6:00 A.M. Prompt
“In the Ladies Room”
by Kenya Jones

It gets cold in the office, so I go in the ladies room. Somehow, it’s much warmer here. It’s also blessedly dim. My eyes hurt from staring at the computer screen for hours on end. In the ladies room, my eyes and I, we get a break. I blink them upwards, grateful for the relative dark. One of the bulbs is out, humming lowly from high above; trying hard to bring itself back to life. Like me?

I open and close the stall door gently. I engage the latch the same way. I undo my belt and pants and sit down. I pee. I stare at the smooth porcelain white surface in front of me. My body relaxes minutely. Understanding that women are afraid to sit still for longer than it should be necessary to complete the function of relieving one’s self of urine, wiping clean and flushing, I tuck my feet in cautiously. Pull them closer to the base of the bowl I am sitting on. Other women look at shoes. At least I do. Would someone recognize mine? If I sat here. Not wiping yet. Not taking care of any menstrual needs.

I am just sitting, relaxed. Basking in the warmth, and the dim atmosphere, and the quiet. But for the humming of that broken bulb, trying so hard to live again. I rest my chin on my hand; elbow on my thigh. Blinking, I close my eyes and drift into absolutely nothing of significance, giving my brain a momentary rest. The caffeine, the bright screen, the cold, the thinking thinking thinking … one by one I lose them. They leave me. Drained away and momentarily forgotten. I sit, breathing in and out without much noise, watching the black space created by my eyelids, thinking of nothing. For a time.

Someone comes in. She is loud to arrive. Heels clicking forcefully on the tile flooring. The clanging of an object brought with her (notebook? water bottle? coffee cup?) on the metal surface of the catch-all ledge just outside the stall doors.She opens and closes a stall door with a bang! The latch is handled with hard, heavy motions.She sits with a creak, and pees. My god it’s strong. It shoots. It scores. It’s pressure is powerful.

I make a face, remembering my own weak stream. But I sit, remaining quiet; making not a peep. My eyes open as I wonder. Why so loud in such a quiet place? The noise echoes, filling the eight-stall room. She clears her throat. Takes up rolling out a long patch of toilet paper. The bowl creaks again. All the signs of putting herself back together again. The automatic flush briefly drowns them out. And she’s off, the same way as she came into my quiet place of solitude, disrupting the peace of nothingness. Just as well.

I wait for her to finish washing and drying her hands in a whirlwind of activity. I count her forceful steps as she exits the ladies room busily, too concerned with her day to pause. To be quiet. To be gentle. To be nothing. I think of myself, and my search for the gentle quiet of nothing. In the middle of the bright noise of everything. Looking down at my hidden feet, I sigh.

Ending the prelude, finally I engage in the business of wiping and putting myself back together again. The ladies room is no place to hide.

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*photo credit: clker.com