Of Speedos and Frenchmen

I just had a quintessentially European experience. I entered at public toilet at the beach, the kind that is lined with multiple stalls, urinals, and sinks.

All was pristine — nearly untouched as it was early in the day, all except for a man — nude as the day he was born — holding his soggy Speedos.

Liberté.

Thankfully, although he wasn’t facing me, the full-length mirror was placed strategically enough for me to enjoy all his aspects at once.

Égalité.

When he noticed that another person was in the room, he turned and greeted me: “Bonjour!”

Fraternité.

This was bewildering, because I did not want to be rude, nor did I wish especially to look at him. Do I greet the wall? Do I stare at him in silence?

Now in these circumstances, one is additionally burdened with a string if miserable thoughts: “Am I a homophobe?” “Do I lack the requisite coolness of spirit that would allow me to not see that a naked man is naked?” “Am I overthinking?” “Am I over dressed?”

I managed a greeting, of which the effort to produce cancelled out my entire capacity for action. I stood facing him, blessed with a vision of his reflected backside, tensed.

Then other questions came. I assumed that all the stalls were taken (it was hard to tell in this bathroom), but this only made me wonder why he undressed before checking. Was this normal? Who am I to judge.

Laissez faire.

And true to this, he began wringing his speedos over the sink. I watched intently, but something about his over-tanned and veiny arms suddenly reminded me why I came in here in the first place.

I attended to the urinal with body and soul, admiring its workmanship, and basically how it was able to have nothing to do with this nude man behind me, now a source of so much social and personal anxiety for me. I wished that I had more to pee, but Alas, I had none to give.

Finished with the urinal, and having adequately assured that nothing in that corner of the toilet required my immediate attention and expertise, I set myself to the task of washing my hands.

The man’s now dry speedos were in his hands, and he was standing very close to the sinks.

I approached. He remained still, a statue of nudity gifted to me.

Then the best part. The moment I turned the tap, he began to dress. His dry body sticking awkwardly to the fabric of his dry Speedo, I tried not to watch him in this even larger mirror. He wobbled, threatening to fall; I turned the tap, drying my hands. All was tragedy and drama, would I have to turn and hold him? Break his fall? Was this true love?

None of that. I broke away. His rough garment having mixed in my mind with the napkin drying my hands. What brought me here? I fled.

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