Had to Pee
© 1997 by ZeeeLinda LeVia
Wanda Lee had to pee. She gazed longingly at Mickey D's golden arched haven across the street. If she hadn't got it into her fool head that she needed a more elegant place to first meet/impress this Dial-a-Date guy, Roy, she would be still be able to make a quick stop in the Ladies room before he drove in to meet her. And she would have a Co-Cola or something in her hand to fiddle with, a distraction to help her gather her thoughts. One could gain a lot of mind-gathering time with a slow drag on a cigarette (or so she supposed, she did not actually smoke) or a concentrated sip of a cold drink. She could almost feel her fingers around that waxy paper cup. It would be cold and slightly damp, the straw sticking up out of the clear plastic cover, just ready for her salvation. She could have lowered her eyes, taken a long, cool sip, (or, more realistically, considering the fast-food ratio of liquid to solids, have twirled her straw around in the ice cubes), and had some quality regrouping time, if she needed it.
But no. She had come up with this grand-faluten idea of meeting him at the Hiway 24 Antique Mall, just south of Nashville. It had seemed inspired, at the time. They could roam about, anonymously, amongst the romantic left-overs of other's lives, and perhaps the now memory-less remnants would serve to create conversation between two strangers who still had a warehouse full of past-time's tales and life stories to tap into for each other's mutual get-aquainted pleasure.
She was still amused with herself, and then again, slightly terrified that she had actually agreed to this venture: Wanda Lee had stumbled onto a "Dial-a-Date" hotline one miserable February evening. The evening was miserable because : a) it was February, 1996, and Nashville had been dished up a winter so cold and lousy and nasty that even the daffodils were burying themselves deeper, unwilling to be sporting about taking a risk of frost-bite, just to claim the honor of being the harbingers of spring. b) Wanda Lee, having been diagnosed (finally), in 1990, as having Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (a deceptively ordinary name for something that could so completely alter your entire life, throwing you into a sorta living limbo/hell), was in the throes of the worst flare-up since her daddy's death two years ago.
When she could no longer focus enough to read, (or, for that matter, find the strength to hold up a book) she lowered her usual standards and turned on the TV that sat in the middle of the Shrine in the living room. Her attention span being currently compatible with that of a butterfly's path, she opted to channel surf, treating the flow of sound and color as if it were a new toy, a spinning top, a kaleidoscope that had no significance past the moment.
The words "free" caught her eye, more because of the lack of freedom that her body allowed her, in her current state of physical imprisonment, than any dollarly significance that the term could hold. Free, in this case, referred to a local number that could be dialed to access a single's personals line. Knowing that there was surely honey there to entrap the venturing housefly, Wanda Lee dialed the number, anyway. Ever since she was a child, Wanda Lee had always preferred risk to boredom, the unknown to the sameness of secure mediocrity.
That first night (for free), she listened to every ad-venture on the line. She listened to the "female, looking for a male from the 18 year-olds to the 48 and over group, She then dialed into the "female looking for a male" ads and the "men seeking men" and the "women seeking women." It was well past midnight before she gave in and dialed the main number and revealed unto them her credit card secrets so that she could join the crowd with the 5-digit access codes, their relationshipping dreams hitched to the * button on their touch-tone phones.
She felt so exposed; standing on the concrete slab that served as a front stoop for the aluminum box building that was the Mall. If this Roy guy was a real creep, she had no place to quietly exit. Wanda Lee bit her lip. When she turned towards the reflection offered up by the automatic glass doors, the look on her face and the current state of her hair-do convinced her that she had better go inside and find a restroom.
It occurred to her as she hit the first scent of musty old woods and dusty aged items that she had no comb in her little bitty purse. Somehow, she had spaced off the need to carry a hairbrush, and never seemed to remember to buy a comb that was the correct length to fit within the bag's constricted innards. Wanda Lee spaced off a lot of things these days, but that is a whole 'nother topic to explore. Mostly, she had been grateful to free her ever-aching left shoulder from the weighty responsibility of a 10-gallon satchel.
As she hurried past the electronic swish of 20th century chivalry, Wanda Lee considered borrowing some sort of on-hand dresser-top vanity item to take along to the rest room. The thought was merely whimsical, for these folks were bound to mis-understand her true motive, and it surely would be embarrassing to get nabbed for lifting some old plastic-that-looks-like-tortoise-shell comb. She prayed that they had a public restroom, and affirmed that she would be in and out quickly, so she could greet her blind date in a non-hurried fashion. Her mind tried to return to the lure of a Coke cup within her reach, but the very thought of something cold and wet made her bladder dance a little lower.
