Cardboard Tampax applicators, empty condom wrappers, long lady hairs and dirt in all corners; tiles the colour of filth and bottle green stretched forward and up the walls like a hell trap unfolding. Old-lady perfume and gum on an aged mirrored tray set too close to the basin; gristly hands extended out of a light blue helper’s smock simultaneously offering a tic tac and pointing toward the tip jar.
Laughter escaped from the closing stall doors, and I knew. I knew the girls were laughing at her. Her smock and quiet desperation made them uneasy, and in a way, it made me feel better. As long as I could remember I’d been ashamed of where I’d come from. But now, in the face of their mockery, I was all-for-one-and-one-for-all with her. I wanted to kick their shins, rip their hair out in patches, and spit on their neatly pressed pink and green clothes.
At last we were on the same side. Armed with a new feeling of protection for her, I felt angry when the girls left no tip. All day long we’d watched as they fell giggling through the bathroom door, peed without flushing, flipped their hair back in front of the mirror, and took handfuls of gum and mints without leaving a tip. Without even looking at her–or at me– truth be told.
“Tic tac?” she wheezed, after they’d all gone.
“No, thanks, Ma. I’ve got,” I said, and sat down on the metal folding chair she’d brought from home so we could sit together for “Take Your Daughter To Work Day.”
We sat till 5:00 p.m., just the two of us. We sat together until Daddy came to take me home.
Suzy Devere is a prostitute, a drug addict, a Dr.’s wife, a mother, an intellectual, an academic, an athlete, a painter, a drawer, a photographer, a performance artist, and writer. She has lived all over the world, but right now lives next door to you. Her work has been published in on-line literary magazines such as The Beat and Savage Manners, and the blog: