Not Right Now by D.I. Jolly
After a morning filled with meetings and far too many cups of coffee, the only thing Bob could think about was going to the bathroom. In fact, he’d reached the point where he thought he might end up not making it in time. Unfortunately, though, when the meeting ended, he walked into the bathroom in front of two other people and just the idea of standing near them, caused his shy bladder to start locking up. So, he ducked into a stall and locked the door behind him, already starting the inner dialogue of it being normal to want to be able to pee in private. Even more unfortunate was the voice of George from sales that came through the door just as Bob had gotten his trousers undone.
“Bobbie! Glad I caught you, look I was going over some of those suggestions you were making in this morning’s meeting and I’ve got some questions. Also, do you know who has access to that presentation? I’d like to go over a few of the figures more closely.”
Bob stood holding himself feeling his cheeks burn red and a dull hatred for George tickle the back of his mind, but he was also aware that the longer he stayed silent the weirder it would be.
“Uummm, Alice is the person to talk to about that.”
“Yeah, but she kinda hates me after we hooked up at a Christmas party, can you talk to her about it for me, or maybe get her to forward it to you and then you can send it to me. Also….”
Bob’s mind drifted off for a moment while he thought about Alice, his first office crush, and how crushed he was when he saw her going off with George. Then his mind flashed with the idea of going off with her himself and the blood from his cheeks started to move. In the same moment, he realised George was still talking and possibly asking questions.
“Look George I’m a bit busy right now, I’ll come talk to you about all this later.”
George laughed, knocked on the door and said jovially.
“No worries my man, happy pooping.”
The words struck Bob like a bolt of ice through the heart, the idea that that’s what someone thought he was doing triggered a long-forgotten childhood fear, and shame washed over him causing his throat to catch, his knees to shake and his bladder to dry up. He looked down and began mentally begging it to work, to just pee and get it over with so that he could go back to work and pretend that everything was fine, but nothing happened. He then started running through the scenario of just leaving the bathroom, going back to his desk, maybe stopping off at the kitchen to get another coffee and waiting the two minutes it would take to relax enough and just coming back to the bathroom. Would anyone care? Did it matter? He sighed not sure how to answer the questions knowing that his bathroom shyness was well and truly triggered and the idea of leaving only to just come right back in made him so anxious that he thought for a second he might cry. He reached forward and lowered the seat and sat down, hoping in some way that he could catch his breath, relax and just get it done and go on with his life, desperately trying to remind himself that it was perfectly normal and everyone did it. He closed his eyes and began taking long slow deliberate breaths, clearing his mind and just letting his body relax, as opposed to trying to make it relax. Which almost worked, right up until he heard the bathroom door being closed very gently and gingerly and he realised someone had been there listening to him breathing like he was trying to give birth and his anxiety exploded. He covered his face with his hands and shook with embarrassment, taking only the smallest of comfort in the ideas that:
A – He couldn’t be seen
B – That person might not have known who it was in the stall.
His mind then blanked on how to proceed, he knew he wasn’t going to be able to pee, but still really needed too. He knew that he needed to go back to work, but was battling with the idea of having to face the people outside. His irrational mind now telling him that George might be waiting for him out there, timing him, telling people what he thought was going on. Rumours might already have started to spread about the breathing, and strange sounds coming from the stall. The whole thing that had started out as simply wanting to pee had grown so large in his mind that he couldn’t see its borders and it overwhelmed him. And all because George had no boundaries and would just talk to him anywhere. For a sales guy he seemed, in Bob’s opinion, ridiculously bad at reading a situation and he hated that about him, and hated even more that it somehow made George one of the top sales people and the most successful ladies’ man in the office.
Bob was smart, and kind and good at his job. People came to him for advice, he was invited out a lot, people laughed at his jokes, why couldn’t he be as successful as George, and why couldn’t he just pee and go back to work and forget about the whole situation. Bob took another long slow breath and waited, staring at the back of the door, feeling paralysed by his own inner dialogue when he heard a gentle knocking on the stall door and the last voice he wanted to hear. Karen, his desk buddy and his current and much deeper office crush. The woman he thought wasn’t just attractive but funny and could honestly see himself building a future with.
“Bob? Is… is everything alright?”
For a second it felt like his mind shattered and the world around him felt very dangerous and raw.
“Th…thi… this is the men’s bathroom Karen, what are you doing in here?”
Her voice came back kind and slightly concerned, the way usually reserved for when Bob had had a bad meeting or was at work when he should be at a doctors.
“Yes, yes I know that, but… you’ve been in here for a little over 30 minutes.”
Bob’s eyes grew wide and he quickly looked at his watch. She was right, which meant that not only had he failed to pee, totally humiliated himself in his own eyes, but he was now late for another meeting. So, a room of at least 25 people were waiting for him to get out of the bathroom. Including George. For just an instant Bob wished he could die. Not in a suicidal way, he didn’t want to kill himself, he just wanted to be spontaneously blinked out of existence. To perhaps have never existed. Karen’s voice came through the door again.
Humiliation had him, it was done, he had no pride left.
“I hate shared bathrooms; all I want to do is pee in peace but people keep coming and going and George just doesn’t understand that it’s not ok to talk to a man while he’s holding his penis and all I want to do is pee. Is that too much to ask?”
He hadn’t meant for it to sound like a real question but apparently, the pitiful sound of his voice betrayed him and a nervous voice replied.
“No, that … seems perfectly reasonable. I’m sorry I’ll, I’ll just go.”
She sounded strange and his instinct was to try and stop her but he managed to remember his situation in time to stay silent. The door clicked closed behind her and Bob realised that any hope of relief was now well and truly dead. So, he took a confident breath and stood up, closed his trousers, flushed the unused toilet and stepped out of the stall. He checked himself in the mirror as he washed his hands and noticed what looked like a permanent blush on his face. He stood there for only a couple of seconds as he squared his shoulders and confidently slipped out the door. From there he quickly and quietly made his way down the hallway to the elevators and left the office. On the bus home, he e-mailed in a request for a few days leave, and when he finally reached his own bathroom, he couldn’t help but sigh audibly with relief.