Strange Bathrooms

Do not pass from short-term into long-term memory, do not collect $200.

Think about those times when you’ve end up in a strange bathroom. You’ve never been there before and you will never be there again, but you’re there now, sitting down, vulnerable in your animal humanity, in a novel environment utterly unaffected by your presence.

It is a moment both visceral and transient. It engenders certain questions: how many asses has that toilet seat known? Conversely, how many toilet seats has your ass known? And how many of those do you actually recall?

It’s a least-important filler moment of your life, the kind your mind discards almost immediately, do not pass from short-term into long-term memory, do not collect $200. Is that a good thing? Are you thankful for the automatic neurological functioning that means you don’t have to recall with perfect accuracy each and every urination experience?

Roadside gas stations, the homes of distant relations, campsite outhouses, frathouse water closets. Stare, as you squat, at the uncapped Axe deodorant, the fractal pattern of rust on the faucet. Commit it all to memory, in your drunken haze, realizing in that moment that it is a one-time offer: odds are you’ll never be here again. The room will forget you; the porcelain amnesiac, the cracked mirror having no power to preserve you inside its frame, past the moment you give it one last bleary stare before stumbling back out into the punch-sloshed scene.

My question for you, or perhaps more of a challenge: what’s the most memorable bathroom you only ever used once?

For me, it was the pink-tiled restroom of a friend’s neighbor’s house. We’d walked about a block to this particular backyard, in order to make use of their pristine trampoline (with permission). Those with trampoline experience might feel a flutter of foreboding already, at the idea of going full force on the springs encumbered with a full bladder— and so too did I, at age 9, understand the danger. Thirty minutes of bouncing passed before the situation grew too grim to bear any longer.

With my friend’s encouragement, I sought refuge inside this neighbor’s house. As I was bid enter, I was aware with every passing moment of the utter alienness of the situation— it was strange enough to be inside a neighbor’s home, but the home of a friend’s neighbor, miles away from my own block? Utter madness.

I did my business in that foreign magenta lavatory, oddly and poignantly aware that I would, in all likelihood, never experience a repeat visit. I had the urge to learn by heart the frayed edges of the towels, the floral pattern of the shower curtain, as if I’d be quizzed on it later.

Then I returned to the trampoline, unburdened and free. I may have done a flip, I don’t remember. It’s possible.