THE BATHROOM PSYCHIC
Going to bathroom is one of the least talked about and most widely practiced activities on the earth. Not many stories are written about it, but not a single life is lived without it, once when understands "going to the bathroom" to be merely an expression which applies not only to our visits to rooms identified by their tiled floors, toilets and sinks, but also to holes in the ground, the sides of trees, fields of high grasses, and a variety of bushes. Probably, I would join the rest of humanity in leaving this topic to the side - in practicing the art without any formal exposition or embellishment - were it not for the intrusion of a most irritating character into my life, who I absolutely cannot exonerate with silence, due to the very importance of the most discreet of our activities.
I was living in Mrs. Keyes’ Boarding House at the time. There were four floors, and on each one of them, there were four rooms, and for those four rooms, a single, shared bathroom. I kept odd hours at that time, due to the marginal nature of my work, which launched me in a different trajectory from the rest of the humanity. The upside of my peculiar schedule was that I rarely had a conflict for the bathroom. The normal cycles of waking, sleep, and work of my fellow residents practically assured that I should not be in competition with any of them for the use of the most prized of not-talked-about facilities.
But then he came. The one who has driven me to write of such a private matter: the bathroom psychic!
Every set of myths has had one – for the ancient Greeks it was the horrifying Medusa, for the Egyptians the evil Set, for the Norse it was Loki, malicious beyond words; every civilization in history has also had one – for the Romans it was Hannibal, for the Jews of ancient Israel it was Titus, for the British it was Napoleon. Mine was the bathroom psychic! Damn him, and everything he stands for!
He moved in after me, I am sure, for my first few months in Mrs. Keyes’ Boarding House were humane and bearable. Sometime during the fifth month of my stay is when he must have come; for that is when the trouble began.
At first, I did not notice the pattern, it seemed nothing but a series of random incidents, irritating, but completely accidental. I would go out my door to use the bathroom and find it occupied, the door locked with the light on. Yes, there were other floors with bathrooms to use, but the residents of each floor were so territorial of their bathroom, and the stairs leading down and up were so dark, with unstable banisters and a musty odor. Besides that, the stairs going down had chipped corners and loose masonry which made them perilous to navigate at night, and the stairs going up were in league with gravity. "Oh well," I would say, for I was a very reasonable man in those days, "someone beat me to the punch. It’s not like I am the only one who ever needs to relieve myself." And I would go back to my room, and wait for whoever was in the bathroom to be done with his activities, as any reasonable man would do.
But as time went on, I began to discover two alarming features of the new person who was beating me to the punch in getting to the bathroom. He was surprisingly consistent in his triumph over the needs of my bladder (and equally victorious over my intestines); and he exhibited the most hateful propensity to drag his bathroom sessions on and on, far beyond the time needed by any normal person to conduct his business. I began to grow resentful. The frustration emanating from the thwarting of one’s accustomed bodily functions is of a wholly different order than that stemming from the inconveniences which impact our mind alone. Though we hardly dare to mention it, the sense of deprivation and injustice is nearly as acute as that which drives us to wage war.
The rage that was building in my heart, grew monstrously one night as I, troubled by a hard day’s work and lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, suddenly realized that I had lost touch with my body and needed to go to the bathroom immediately. Slowly, I aroused myself from sluggishness, I forced my body to rise out of bed, and at that very moment I heard the door of my neighbor’s room open and shut. As I opened the door of my own room to step out into the hallway, I saw the bathroom door close in front of me and heard the hateful sound of the latch sliding shut. "Bastard!" I thought. "He’s done it again!" I had to go back into my room, don my bathrobe (I was wearing only my pajamas), and seek out a bathroom on another floor.
What happened that night alerted me, and unleashed a frightful new phase of discovery. Every time, day or night, that the urge to go to the bathroom suddenly came to me, whether lying in my bed, or sitting at the small desk which I had managed to cram into my room, where I was accustomed to reading books and writing in my journal, I would hear the opening and closing of his door mere seconds after the thought had come into my head, and before my body could act upon it. I would open my door on the way to the bathroom just as the bathroom door, only a few short steps down the hallway, slammed shut in front of me. It began to drive me mad!
Somehow, I realized, my new neighbor - mysterious but even more wretched than he was mysterious - seemed to sense exactly when it was that I needed to go to the bathroom, and perhaps fearful of being denied access, by my presence, to the room that was the center of his life, hastened to get there first; or perhaps my impulse to go to the bathroom merely reminded him of his own need. Somehow, he was picking up on my impulse to relieve myself, and rushing to the bathroom to get there before me!
At first, I didn’t want to believe he was a psychic. Perhaps, I thought, he has an exceptional sense of hearing, he detects the sound of my bedsprings squeaking in the night as I awaken, shift my position, and realize that my bladder is full; perhaps, in the daytime, he hears the movement of my chair scraping against the floor as I push it back from the desk so that I may rise and leave my room. Acting on the basis of this theory, I began a new attempt to avoid triggering his acute sensibilities by practicing the art of stealth, by slowly rising out of my bed in such a way as to minimize the sound of my movements, by climbing noiselessly out of my chair, in the manner of a ninja, and tiptoeing silently across my floor, avoiding the places that creaked in it, traveling with all the lightness of an ant.
