Posted on July 20, 2015 by Patricia Ann McNair7.20.2015 Journal Prompt Image from Panic in Needle Park July 20, 2015: Anything but this. Like this:Like Loading... Related
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There’s a girl in my bathroom and I don’t know why she’s there or how she came to be there. She sits in the corner, her back pressed to the cold white tiles and she watches me. Sometimes I think she has been crying and her hair hangs limp across her face and there is an almost imperceptible catch in her breathing.
The first time I saw her I said, ‘Excuse me but I need to pee’. It was early in the morning and my memory is a little uncertain then and thoughts swim about like fearful fish in my head. Maybe she was someone from the night before and so her being in my bathroom was not a surprise.
She just shrugged when I said that about needing a pee and so I just peed with her there and watching. Or maybe she looked away. I have given her a name, because she does not speak. I have called her Ariela, for no reason except I like the name. And Ariela does not seem to mind.
I fetch her cups of tea and plates of sandwiches and I leave them on the edge of the bath. She does not even show that she is aware. I tell her that I have work to go to and that she can come and go as she pleases. I ask her to lock the door if she’s going out and I say what time I will be back.
Ariela has eaten the sandwiches and finished the tea by the time I come home again. Each day it is the same. I don’t know if she drinks the tea as soon as I am gone and it’s still hot or if she waits and drinks it cold. I take her in more tea and I sit on the toilet and talk to her – which is like talking to myself but better. I tell her things about my day or if there is nothing to say I read her stories from the newspaper or lines from a book I am half way through.
When it gets dark outside and the streetlamps come up, well, I leave the light on in the bathroom and I leave it on all night. Ariela watches me wash my face and under my arms with a flannel and she watches me brush my teeth and counting the brushstrokes so it is the same each night. It has got so that I like her being there, if I am honest. I say her goodnight and I say she’s very welcome to come through and sleep in the bed – I’ll take the sofa, I suggest. She never does.
In the morning I have to pee again and I don’t even ask now. And it’s funny how quickly you get used to things. I shave with her there and I ask her what she wants on her sandwiches today. Ariela makes no answer. I give her cheese and tomato – you can’t go far wrong with cheese and tomato. And I decide to put a spoonful of sugar in her tea, just in case.
Of course, there isn’t really a girl in my bathroom, not for all this time. Maybe there was once. It is a coat that is hanging beside the bath. A girl’s coat. And all the rest is just pretend, or sickness or loneliness. And I don’t go to work either, but take myself off to the park, sitting on a bench there and looking up at the sky and counting how many birds there are in a day so that I have something to tell Ariela.
They didn’t believe me when I said. Not with Matty. After only a month. And I was giving up my own apartment, which they said was like putting all my eggs in one basket – only they didn’t mean ‘basket’ and they said ‘bastard’ instead. And I shrugged and I said it was ok, really it was.
It was Matty’s idea, see. Not something I was pushing for or even thinking of. I thought we were just messing about and that was ok. Matty it was who said I should move in and that there was no point in us having two rents to pay. And his place was big enough for the both of us and with room left over. It was obvious, he said, and it made sense.
But it’s Matty, they said, the girls at the bar where I work. I told them that people can change and they laughed and did not try to hide that they laughed. And they shook their heads like they already felt sorry for me. And I thought I was having the last laugh because it was all going so well and Matty was changed and even he said that he was. And he bought a ring and he said maybe we should get married sometime.
That took the laugh out of them, Lindy and Marie and Kate. And they sucked air and held it in their cheeks and then blew it out through their kiss-pouting lips. And they said maybe a leopard can change its spots after all. And like I said, I thought I was having the last laugh.
Then today I came home early from my shift. I was feeling like shit and suddenly. The girls pulled my leg a little and they said maybe I was on stork watch now and they looked at me sideways to see if there was a difference in my silhouette, which there wasn’t no matter how they pulled at my dress. Yes, so feeling like shit, I went home.
I let myself in and I didn’t expect Matty to be there and my head was all thick and my thoughts slow and I didn’t get it at first, didn’t get that there were two wine glasses on the table in the kitchen and an empty bottle of Pinot Grigio. I’d got a test kit from the chemist, because I thought maybe the girls were right after all. And I was on my way to the bathroom when I heard them, going at it like dogs or rabbits and Matty calling on God and Jesus like he does when he’s close. And they were doing it in our bed – which I know was really ‘his’ bed – and I should have left then, only I didn’t have no place to go.
I shut myself in the bathroom and I sat pressed up against the cold hard surface of the tiles and I put my fingers in my ears so I couldn’t hear and I cried myself out.
I don’t know how long it was before Matty discovered I was home and he packed ‘her’ off and he was banging on the bathroom door with his fist then and asking if I was alright. I’d done the test by then and I wasn’t alright, not by a long chalk, and I said Matty should just go – but I also knew it was his place and that I was the one who should go.