To [my/his] [left/right], [he/I] [is/am] looking ahead, minding [his/my] own business. We are engaging in strict urinal etiquette, ignoring the other’s presence entirely. [I/He] [am/is] glad that [he/I] [is/am] not a loud urinal user. [I/He] [have/has] always been freaked out by bathroom moaners. There’s only about six inches between [my/his] nose and the white wall scrawled over with thick black graffiti. [I/He] [am/is] focusing intently on that white space, which only heightens [my/his] peripheral awareness of [his/my] size and shape. A line is drawn on the wall between our heads, with an arrow point at each end. Written in black marker above the line is the word “HOMOS.” If you were to stand behind us, watching us at the urinal, the bathroom graffiti would be saying, “These guys are homos.”
[I/He] [have/has] always been freaked out by bathroom moaners.
[I/He] can’t tell if [he/I] [has/have] clocked the graffiti, and if [he/I] [has/have] whether or not [he/I] [has/have] any reaction to it. [Is/Am] [he/I] the type of guy that gets offended by bathroom graffiti suggesting that [he/I] [is/am] gay. [I/He] cannot be sure. We are both still looking ahead. [I/He] can hear [his/my] urine hitting the back of the urinal. [He/I] [has/have] a powerful bladder. When [I/he] was a kid, [I/he] used to think you could judge someone’s penis size based on how loudly their urine hit the back of the urinal, or the water if they were using a toilet. [I/He] still [have/has] not entirely disproven this fact.
[I/He] [break/breaks] the steady forward stare, to glance [left/right]. There is a moment of clarity of motivation that runs through [my/his] head as [I/he] [realize/realizes] that [I/he] almost desperately [want/wants] to see [his/my] penis. Or that [I/he] [want/wants] to show [him/me] [mine/his]. To test it against [his/mine]. [I/he] [wonder/wonders] if [he/I] would let [me/him] hold it. [He/I] wonders if [I/he] would let [him/me] hold it. [I/he] [have/has] never had a gay experience. The bathroom graffiti, in this case, is inaccurate. [I/He] [am/is] not a homosexual. [I/He] [am/is] a heterosexual. As far as [I/he] [know/knows] [I/he] always [have/has] been one.
There is other graffiti on the wall that depicts sexual violence. Next to a particular graphic drawing of mutilated genitals is a long list of slurs and a running commentary on the usefulness of those slurs. The commentary has arrows pointing to various phrases so you know who is addressing whom. There are phone numbers: for a good time, for a bad time, for a knife time, for a rape time, for a murder time. [I/he] [try/tries] to memorize these numbers. [I/he] will call them later and scream into the phone like a wounded animal. [I/he] [do/does] not know what lesson that will impart. Maybe no lesson.
There are phone numbers: for a good time, for a bad time, for a knife time, for a rape time, for a murder time. [I/he] [try/tries] to memorize these numbers.
6 weeks ago a boy was murdered somewhere else in the country. Some backwoods place that feels very far away but isn’t. Not really. Two skinheads followed a gay teenager into a bathroom and broke his skull open. Brains and blood like egg yolk. They gouged holes where his eyes should have been before a janitor came in on a routine clean-up. The janitor identified the skinheads later. [I/He] read about it in The Ledger and [I/he] [haven’t/hasn’t] been able to stop thinking about it. The Ledger attempted to detail the violent graffiti of that bathroom: “DEATH 2 ALL FTS EXCEPT THE ONES WHOLL FK ME.” [I/He] didn’t know what to make of the graffiti, or of The Ledger’s purpose of including it.
[I/he] [step/steps] back from the urinal to slip [my/his] penis back through the fly into [my/his] pants. There is a brief moment where we consider each other before zipping up. We make eye contact for a second and [I/he] [wonder/wonders] if [he/I] will show [me/him] a [good/bad/knife/rape/murder] time. [I/he] can watch [him/me] run through a rolodex of bathroom eye contact responses ranging from the polite upward jutting of a chin, to the mildly confrontational, “You good?”
[He/I] [breaks/break] eye contact while pivoting [his/my] body toward [me/him] and zipping [his/my] pants up. The rolodex has been flipped through and the proper response is: no response. [I/he] [clear/clears] [my/his] throat and then [look/looks] at [him/me], annoyed that [he/I] [is/am] mimicking [my/his] gestures. The moment passes and [I/he] [move/moves] to the sink. [He/I] [turns/turn] the faucet on and [looks/look] straight ahead again, into the mirror. Behind [my/his] head is the reflection of the arrow drawn on the wall behind us, broken by space between the mirrors that is made of simple white tile. The arrows, line broken in the middle, lack context. Our relationship has been severed. [My/His] heart beats. What next. What next. What next.
Bobby Fischer is surviving in suburban New Jersey.
Illustration by Elena Hayward.