The couple standing behind the old-fashioned gilt register looked ancient and proper, dry as the dust that they continually fought within the memory-lane compound. Wanda Lee could see a door behind the counter that probably led into the Victorian home that served as a backdrop for the aluminum pole building that had been plopped onto it to accommodate the Mall. Actually, the man had been coming out of that sculpted oak exit, just as Wanda Lee had approached the counter.
"Would you happen to have a restroom I could use?"
(Why was that always such an embarrassing question, she wondered. Everybody had to pee and poop, but it seemed to her that, in public, at least, those essential needs were not to be discussed. What's more, one could usually count on restrooms being far down the list in importance, especially in places that were not serving food and drink as their main source of income. Hadn't everyone visited public toilets that were too scary to touch? Only in such places could you find bars of soap with brown age lines and deep cracks, silent testimony to their on-going abandonment. This was due, mostly, to the fact that no towels were available for wiping one's hands, even if you decided to combine that nasty-looking soap with a cold water germ-blessing wash.) And sure enough, Wanda Lee got that look. The one that clearly says, " You should have thought of that possibility before you set foot in here, miss."
The man, finally, nodded, and swung open the door that he had just closed. As Wanda Lee followed him, she was agape at the interior of the old house. She didn't exactly know one wood from another, but the staircase and accompanying woodwork looked a lot like the well-oiled cherry dining set that had belonged to her grandmother. She knew that cherry wood was pricey, as Grandma had outfitted her table with inch thick pads to protect that fine table top from the harm that could have come to it via warm platters and spilled dinners. To think that this whole room could be trimmed in such finery was a bit breath taking.
Woodwork aside, the hallway's furnishings indicated that the quality items were offered on the other side of the door. The proprietors obviously spent most of their lives on the public side of things, surrounded by treasures and treats, and felt no urgency to supply their own space with decorator-approved ambiance.
The old man pointed to a door at the foot of the stairs, and said, "I guess you can go in there, it's Daddy's room, but he's asleep right now."
The room was long and narrow, with a sink and commode at one end, and an old iron bedstead at the other. A round side-table filled with medicine bottles and assorted clutter, served as a divider between the two unofficial areas of business. The bed was covered with one of those old khaki army blankets. Not until Wanda Lee squatted, gratefully, to finally relieve her full-to-bursting bladder, did she note that the blanket covered the sleeping body of a tiny, shriveled gnome of an old man. Good God, it had never occurred to her that the afore-mentioned sleeping Daddy was asleep in this room.
Being mostly unable to change her current activity, Wanda Lee was torn between trying to void as quietly as possible and "peeing like a racehorse," to get this whole ordeal over with, as quickly as possible. She had just discovered that there was no toilet paper on the spool when the old man opened one eye, and then commenced to scream. A raspy, failed-lung sorta death-rale scream, but a scream, none-the-less. Wanda Lee found herself tugging up her Wranglers and matching his scream with one of her own. By the time the elderly couple had pushed their way in, trapping Wanda Lee behind the bedroom/bathroom door, the old geezer on the bed was dead.
Wanda Lee would have wet her pants...
Wanda Lee managed to escape her corner prison and run to the front counter to dial 911. Had she been one to need mascara, her face would have been soon covered with rivers of black goo. To the accompaniment of uncontrollable sobs, tears and snot were running a relay race down her now-puffy lips to her quivering double chin. And then, via the "open sesame" pathway offered up by the automatic door, appeared this big old dude with a button-straining beer gut hanging over the biggest damn pewter belt-buckle she had ever seen: (his name, Roy was spelled out in Liberty dimes). The shear weight of the buckle, coupled with the drift of the jeans, promised a rear-view that was bound to reveal more than any decent woman could survive. A recent layer of Grecian-Formula black must have assisted the greasy pompadour comb-over. The smile that escorted his entrance was silent testimony to the fact that he had never seen the cross-stitched Sampler in Dr. Mannings office: You only need to floss the teeth you want to keep.
Wanda Lee only had to peek into the one small gray noodle of her brain that was not yet in shock to find that, in less than fifteen minutes, she had totally moved beyond any frames of personally accrued references. In total self-preservation/respect, she fainted into the much-needed, blessed blackness of temporary amnesia. Although she never quite forgave him for restoring her to immediate consciousness, she married, two years later, the paramedic (Andy) who had accosted her nostrils with smelling salts. They filled their house with ultra modern chrome and glass accessories, antiques being forever a taboo subject. Roy was not invited to the wedding, but he graciously gifted them with a lifetime supply of toilet paper.
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