Soul Crushingly Awkward Bathroom Moments (Part 4)

The groans were muffled, albeit still present, through the usually sound proof bathroom door. A sound that seemed to transition from immeasurable pain to improbable gratification echoed through the moist walls of the company bathroom as I entered. I assumed several substantial orcas were submerged somewhere in the depths of the bathroom stalls, bellowing their enduring mating calls. Or a herd of goats had been brought in for a routine office slaughtering. I briefly considered retreat but my bladder ached from several cups of weak coffee prior that morning. I passively glided towards the urinal, the primal urge of relief easily overpowering the suspicion of the unnatural howls resonating from the stall.

As soon as I reached the urinal the sounds ceased…almost immediately as they began and my biggest fear was on the verge of full realization. The beast that had somehow managed its way into a corporate bathroom stall was preparing to emerge. Unquestionably leaving whatever filth it had birthed to ruin the next unsuspecting employee’s day. The looming confrontation with whatever was clawing at the cardboard toilet paper transformed the pace of my urination from hurried to frenzied. There was still the slight possibility of escaping without conflict.

Just as the stream lightened and inevitably stopped, I heard the familiar creak of the stall door. I hastily zipped and spun around with the hope that I could at least be at the sink focusing deeply on drying my hands to avoid any discomforting eye contact. Unfortunately our eyes locked with the intensity of two people who had just suffered a near death experience together. I sheepishly smiled as though I hadn’t heard the several minutes of revolting, barely human cries prior and was met with a pair of judging eyes. As though it was somehow my fault that he was tormented by transcendent constipation.

Following him to the sink, I braced myself for another several seconds of excruciating silence. Then a saving thought…the Cubs had just defeated the Cardinals the previous night and the entire city had been buzzing about it…there was an opportunity for commonality after all. “Big win last night,” I suggested cheerfully. “I don’t like sports,” he replied dryly, his condemning eyes still suggesting I somehow influenced whatever poor diet was causing the blockage. “Neither am I,” I blurted, not taking the time to consider it made absolutely no sense given that I had made the original suggestion. “Not toooooooo…big into that much  sports either,” I continued desperately but unsuccessfully trying to fill the silence. Our eyes met again in the mirror, he gazed even deeper with the melancholy eyes of a parent who had just discovered a VHS copy of Backdoor Busty Babes XII hidden strategically in the rarely used family bread maker.

Looking back on the interaction, perhaps it was my fault, maybe I could have done something to help…suggested a preventative daily regimen of probiotic months earlier…slid a laxative under the door…anything…but I did nothing.

We exited in silence, he thinking that I was a person that didn’t like sports and enjoyed being silently scolded in office bathrooms, me knowing that he was a man that disliked sports and presumably had a singular bowel movement monthly. The way those blaming eyes had probed the depths of my soul, I still feel somehow responsible for the anguish suffered that day.

stall

 

 

 

 

Loop

Loop

A feeling of swaying weightlessness nudged me gently awake. I succumbed to the weight of my eyelids several times before managing to open them. Viewing wherever I was as though I was peering through a pile of kindling or loosely folded fingers. I was moving at a moderate speed, the unmistakable sound of churning metal suggested a train or a foundry.  How did I get here? What is here? Those fleeting moments of delirium that come immediately before a deep sleep hadn’t happened, at least from what I remember, but my sour breath and confusion suggested I had been out for some time.

An unbroken stream of cool air coming from nowhere transformed my skin into a braille novella. Every pore stretched eagerly for the ceiling above. There was glistening frost clinging to the seats too, they appeared fragile, the cold must have compromised the structure beneath. Contradicting the temperature was the smell of spring as I looked out the window into the pitch black.

The darkness was uncanny, there was nothing outside, and I steadfastly maintained this notion. I feared an interaction with anything living in such an abyss. An enduring war seemed to wage between the flickering fluorescents and the unsettling darkness, apathetic to my presence.  I breathed heavily in through my nose and expelled through my mouth watching a thick plume grow thin and disappear. I did this several times hoping the breath would dislodge an obstructed memory, nothing was dislodged, nothing was obstructed. Unrelenting vacancy. Though there was a hint of spring, the train car smelled as though it was preserving something. I briefly reflected on the unwrapping of a perfectly maintained pig corpse for dissection during 8th grade anatomy. The train was gaining speed. What is here?

I rubbed my hands against the rolling dunes of my corduroy pants and an unmanageable panic set in, as I realized the absence of the ever familiar cell phone bulge. Jamming my hands into my pockets, a varnish of sweat formed along my forehead, the plumes grew more frequent, more ragged. My knees bent involuntarily and I collapsed forcefully back into my seat. The stiff plastic felt like fraying concrete in the cold. I shut my eyes once more and focused wholly on the motion of the train. The intricacies felt gliding along the track provided momentary refuge, feeling the wheels compress the iron fault lines, briefly indulging each crack’s desire to be filled calmed me greatly.

