There is that one moment in everyone’s life when a sudden realization hits you. Everything starts to become clearer and you feel like you are finally starting to become the center of your own universe. Some say this is the turning point, the life changing event, or, what I prefer to call it, a beautiful cataclysm. At this moment, the high walls around you that you covet start to crumble down. But, somehow, amidst all the rubble, you feel safer, and wanting. How it makes its mark is not always the same for everyone. For some, it is a big sigh of relief. And for others, happiness or sadness. It could be a burst of emotions and could be none at all. But during that few fleeting moments, you will just know.
My own moment happened at the most inopportune of times to say the least. While others have theirs at their wedding, a life threatening event, or the birth of his or her first child, mine was not as grand. It happened in a conversation between toilet partitions.
How I got to the Toilet Partitions
You might be curious about how exactly I got a life changing event while waiting to squeeze one out. As with everything curious in life, one thing led to another. And in this instance, those things had to fall exactly in place.
No good story ever started with someone drinking a glass of water. With that said, my story started one afternoon at a bar. I did not come here often but I knew I had to be someplace other than my apartment. The weather was not particularly pleasant and a lot of the neighboring establishments are still reeling from a pandemic that swept the entire city. Luckily enough, one business dared to open and I just happened to pass by. The place was glum but oddly familiar. It would take me a while before I recognize the place. It was the same bar that I used to frequent when I was still single. The place is not the same without the rowdy frat boys and the shrieking cheerleaders vying to be bought a drink. It was once a livelier place but somehow I appreciate the calm. I definitely did not mind the peace, I thought to myself.
The first time that I went to this bar was freshman year. I was not into the bar scene but I didn’t want to miss a chance to gain some friends. The university I was attending was nowhere near where I lived. I knew that students were going to form social circles and I grabbed onto the first opportunity that presented itself. Sally was in most of my classes and I threw a few friendly glances at her to signify that I wanted to be acquainted. She was the one who introduced me to the bar and, probably indirectly responsible for a lot of things, good and bad, that happened after that.
A Bar’s Toilet Partition
The thing that bugs me the most, being in that sad bar that was a shell of itself, was not the deafening silence. Nor was it the unwashed tables that only revealed itself when all the noise faded out and the bright night lights took away the attention from them. It was the sense of belongingness. Why do I feel at home in such a place? Do I feel an emotional connection to it because of the many things that happened here? Or am I simply looking for someplace to belong to.
The apartment is a few blocks away from where I was. And I thought it was not far enough. I had to get away from the place. The same space where I started off my journey to the unknown was where I guarded myself from the harsh reality of a young broke student. I never invited anyone over my sanctuary. That is, until I met John.
He has not been the same man I had met for a few weeks now. Our relationship launched off with fiery passion over a shared pain. I was far away from home scrambling for means to survive, and he was a struggling academic desperate to leave a legacy for all the hard work he has put in. There are probably a few bedrocks from which a solid relationship could earnestly sprout. But our sadness, misery, and self-hatred were never going to be any of them.
The teasing turned to petty squabbles. The squabbles turned into anger. The anger turned into hatred. And the hatred turned into a clenched fist.
A Stranger Behind the Toilet Partition
I felt nauseated and a sudden urge to vomit over the strong scent of bleach. They were optimistically cleaning up the place for loyal customers they were hoping to return. I rushed to the toilet trying not to think the unthinkable. And in front of a sink mirror, after taking a long hard look upon myself, I bawled. I sought refuge behind the partitions for toilets and there the last four years flashed back. One memory lunged after another giving only a few seconds to rest when I took deep breaths between my bawling. Then, she knocked.
It took me a while to hear anything else aside from the echo of my cries. The light tapping on the next partition, gently called out to me. Softly, she spoke to me, and I told her my story. It helped that I could not see her face and that I did not know her. I never wanted for anyone to think that I am weak, especially those that are close to me. Maybe that is also the reason why I held on for so long.
The woman told me a few things. Her concern for someone she does not know felt more than just empathy. I could tell that she has lived the life I am living now. And she told me that it will be fine because I knew I was strong. And she was right. I was strong enough to forgive and finally save myself.