Marking (My) Territory?
I often begin by asking for the key from the Shell Station cashier, who with a tired sigh and a poorly tucked in shirt hands me “access” to a square, concrete room, “Just ‘round the back.”
I wish that the dripping of the industrial sink and the layers of dust that have settled into uneven grout crevices didn’t remind me of the second floor communal bathroom of my dormitory building, Nash Hall. Yet, here I am reminiscing about the moment when I first moved in and had to pee. What a day that was.
The second floor Nash Hall communal bathroom has its similarities to a stop at a gas station on a hot day in the afternoon after a 3 1/2 hour car ride through the valley of California. In fact, I imagine that the second floor bathroom isn’t much different than other communal bathrooms other than the fact that it is occupied largely by females and is on a college campus. Just like any other communal bathroom it has toilets, mirrors, paper towels and showers. The second floor bathroom is like a petri dish (in more ways than one) for temporary, groggy-morning friendships, panic attacks, and existentialist shower thoughts (“Why am I here?”), and as of late, the blood of a single Achilles tendon which I assume was being shaved with poor coordination.
There is a stigma that all bathrooms are only a place of filth and disgust and cannot transgress their predetermined use. A lot can occur in a restroom, not to mention a public restroom. In August of 2015, a newborn baby was found wedged face-down in a toilet in Bejing attracting the help of the local residents and police. (CNN) In the Fall of 2014, there were high levels of heroin overdoses that occurred in public restrooms in Boston. (Boston) The complexities of events that occur in these situations seem unrelated to ones that would happen in a dorm bathroom or even your bathroom at home. Quite the contrary, the restroom is where I made my best friend flush her drugs down the toilet and where I locked myself after an argument with my parents. The Nash Hall second floor bathroom is where I decided I didn’t need to shave my body hair to remain beautiful. What goes on in a restroom is seen to be personal and is often a taboo topic. However, finding a newborn baby in a toilet, coming to terms with an addiction, or death-gripping your way through adolescence seem more like topics that require further discussion, a change or observation rather than those that become the elephant in the room.
The function of the restroom lies within the user. As an introvert, the restroom is where I go to hide from overzealous relatives at family gatherings. The restroom has its place as a fundamental human appliance of western culture, but it also has inconspicuous uses like being a place to drain your ramen or refill your Nalgene. The second floor restroom is where my neighbor cut and dyed her hair the first week of Fall quarter. It’s where I go when everyone I’ve met in Washington suddenly makes a surprise appearance in my tiny dorm room. The second floor restroom is where my roommates and I curled our friend Emma Joy’s pink hair in a swivel chair in front of the mirror while we listened to Bing Crosby’s, “White Christmas.” This is where smiles occurred and laughter resounded. This is where a forehead burn appeared and apologies erupted. It is where we discussed Bing Crosby’s abusive tendencies and his beautiful voice. Perhaps this is the result of whimsical youth, but I know you read Seventeen Magazine on the toilet in the afternoon after work even if you’re 56 years young.
The bathroom is the place that girls are rumored to “travel in packs,” where apparently we go to, “bitch about that one girl you hate who just walked through the door.” (packs) However, I feel the second floor restroom takes on a humbler tone. For example, Emma Joy’s bathroom motto is, “Poop with confidence!” (HEJ) I have also learned who has morning classes and who is too grumpy for small talk at that time (me).
The bathroom is an important place to me. It is where I and others come upon our revelations. Despite the restroom seeming like a strange place to do this, when you feel comfortable enough in a place such as the one I find myself discussing, it can take on a whole new meaning. The restroom is a place where you look in the mirror and decide that today you will love yourself. That can be important to just you. But it’s not that way for everyone. My mother might view the bathroom as a place where she sees only her crow’s feet, her forehead crease and her under-eye bags. The restroom for her is a place to vigorously rub layers upon layers of crème, cream and anything with the word “retinol” written on it. But when I stand behind her in the mirror I see the layers upon layers of strength she has gained as a woman, as a mother.
The Nash Hall second floor bathroom has been a place of solace, friendship and revelation for me. It is a place that I can escape to during these trying moments of my college career. The bathroom is a seemingly unexpected place of pondering and life events. It has been a place where people die, where people cry, where people poop, where people laugh, and where people decide to change their lives. It has been so much more because of the people who have entered and exited its bones. The idea of a restroom has been made grandeur by the experiences romanticized within it. But after all, the Nash Hall second floor communal bathroom is just a bathroom. I may not need a key to get in, but it helps me find the key for getting out — wherever I am going.