I examined the doors that appeared sealed shut by a pulsating red fiber, thick with hundreds of thousands of intricate layers. A spider web of human muscle. An oak tree made entirely of red splintering noodles. The fiber climbed and at the top the tiny spindles appeared to form some type of elaborate map. The labyrinth of tissue appeared impenetrable and I pondered the pointlessness of a map if the train never stopped. The rattling of metal grew louder outside and even the immense darkness seemed blurred as the careening train sliced through.

Until now it had seemed like I was the solitary presence on this lumbering tin can. Something was different now though. An undeniable feeling of being observed followed by the company of a single set of watchful eyes. This was the first time I had surveyed the interior of the train and to my surprise every seat was occupied except the one adjacent to me. I looked up hoping to meet the understanding eyes of someone who could explain my current predicament, as being on this train officially seemed like a predicament. I instead caught the sunken and vacant eyes of something that looked vaguely human. Its head turned only slightly in my direction, the slight motion seemed to take immense effort. A layer of dander abandoned its lengthy resting place and floated to the floor. No sooner had I looked its head snapped back and it looked directly forward once more.

For several seconds the head wobbled as though it were suspended in mid-air by rubber bands. It appeared to be my height exactly and even though it was completely naked there was no discernable gender. The limbs and face seemed slightly elongated, though the nose appeared in perfect proportion. The cracked lips were puckered and turned slightly up as though smiling but void of any real happiness. Maybe the twisted smile once meant something, now it appeared solely complacent. I wondered if the passengers had all passed away. My lips began to pucker, mimicking the beings.

The eyes themselves looked small but the bright white was easily discernible against the wrinkled black skin that surrounded them. Though the eyes looked unoccupied, there was something recognizable in them. The rest of its skin appeared wholly beige but ripe with shadows from the immense amount of wrinkles. At times the shadows seemed to outweigh the skin itself, making the fragments look like floating continents on crumpled map. The bottomless creases appeared as black as the abyss outside. It had shoulder length hair that was aggressively thin; the strands that remained looked brittle and malnourished, capable of shattering into a million pieces at any time. The chest appeared to faintly rise and fall though it didn’t appear as though any breath was expelled from its nostrils or mouth.

The being looked frail and utterly ancient, but oddly content, somehow satisfied with its apparent decay and current course. I peered down the aisle and only then realized how extensive the train was. Thousands upon thousands of seats as far as I could see, all occupied by similar looking creatures of varying weights, sizes and apparent ages. Every set of eyes looking forward, focused on nothing in particular. I stood up and approached one of them; I began asking a series of questions hoping to elicit some type of response. The stillness inside the train grew in unison with the velocity outside. I looked down and noticed the red fibers curled around the gnarled hoofs of the creature, growing up its leg with even some strands reaching its lower abdomen. The condition appeared consistent on most of the other passengers. Several heads turned and snapped trembling, unbalanced atop the skinny neck.

Overwhelmed I returned to my seat to reflect on the current circumstance. How much time had passed? I caught a glimpse of myself in one of the windows. My eyes were red; the luggage underneath them seemed to sink to the middle of my cheeks. I felt insubstantial and tired. I stared wholly into the manifestation and felt what seemed an entire year’s worth of emotions instantaneously. The glass trembled as I considered how much had changed. Weighing their life against mine the thought of no adversity seemed agreeable. To submit to whatever this device was, to become a permanent passenger on the train. Riding in a satisfying indifference for eternity. The red fibers began to touch my now bare feet; they felt warm and welcoming.

I sank back into my seat and stared forward offering my legs to the thread’s loving embrace. The speed had reached such a velocity that the entire train felt weightless. The lights flickered violently. The fibers all over the train illuminated. I unexpectedly stood up, and lifted each leg forcefully several times ripping the strands from my bare flesh. What was I doing? My body seemed to be seeking something that my mind wasn’t privy to. I longed to remain on the train forever, but my limbs moved with precision and purpose. Finally free of the strands I hurled myself through the frozen window exploding shards of glass all over the train as the warm air outside tore in. I looked back and saw a slightly turned head, the white eyes focused completely on my descent. They appeared sad but understanding. I plummeted at what I perceived to be the same velocity the train was moving now, only in a different direction, spiraling out into the pitch black abyss.

