The vicious cramp in my abdomen slowly unwinds as I sit there. I’ve just spent twenty minutes getting reamed out by Ms. Jenkins, my boss’s boss. She doesn’t give a damn if you have to go to the bathroom; in fact, I’m pretty sure she waited until I did before calling me in to the office.
The release of physical pressure doesn’t help with the release of mental pressure. I feel like a total... waste of time. Apparently my faux-pas had cost our company a large account and I was exactly one mistake away from a pink slip. My only hope was to stay under the radar for a couple of weeks.
I hear the door open but pay no real attention; everybody’s here for the same reason, after all. Two people are whispering an argument; neither sounds familiar. I don’t really want to face anyone right now, but I’ll have to get past them. I “do the paperwork”, then flush and step out.
I stop dead. Two women are standing there whispering to each other. I don’t know either of them, but they’re both the young pretty types we hire for the clerical pool. They’re both wearing the short skirts and tight blouses that Old Man Paulson likes. They turn as I come out of the stall and I’m staring into four eyes as big as saucers.
The brunette blurts out, “Mr. James! What are you doing here?”
“I... I... I must have...” I must have gone into the ladies’ washroom by mistake! A thousand disaster scenarios run through my head, most involving words like “sexual harassment.” I try to step back but am blocked by the urinal.
Brunette is all indignation. “You shouldn’t even be here! Get out right now or I’ll scream.”
“No, please. Look, can we just forget this? I made an honest mistake. I’ve been under a lot of stress.” The porcelain of the urinal reflects my cold clammy fear. “Look, we can make a deal! I can help you out, get you a job away from Paulson!” Urinal. “Anything, just don’t...” Urinal?
I guess they noticed the look of dawning realization on my face. The black-haired one’s face is turning deep red.
“This is the men’s room! What are you two doing in here?” This is it! First the boss takes me apart, now these... women! I’m so furious I could...
Black-hair bursts into tears. “I knew we shouldn’t come in here!”
The retort freezes on my lips. I could hurt her like Ms. Jenkins had hurt me. But I won’t; I’d like to think I’m better than that. I decide to try reasonable instead.
“Look, maybe you should just do what you came here for. No harm, no foul.”
As they rush into the two stalls I stand guard against other people coming in. For the first time today I can feel a bit of self-worth.