Like a swimmer doing the backstroke in her sleep, my left arm emerged from a warm ocean of down. It swung up and back over my shoulder, landing expertly on the SNOOZ bar before returning, by a slightly less arching path, back into the warm, sleepy ocean. I barely even felt myself executing the motions. I snuggled deeper into my pillow, but then....
...shit! My eyes flew open. My plan! I threw back the covers, hurried to the bathroom, showered, dressed, forgot to eat and was out the door in 15 minutes. The humidity lingering under my eyebrows froze on my way to the car. Two days later I'd be back in my house and panicked for a moment to hear voices coming from my bedroom - just an expired SNOOZ sounding off to wake an absent snoozer.
The note I'd scribbled after witnessing the port-a-potty fiasco the day before, flapped in the currents of cold air blowing from the heat vents. It's what I do when I'm overwhelmed or nervous, I make lists.
I rolled through all the stop signs and sped to the other side of town. I stomped too fast and hard on the brake when I realized I that 55 in the school zone might be a problem. "Jeezus...take it easy 007."
7:30am - I arrived at work a half-hour early. Step one of my plan accomplished. I resisted the urge to pull out a pen and cross it off my list. I parked in my usual spot next to the dumpster and looked around to see who might be lurking about. I didn't want anyone to see me sniffing around the Bainvoige Construction Corp's port-a-potty. I mean, really, what business could I possibly have in that little plastic loo? I saw the lights on in the maintenance garage and a few cars over by the admin building. No motion anywhere except for chimney smoke blowing away in the wind. The foreman's trailer sat thirty feet or so to the right of the john but I'd be coming in from the left.
I got out of my car and followed a dirty, boot-hardened path to my destination. The snow screaked under my boots and the wind unwound my scarf so that I had to make a lunge to grab it as it blew off my neck. And then there I stood, at my goal. Clouds of condensing breath obscured the molded plastic door. I moved closer and reached out to test the handle, but stopped short. Through my puffs of breath I made out a small crescent with the word "occupied" in red. What? Who'd be in there now? I hadn't seen anyone around. I took a quiet step forward, held my breath and pressed my wool-covered ear to the door. Nothing. The smell of piss, fermenting shit and chemical deodorizer wafted from the louvered vents near the top. I swallowed hard and removed my mitten.
knock, knock, knock Nothing. So I knocked again. A little louder in case he couldn't hear me. Like the Love Shack, I thought. I involuntarily shivered at this mental reference in combination with the smells hitting my nose. Just then, a ssclick! and the crescent window turned "vacant" green. I stared in disbelief. Maybe the flimsy locking mechanism had gotten jostled around and my knocking jostled it back. Maybe the little wheel that says, "Vacant" "Occupied" is loose. Maybe.... Maybe... maybe I'm crazy.
At this point I had two options. Option one, retreat and learn nothing or option two, enter, just like I'd watched the workers do yesterday, and find out what the hell was going on. I checked my six and pulled the door open. I half expected to see a pair of Carhartt's bunched up around work boots, naked knees and a newspaper opened to the sports section. But no, nothing. I stepped into the empty space. I don't know what I'd hoped might happen, but I admit disappointment when nothing did. Lumps of wet toilet paper clung to the corners. Dried trails of hand sanitizer oozed down the wall beneath the Purell dispenser. A partially dissolved cake of disinfectant sat in the plastic urinal to my left and, of course, the throne's main seat was in it's 'up' position. I laughed a little to myself, mocking my over-active imagination and feeling the adrenaline's effects in my body. Just for the hell of it, I lowered the seat.
Footsteps! Headed right toward the door of the john. I'd have to step out right into someone's view. How would I explain myself? Closer and closer the steps got. The worker's hand must've been on the door ready to open it and enter. No escape!
"Wait, wait! Someone's in here! Don't come in!" I shouted and bombed right out the door, not caring that I'd smash squarely into the man hoping to enter.
I careened down onto my knees, rolled sideways and crashed into some sort of low metal wall. My stomach looped around inside my body and my eyes lost focus with vertigo. Exhaust fumes floated in the cold air and I heard sounds of a transmission shifting through its first three gears. Without warning my body lurched to a stop against the place from which I'd just stepped. I scrambled to my knees, heaving in huge gulps of air. Nothing made sense. I could barely tell up from down, right from left. The back of my throat tingled. My body filled with the nonsensical heavy-weightlessness you experience just before you vomit or faint.
A parking brake ratcheted into activation, a door opened and closed, footsteps headed my way for the second time in what seemed like mere seconds. I turned around to look behind me and there, strapped tightly to the bed of the pickup I seemed to be riding in, loomed a Bainvoige Construction Corp. port-a-potty. I ripped the door open, fell inside on my knees and vomited into the gaping, black hole. Thankfully the seat stood in it's upright postition. The smell of blue chemicals and bile from my empty stomach permeated the small space.
"What in Sam Hill's goin' on back here? Who's there? Come on outta there." A hand banged on the side of the john. The plastic urinal rattled against the wall. I threw up again. The man outside kept banging and hollering. I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand, found my hat on the floor and pulled it back onto my head. I sat, shaking and sweating, on the nubbled floor. Maybe this man would know something; maybe he could help me.
On shaky legs I stood and said in a weak voice, "Okay, okay..I'm coming out. It's okay. My name's Eve. Eve Stigatus. I'm a therapist at the Center. I don't know how I got here. I need your help. Don't hurt me." I pushed through the door and stepped out slowly, carefully with just one foot, testing the waters.
"No! No! What the hell is going on!" I screamed. Row upon row, to the left, to the right, in front of me and behind me - all I could see were Bainvoige Construction Corp. forest green port-a-johns. I stumbled back into the john, let the door slam closed and locked it. I dropped the toilet lid down to make a seat for myself. I hung my head into my hands to cry but decided to scream instead.
"Helllllp! Help meee! Someone! Helllllp!" I yelled until my throat was raw and then I started to cry. Hours passed. At some point I fell asleep and dreamed of swimming through molasses while holding my cat above my head to save us both from a rampaging black bear.
*knock knock knock. KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK* "Hey in there. Hello? Open up! It's okay. You're alright, just unlock the door so I can come in to you. Don't try to come out here. Stay put! Okay?" I recognized the voice of foreman from the construction site back at the Center.
I stayed put on the toilet and kicked the oversize plastic lock to the open position. I wanted to be as far from that door as possible when it opened. The Bainvoige foreman, covered head to toe in safety yellow, stepped inside.
not the end yet...