Soul Crushingly Awkward Bathroom Moments (Part 2)

The forceful gust was greatly unexpected and thus escaped both violently and noisily. I stood at the urinal relieved, and alarmed. The duration and immediacy of stomach turning scent were inhuman.  As the last piercing, eye stinging whine escaped I heard the recognizable creak of the bathroom door opening. Now sheepishly residing in my own stench, I wondered how much the person had heard. If they had heard the entire thing, how deeply disturbed were they? It was an incredibly sobering moment.

It’s certainly always possible to blame a venomous fume on the stalls. Those stalls could take it. They were well equipped to be shamed, to neutralize the transcendent humiliation. There was always plausible deniability. It all came down to what the hell he had heard. Since I was the only one in the bathroom, if he had heard the rebel yell and smelled the ghastly aroma, only one conclusion could be drawn. The echo of the footsteps was agonizing. A glaze had gathered on my forehead.

As the person engaged the urinal, I turned to realize it was the CEO of the company. Someone, whom I had rarely engaged with, was now standing beside me, drenched in the sour, stagnant air. Death sentence. There was nothing I could say to excuse this. It had exceeded offensive, and was bordering on abusive. Then words. “Angry lunch today eh?” He had heard the whole thing. I somberly agreed that it was in fact an angry lunch that day, having nothing else to add. A resounding silence followed that still haunts me to this day.

1ZKY8_AS01

Figure.

The window is cracked just enough to enhance the feeling of warmth and invincibility provided by the heavy quilts. The fading buzz of withering cicadas carries well over the cool night air. The smell of changing leaves lingers on the damp pavement around the city. It had been a strange day for him, consumed by unprompted self-reflection. A suffocating feeling of inconsequentiality had delivered him into a dreamy detached reality. He found it strange that he was 30 years old. Some memories didn’t seem like his, created by a different version of himself in another reality or a different lifetime. A heaviness in his chest suggested a looming sickness. At least he thought. The feelings were exhausting and the only thing that had subdued the mistrust was the television. The consistency of the programming times was the only thing he could count on today. A vessel to the familiar and comforting state of unthinking.

Now lying in bed the feelings stir once more, inhabiting every seam and stitch of the quilt now pulled tightly around his chin. He falls into an uncomfortably light sleep at a time far earlier than normal. He’s awoken by the buzzer that signifies someone is at the front door awaiting entry. It’s startling but it is not uncommon for someone to mistakenly summon the wrong apartment. He picks up his phone, it’s midnight. It feels as though he’s been asleep for several days and his limbs seem heavy. He succumbs to the weight of his eyelids and loses consciousness once more. He must have fallen back asleep judging by how alarmed he is when the shrill noise of the buzzer rings once more, this time for 10 seconds in his estimation. He examines his clock, it is now 12:30 a.m. Had the person been waiting a half hour to ring again? Was it the same person? He sits up in bed rubbing his chest doing little to pacify the tightening sensation. The pale yellow moon pries its way through the chattering blinds.

The yellowed box on the wall screams again, the buzzes occurring  now about three seconds in duration with five seconds between each noise. An unsettling preciseness. He quietly walks to the bathroom as though whatever is outside will be alerted by any movement or noise. Though there is no visibility of the apartment from the front door. He splashes cool water on his face and is now fully awake. He examines the device on the wall that has now gone silent. Another buzz, this one lasting an eternity. The sound can convey no emotion but the duration does. Something about it makes his stomach drop and he can feel his heart beat in his head. It’s almost 1:00 a.m. now. He walks to the box realizing the room temperature has dropped. He pushes the talk button, allowing him to broadcast his voice to the front door. His finger is numb and it takes him a moment to realize the button isn’t fully depressed. “Hello? Is anyone there?” he says, sounding wholly uncertain. Waiting two seconds he presses the listen button. At first inaudible, he listens closer. “Yes.” he hears “Yes.” repeated slowly and purposefully. Static soaked and hollow, completely void of any emotion. There is a slight wheeze and it carries through the apartment. He takes his finger off the button, but the sound seems to linger in the cool night air.

He presses again. “Yes.” he hears again, the absent whisper repeating over and over. His finger mercifully releases the button, as though on its own accord. He backs away and peers out of the window of his second story apartment where he can see the locked front door. Sirens fade several blocks away, now the silence outside is uncanny. The moon is now resting comfortably behind a thick grey cloud. Every light in the building is off including his. Through the darkness there appears a substantial shadow in front of the door. It stands unwavering, unnaturally still. Appearing fixated on the handle of the front door. A breeze seems to disrupt the blackness of the shadow, but it remains otherwise motionless. A light appears to be emanating from the figure, it is as unmoving as the shadow itself. Narrow and concentrated, he stares for several minutes in unbroken silence. The light probes the panes of glass on the front door. The buzzer is silent as though the figure is aware it is being watched.

