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enter the urinarium

a little while ago, i decided to make myself go through the process of reading every piece of writing that i had on my computer, because i was convinced that there must be a few bits and pieces i'd forgotten among the piles of stuff that i've accumulated and, in some cases, published. turns out that was quite true. in fact, i found an outline for my unfinished-but-will-be-finished-at-some-point serial "a definable moment in time" that predates me thinking of the most of the events and characters of that story. this is a little concerning, because the plot outline is pretty detailed and while i knew that i had had a few of the ideas rattling around in my brain for a long time, when i started to write a.d.m.i.t., i had no recollection whatsoever of having written out a parallel story involving the same plot twists but with completely different characters. 

i also found a file entitled "urinarium", which sounds like a word that i made up, except that spellcheck accepts it, so it has to be ok, right? [note: spellcheck only recently started accepting "spellcheck" as a word, which seems like it should be the subject of some philosophical inquiry. it's also telling me that one of the instances of the word "spellcheck" in that last sentence is incorrect, but it's fine with the others.] i actually thought it might have been a draft of this blog post, since i have on occasion written up ideas in draft form to give myself a chance to think of whether or not i really want to publish them. you should see the reject pile. [no, you shouldn't. that's the point of it. -ed.]

in fact, it was a very short story along the same lines, which just goes to show that one of the things i've forgotten is how preoccupied with urine i can be. i'm not actually sure which came first, the blog post or the story, although i'm guessing they both were done around the same time. so if my writing ever becomes famous and studied in universities, some professor is going to have to talk to students with a straight face about the author's urine period. i can live with that. 

anyway, here's the story that i discovered. it is tiny but i'm not sure it needs very much more. 

[p.s.: i wanted to restart "mental health mondays" today, after its world cup holiday, however i am suffering more than usual from the effects of sleep deprivation and can't be critical or clever. however, since sleep deprivation can technically be classified as a mental disorder, just reading my senseless rambling may qualify as a study in poor mental hygiene. get your sleep, people, or you too will end up finding stories about urine on your computers.]

RIGHT AFTER THE BREAK



I am home again, my eyes inflamed, pleading with me to press my lids together and surrender and dream. It won’t happen. The transition from the sultry haloes of the sodium lights outside to the stiff and amply lit lobby is quite literally painful. I feel myself flinch and shield my eyes before I realize how foolish this must look.

I get in the elevator, where the light flickers erratically, fighting for attention over our heads. Our heads. In the elevator with me is an old lady, not even up to my shoulder. She comes with the elevator, I think, because she’s on it when the door opens. She has her coat on as if she was making to go out, a filthy all-weather coat, once navy blue now streaked with what looks like motor oil. She wears stockings and running shoes and who knows what other clothing, I can’t see any and for just a minute, I shudder as I imagine that she might be naked. Elephantine folds of skin sitting on the other side of that grimy nylon coat, inches away from me.

The door hangs open for what seems like an hour, as if it anticipates her leaving to go for a late-night walk. She seems prepared for it, is on the right floor for it, but she doesn’t move, stands stock-still and blinking without any reaction whatsoever. Finally she turns a little, towards me, but without acknowledging my presence. The elevator and I have no idea what to do about her.

I shudder, perhaps visibly, as I push the button for my floor. The old lady is carrying porn. Not fresh, out of the store, or even ‘I found it in my son’s old bedroom’ kind of porn. Used. Well-handled. The kind where the pages are thinned from being pressed between the acid flesh of sweaty fingers, the kind that’s lost much of its colour, so that the flesh has turned a sickly sort of strawberry candy pink.

She looks me over with her brown eyes. They might once have been velvety warm, or lustrous like tiger-eye stones, but now they’ve faded to a sort of dull carpet brown. The light overhead has been malfunctioning for weeks, growing spastically bright and dark, sharp and grainy and it changes the colour of those eyes, now a sun-bleached taupe, now a clod-of-earth brown but always those eyes rest on me, somewhere between my chest and my face. She’s staring into my neck.

I press my floor again and finally the door rumbles shut. It’s silent for a second, then it comes: a new, unexpected noise. At first, I’m afraid to look because it sounds like the rustling of papers. Then I realise it’s not dry sound like paper at all but wet, wet like a faucet, wet like a fountain. That’s when I have to look.

She’s still got those tired eyes fixed on me, awake, alert, focused, waiting for a reaction. She’s staring at me and pissing on the floor.

This is how we travel on the elevator. Both of us silent, looking uncomfortably at each other, smelling the great clouds of uric acid that are now rising around us. Her expression is so steady that I don’t even know if she’s aware of what she’s done until she finally opens her mouth.

“That always feels so good.” She sounds happy; not ecstatic, but content in that way you get when you receive a $50 refund from the government. ‘So sorry, please have a few drinks or a nice dinner on us,’ kind of thing. The old lady’s lips compress a little in what might be a smile, a proud-as-punch smile. I have pissed on the communal floor and I am happy.

The elevator shudders to a halt before we get to my floor and the door creaks open. My urine-soaked companion steps off the elevator and almost crashes into the bulky man waiting there. He jumps back with a surprising delicacy and turns to me as she brushes past him without acknowledgement and heads down the hall.

“Going up or down?” he asks, because our ancient elevators don’t know the difference as far as answering a call.

“Up,” I rasp, trying not to inhale. “Up.”

I notice his eyes fall on the wet patch of carpet next to me, the incriminating stain, just as the door starts to close and as we lose sight of each other, I see his eyes flit between me and the direction in which the old lady disappeared. Perhaps he’s concerned and wants to help her, but what would be the point?

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