sound that people make when they are filled with a sense of personal triumph. The sound of 'I win'. The sound of, 'I'm better than you'.
He goes: “Hmph.”
And immediately afterwards comes the sound of him pissing, a loud continuous stream that he must have been holding in for quite some time.
I turn back and look at him. He stands there with his head held smugly with the double chin effect, oh yes, it's definitely an arrogant look now, I was right about that the first time, and he's got a self satisfied smirk on his face, and even a bit of the old George Clooney head waggle going on there for good measure. And that piss is just flowing for him now, isn't it, oh yeah he's got no problem letting it fly now, doesn't he, and worst of all it's making me want to piss too, but what am I gonna do about it? Go back?
And oh, look at that, the fan started up again. And the pipes. Gurgle gurgle, the pipes are going, lucky pipes. Oh, and – wait for it -
The music. Oh wonderful music bringing colour and joy into the lives of millions. Of course. Of course NOW.
So I'm just standing there and I can feel my nerves pulling me in both directions at once: my nerves are telling me to turn around and walk out the door, but they're also telling me that I gotta do something, I can't just leave it like this, ah forget about it you're on the road, nothing lasts on the road, but I'll know and so will he, I'll know that I let this guy get the better of me in this completely underhanded way, I let him win. My body is twitching back and forth as I try to decide, just jerking myself around here, and the music sounds like some sort of schoolyard chant that ridicules me - “lala la la, we wouldn't sing for you until you gave up, you gave up, you gave up the urinal, lala la you failed the test...” and before I know it my own voice bursts out of me and fills the space with a dull and cavernous boom.
“I AM UNABLE TO URINATE AT THIS TIME.” I blurt out in this loudly weird monotone. “YOU HAVE MADE ME TOO NERVOUS TO GO PEE AND SO I WILL HAVE COME BACK AGAIN LATER.” The guy jolts upright and freezes at the sound of my voice. He just absolutely freezes in place, because there's no question about it, this voice I'm using? It's the voice of a mentally retarded person.
And now Buddy has turned his head completely sideways to face me and the shock on his face is a beautiful thing to behold. His little piggy eyes are bugging out and his arrogant chin has sunken into quivering jowls and his head sure ain't wagging now; his head is completely still and locked fully in place, staring at me in stunned disbelief.
“I WILL HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL YOU LEAVE THE BATHROOM BEFORE I CAN TAKE MY PEE BECAUSE YOU ARE A WEIRD PERSON AND I DON'T LIKE YOU.” And even though I know it's wrong to imitate a retarded guy, damn if it doesn't feel right. I mean it feels completely natural to be retarded at a moment like this, because what I'm doing is that I'm retarding the entire incident – I'm retarding the humiliation I feel, I'm retarding the arrogance of my nemesis, and most of all I'm retarding the fear that I've been feeling right up until this very moment. And replacing that fear is a sensation of such wonderful power, that at this moment there is only one phrase that comes to mind: TARD POWER.
The Tard Power is strong in me as raise a sudden awkward arm to point straight at him. “YOU MAKE THIS BATHROOM WEIRD. AND WHEN YOU ARE GONE I WILL COME BACK AND THEN IT WILL BE A GOOD BATHROOM AGAIN.” The guy's eyes are bugging out even more, his face has switched to a deep shade of crimson, and even though all of the background noises are up and running again, there is one thing that I know for absolute certain.
This guy is no longer able to urinate. I retarded his fucking urine flow ah ha ha ha HAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!! Yeah! Fuck you man!
And with that I spin on my heel, I pull open the door and stride out of the bathroom and into the main area.
There seems to be a lot more people around now. A crowd of families sitting in their plastic chairs and tables bolted to the floor. Most of them are staring right at me. They must have heard my little outburst.
And you know what? I really don't care. It just doesn't matter to me anymore, what these people think. What the guy in the bathroom thinks, what anyone thinks. It's just such a relief to let go of all of that worry, and I realize that that I've been holding in all this anxiety and fear, for so long now, such a long time living in this vague and undefinable fear of humiliation and disgrace, like a permanent sword of Damacles hovering over my head for what feels like my whole life. My whole life, what kind of way is that to go through life?
My shoulders drop and my eyes close as a long deep breath escapes slowly from within my chest. I can feel the last of that stupid fear just fall away from me, dropping away like a second skin, and it's such a relief to realize that there is nothing to be afraid of, nothing at all, just let it go, let it go and let it fall away from you and feel yourself release this burden away from you forever. Stop holding it in. Let it go.
My eyes open and I look down.
And see that I've pissed my pants.
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