He sits back on the couch, it is almost 3:00 a.m. and he realizes he has been watching for an hour. He glares back out of the window at first seeing the figure but on closer examination it appears to have vanished. Something appears amiss, one of the panes of glass looks shattered on the front door. On second glance it appears normal. Maybe it wasn’t broken after all. He becomes suspicious of his bleary eyes, ultimately giving into the distrust, and walks to bed. He first checks his door to ensure it is locked, satisfied the unusual encounter is over. The confrontation has left him exhausted and he falls quickly asleep. Through his sleep he hears something. Slow, abnormal, dragging foot steps. A ragged exhale. Silence. A painful subdued moan, muffled and quiet sobbing. Silence. The familiar creak of the warped wood in front of his apartment. He hears everything and is fully awake in his head, though his body refuses to respond. He lies paralyzed, unable to stir his stubborn limbs. The grip of paralysis smothers him, numbing his entire body. The turn of a door handle. Several minutes pass. A dull light washes over his closed eyelids, investigating his face. “Yes.” he hears over and over again.

 

figure

Vegas Flight 1256

Rating: 0/10

If you’re in any way hungover stop reading this. Spare yourself. Do not be a hero. If this advice happens to fall on deaf ears, that manageable  headache and nausea will tailspin into a gruesome, godsplitting, knee-shaking, life questioning hell. One of those post binger mornings where you look in the mirror and your skin looks like a manilla envelope used for interoffice mail for several years. Nails frayed and hair as brittle as uncooked spaghetti noodles. Several texts on your phone from unknown numbers saying “We need to talk…” That type of hell.

There are certain rare instances where drinking and not sleeping for two straight days can create some very uncomfortable circumstances. Flight 1256 McCarran Intl Airport to O’Hare Intl Airport at 6:28 AM PT was one of those circumstances. It felt like several eternities, sitting there like a pathetic squirming insect at gate that I can’t recall. C29 seems familiar but then again so does E45 and F92. Completely broken and waging a relentless bloody war with consciousness in the godforsaken city known as Las Vegas. What was I mourning again? Or maybe I was celebrating, that had to be it, celebrating something.

The grip on consciousness was fading fast. Several clumsy and full face-plants in the security line had seemed to go unnoticed, but a full on pass out would almost certainly guarantee banishment from the gloriously parked silver bird to freedom sitting eagerly on the runway. The migration from belligerently drunk to violently hungover generally mercifully occurs whilst asleep. Since this wasn’t an affordable luxury, I sat, and patiently awaited the turn. The transition was instantaneous. Either the hangover had found its host, or some prankster had spiked my Arctic Chill Gatorade with 7-11 chili cheese sauce and taken a run on the back of my head with a sock full of quarters. The beeline to the airport bathroom was swift and purposeful.

No sooner had I left the friendly confines of the seat, an incomprehensible drone seemed to beckon me back. The boarding call that I had once longed for coming at the most inopportune of times. The guts evacuation would be postponed, but for how long? How long could shear and utter human will outlast nature? How long could I keep the monster at bay? Scratching and clawing its way to the surface with every painful, dragging footstep.

“I may pass away on this flight.” I dryly murmured to the United Air flight attendant. “Not on my watch honey!” she responded with a certain confidence that made me momentarily believe I was going to make it through this hell. Sitting in the seat of a flight packed to the brim, the massaging of my temples became more frequent and furious. At this point the concept of time was non-existent. I was in the clutches of that seat for 5 minutes, 5 hours, 5 days, 5 years. The sirens song of a hole to evacuate my stomach in became to overwhelming to ignore. In the bathroom stall, I planted myself on the ledge that the toilet rests in to balance myself, slouched partially over the sink. The severe nausea had momentarily passed, and the thought of the flight at some point ending was an agreeable prospect.

That prospect was short-lived, as everything came crashing down. The gradual tilting of the plane became more and more pronounced. First attributed to dizziness caused by the hooch, it was only when I was at a 45° that I realized my unfortunately timed bathroom run. Takeoff. As the plane climbed, my head spun. The altitude and level of nausea seemed to be growing in unison. The inevitable uncontrollable eruption happened immediately and furiously. A seafood tower and 18-27 Bud Lights covered the walls. Not a morsel in the toilet or sink. A portrait of Vegas excess. A tribute to Sin City. The sheepish retreat back to my seat was surreal. As I sunk in and attempted a complete disappearance. A futile effort because the odors being emitted even caused a college bro to comment “Dude commeeee on!” Soured milk. Sleep must have taken over at some point because the next thing I heard was the beautiful sound of the wheels caressing the Chicago pavement. The flight had ended.