Yesterday morning I experienced an unprecedented lapse of any sort of sense whatsoever, and in blatant disregard of any notions of safety or self-preservation, found myself in the “ladies” room in Washington Square Park.
OK, so I had to “go”. But it wasn’t like the need was so urgent that the only other option would be to blithely lower my pants, squat by the curb between two parked cars, and calmly “TCOB” right there, the way I saw some bedraggled scamp of indeterminate gender do that same day. And it most certainly wasn’t like the time a few of us were on an uptown bus on our way to The Cloisters (why we took the bus, I still don’t know) and we had to get off the bus so I could pee in a sink at a Wendy’s somewhere in Harlem. (For the record, the toilet was not an option.) (Like the sink was? you ask, curling your lip in disgust.) I actually smiled to myself when I saw the ladies room and marvelled at the serendipity. At no time prior to my entrance did I stop and think, Rape! Murder! or even No toilet paper! No smiling attendant handing me a soft-as-suede paper towel! No. I just thought, This park is great!
As soon as I stepped inside, however, my Miss Mary Sunshine thoughts swiftly turned to rape and murder and how much money I had in my wallet so that I could offer it to the three people who lurked inside in exchange for the privilege of not being the next victim of those crimes I knew they were waiting to commit on the next hapless idiot who invaded their “turf”. But did I instantly “turn tail” and leave? No. Of course not.
Why? Because I worried that the three obviously drugged-up bathroom denizens, smoking butts they no doubt pried from the bathroom floor, peering at one another through half-closed eyes as they exchanged blurry words, would think I was rude if I left the bathroom without availing myself of at least one of its usual services. So I leaned against the cruddy sink, tied a rubber hose around my bicep, shot up some heroin, acknowledged my three new best friends with a lazy nod, and then went into the first stall … where of course there was no toilet paper.
My first thought, after the standard reflex “Fuck!” was, Oh god. I’m sure they know there’s no toilet paper in here. I hope they think I have some in my purse and that I’m not just going to go without! But my worries were far from over.
My next dilemma was this: To wash the hands or not to wash? If I don’t wash, I fretted, then they’ll definitely know that I’m scared of them, and they might think I’m some stuck-up white bitch who can’t handle the grit of this place … so I’d better at least run my hands under the faucet.
Which led to my next pressing issue: They’re going to notice that I didn’t use soap, and they’re going to think I’m a slob. Or they’re going to think I’m just lingering here as a pose because I’m a little scared of them and want to show them that I’m not afraid, and that I’m accepting of all kinds of people. (By this time, of course, any worry of rape and/or murder was eclipsed by my concern that the lurkers would consider me rude or unhygienic.)
So I lingered further, slowly dried my hands (there was actually paper towel in the dispenser), licked the floor (to show them I wasn’t stuck-up), and left, relieved in more ways than one.