My rage only grew, as it seemed to make no difference; and doubled, every time I found the door open and the bathroom once more available, as I returned from another floor; and as I saw, placed by the toilet, piles of inane magazines. "Damn him, this is a bathroom, not a library!" I cursed. I thought of confronting him directly, but one day as I caught a glimpse of him headed out of the building, I saw that he had the build of a heavyweight boxer, and the look of a time bomb, and so, I decided not to challenge him. Instead, I must outwit him.
The utter failure of my new strategy of stealth to erode his domination of the bathroom led me to believe that, rather than being blessed by an incredible sense of hearing, my tormentor must be a genuine psychic. In spite of looking like a mere thug, reliant on savage fists alone, he was endowed with incredible mental powers as well. There could be no other explanation. He must, somehow, pick up on my urges to go to the bathroom, which triggered his own dashes to the bathroom ahead of me. I, therefore, began a deliberate strategy of attempting to disguise my thoughts.
Whenever the urge to go to the bathroom came to me, I quickly tried to cover it over with other thoughts; I thought of bed, of lying in bed; I erected an image of myself lying in bed in my mind and tried to maintain it, like a fence between his mind and mine. While I was writing, I continued imagining the scenes that were before my eyes, the people I was writing about, the landscapes, as I slowly began to move towards my door, preparing to lunge out of it towards the bathroom, like a cheetah in pursuit of its prey. But it was to no avail. Somehow, my terrible neighbor saw through my efforts to disguise my true purpose; I came out into the hallway to find the door to the temple locked shut, and behind it, the sound of rustling magazines, interspersed with occasional sighs and grunts.
"Damn you!" I thought. "Go when you are ready! Let those whose intestines have already made up their mind go first!" But what could one say to that terrible giant?
Still, desperately, I sought to break the pattern. If I could not disguise my thoughts from him, perhaps I could merely act upon them more quickly. As the thought to go to bathroom came to me, I therefore undertook to tear myself, immediately, from whatever it was I was doing, without pity or remorse. It did not matter whether I was deep in meditation, or lost in the world of writing, or stirring lazily in my sleep. As soon as I became aware of the first impulse, at that very instant, with a fearsome act of will, I forced my body to act. I leapt from the most sublime of thoughts as though they were merely starting blocks in the Olympic hundred-meter dash, I ripped myself from the deep things to which I was stuck like glue, from the Buddha’s mind to the poetry of Keats to the details of my friend’s face which I was sketching, with words, in my journal; I jumped like a man rolling away from a terrorist bomb in an airport. Yet even so, as I staggered towards the bathroom door, frantic and hopeful, I saw it close before me. The bathroom psychic was not to be unseated from his throne, which was the toilet!
One time when I almost defeated him, my rage grew yet another meter in height (it was now nearly as tall as Godzilla). I saw him, ahead of me, racing to the bathroom in only his undershorts, and I cursed him for the unfair advantage granted to him by his lack of decency. For I had lost an extra few seconds putting on my bathrobe, since there were ladies on the floor.
But this was only the first part of the debacle. Deciding, finally, that I must fight fire with fire, and that decency must now be thrown to the winds, that all stops must be pulled out in this war to reach the bathroom first, I yielded to the level of his own eroded sense of decency, and the next time the urge to go to the bathroom struck me, I rushed naked out of my room so as to give him not the advantage of a single second. It was late at night, and I was sure the hallway would be deserted except for us: but, as luck would have it, at that very moment, the charming young lady who lived on our floor and who I had begun to consider as a possible prospect for dating, came up the steps from the street after a party, and shrieked to see me rushing naked towards her, though I was really rushing towards the bathroom. That is the one time I ever beat the bathroom psychic, and it cost me dearly.
Damn him, and everything he stands for!
Finally, it got to be too much. Not only was the bathroom psychic driving me mad by displacing me from the most important room in all the world, the room no one talks about but everyone uses, the room that is more central to human life than the Church; but he began to drive me mad on account of the trivial objectives and limited reach of his metaphysical abilities. Throughout the world, as we two battled for the bathroom, there were earthquakes and building collapses, terrorist attacks and infrastructural failures, tidal waves and floods. Where were his psychic powers when they mattered? Why did he give no one a warning, why did he not save a single soul, or foretell a single disaster? For him there was but one disaster he could avert, and that was being beaten to the bathroom!
Damn the bathroom psychic, and everything he stands for!
I moved out of Mrs. Keyes’ boardinghouse last month, although it was, in some ways, a sacrifice, because I could not stand being deprived of a room that was so important to me, nor to live with someone for whom there was nothing more important.
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