“Cynics are just disappointed idealists” screams the graffiti sonorous and red inside of the toilet stall. I’m squeezed in so tightly in this box, my bare knobbly knees are gathering splinters pressed against the door, cracked like chapped lips. The words are visible and true but don’t feel immediate.
I mouth the syllables, so that they will one by one embed themselves inside of me when I speak. Instead I feel something splatter fast and wet on my thigh and I realize it’s the foamy beer spilling from my lips.
Blinking it dawns on me that I’m clutching a beer, squatted on a grimy toilet with an indiscernible color, wads of damp toilet paper clogging not just the bottom of the john but also the moist floor space of the cramped stall. The sharp movement of my head downward causes my mind to swim. I’m more drunk than I think I am, which happens more often than I would like to admit to myself, and most of all I feel stupid and insecure about a botched haircut.
The truth is I’ve been reading wall philosophy like “truckers are the backbone of America” for an undetermined amount of time, and I would rather do this than pull my underwear up, unlock the door to the claustrophobic stall and have to look at my reflection as I was my hands in the sink.
I don’t have to look in the mirror though — I know I currently resemble a fucking empowered single lesbian living alone with her cat in Brooklyn. Despite my admiration for women who themselves have the tenacity to embrace androgyny into something entirely their own, I look like I’m trying to be some hip other that I’m not. All I want out of life is to each day be one step closer into comfortably and finally settling into this skin, which more than often feels stretched too thin or too wide or not at all.
Frankie and Sharona and Lockett and Brad are even drunker than I am, dancing, reveling, reeling upstairs. Of this I’m certain, and I’m certain they’re wondering where I am, probably so that I can listen to Brad ramble about an inane existential identity crisis, smart as he is. Intelligent people often feel entitled to examine the seams of themselves feverishly to find something wrong to pick at, even when nothing is. They sink entirely into themselves, drowning in a deeply irrational, internalized problem that’s never realized but imagined, which holds the power to convince, sway, paralyze.
Lockett is certainly stumbling around the wooden tables, perplexed that my ass is not around, a concern that only ever happens with his friend Jose, last name Cuervo. He wants me, to please first with that flattery bullshit he’s so damn good at, the words just tumble so slightly and sweetly from his mouth and he’ll occasionally stroke my cheek with his forefinger and thumb, which simultaneously disgusts and floors me. I fucking hate when I turn to putty in his hands.
Then, he’ll plead. Nancy, please for the love of God talk Sharona out of drinking more, so that she won’t pee in a hostel locker like she did one time she was shitfaced and we were in Albuquerque, and that other time we found her in the bathtub and she had nearly evaporated completely.
No, all I can think of instead of going upstairs and having that nightcap on top of the “nightcap” I’m holding in my right hand is teleporting to my bed, into the solitary satisfaction of reading, hopefully drifting off with Kundera or Steinbeck or Nabokov’s words on my lips, but who knows. Sleep doesn’t come for me much these days.
I don’t know why I pretend to go to these bars anymore, these underground after-after parties, these contrived and unfulfilling nights of empty revelry, leaving only a consistent void of meaning or purpose. Everyone knows it but it affects me the most, it seems. I don’t know why I don’t just admit to them, to myself that this is all just a huge distraction. Everything we do, I do, is a farce, a series of meticulously scheduled events crafted in order for me to forget about myself. I’m even failing at that. Maybe —
I’ve been found. Drawing in a breath, I hesitate before speaking.
“Are you sick or some shit?” Frankie’s distinctive drawl, he’s definitely on something. “Get on upstairs, Sharona met some Austrians and we’re going to their place to get fucked up then crash on their couch, maybe, after we go to this open air rave their DJ friend Mazuko is throwing down at Echard Park.”
Aren’t we fucked up already? I glance at my watch. 5:15 AM.
“Nance? You coming or what?”
Taking one last look at the ceiling, I notice a phrase carefully penned near the upper lefthand corner. “The world is yours.” The words drain whatever sobriety was left within me. Is it really? I doubt it ever was.
Draining my beer in a single bump, a half-vomit half-gas burp emits from my mouth. I unlock the door and face Frankie’s half-mast eyes, bloodshot and hazily withdrawn from reality. I avoid looking at myself in the mirror as I smile and say,
- Scribbled on the ferry from Copenhagen to Berlin, inspiration taken from some compelling bathroom graffiti in Austin, Texas that I had written down and forgotten about until recently.