Monday, August 11, 2008

Restroom Fiction

by Abi

It was the usual second floor bathroom –same leaky faucets and (unflushed) toilets, same Manang also, by the door as always, supplying the unarmed student with bluebooks, junk food and sanitary napkins. Same doors that won’t lock, same clogged bowls of waste and whatnot. By the mirror, a row of colegialas bury their faces underneath layers of make-up as if the next beauty pageant will begin any minute, while pretending like the smell of the lunch aftermath was not in the air. I noticed, that the usual angry squiggles on the ceramic walls are becoming more evident now.

The fact is that no matter how ridiculous the vandalisms may appear, a story will always be behind them (or so I would like to think, as I sometimes amuse myself by reading the cheap entertainment off the wall.) I would wonder about what would motivate a certain Miss Petra (not her real name) to amuse her fellow washroom users by writing:

here I sit / broken-hearted; / tried to shit / but only farted

I don’t know. Perhaps I’ve spent much a great deal of my time watching how people behave in this place. How many times have I skimmed through rows of endless cussing, to end them each with a new name, always unsigned. Sometimes there’d be hearts pierced with a name, looking like a high school crush hangover. “I crush you, Jordan!” would be a common thing amidst the sea of Paolos, of Jeffs and yes, this room’s hall of famer, a certain Amboy from MBB. I would be lucky to find entire scripts, from the most random things (“Ang buhay ay isang arinola..”) to entire dialogues on virginity, or politics.

Funny thing though, as it turns out to be one of the rather sad stories I’ve imagined – when you came all of a sudden and wrote poetry instead of usual gabble, that instead of writing “Ang mag-vandalize dito ay fanget”, you began with:

“Love comes to the dry soul like rain to a parched land…”

It looked odd, stood out from among the other scribbles – it was, on its own an oasis in a desert; a Popsicle on a hot summer’s day.

“Inlab ka ba ineng?” someone wrote next to your verse. For a while I had a break from the usual cuss words and imagined a story slowly unraveling itself on the ladies room bathroom. I especially liked the extended version of “If I were the clothes on his body, I shall weep every time he undresses, like it were my death…” And just the same, you came in day after day, writing poetry, or letters – and your face would look as though you have just heard the first joke on earth.

Save for one day.

“For the season of drought has brought nothing, Save the past outbursts of the storm, A torrent of bitter tears Cursing the ground…”

Indeed, it was a drought. It was the last I’ve heard from you.

I can think, perhaps, that you have simply ran out of permanent markers and felt-tip pens, or just a short episode of writers block rearing to you its ugly head. Maybe you have found a more convenient bathroom to deface. Or maybe, your words are no longer constrained to the wall, I can imagine you finally whispering them to the ears of a boy, and on both your faces, that same smile…

But I seriously need to work on being a better optimist.

I still keep amusing myself reading off the vandalisms. In all my years seeing the same second floor bathroom, watching it deteriorate into a dull gray, I remember being witness to countless lives unfold, simply by looking at the writings on the wall - even the most vulgar scribbles must have had some inspiration behind it, I constantly remind myself. Year after year, some janitor would scrub them off, paint over them - over and over and over. Some however, are much harder to forget than the others. Strange talk. Cuss words. Conversations. Euphemisms. Poetry. All I can do is watch. And wait.
And hope.

For that’s who I am, the silent arbiter. I stand watch to these short-lived outbursts of human honesty.

And you thought I was just a wall.

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