They were all lined up in a circle, sitting down on the cold bathroom floor. The public shower never seemed like an inviting place, and it wasn’t. But it didn’t have any fire alarms, and that was all they really cared about. The other shower in the bathroom was running. They did that as a signal to the rest of us that they were about to smoke.
They knew I didn’t smoke, and they were fine with that. I knew they smoked, and I was fine with that. And they never pressured me to do it, either. They had asked me once: “Do you wanna smoke with us?” And I said to them: “No, I don’t smoke.”
And it was all fine.
But in that moment, I really had to piss.
I felt awkward - I guess I always felt a little awkward pissing in a shared bathroom, like all of us do. But I especially felt awkward doing it while they were smoking. For them, smoking was a ritual, a ceremony. I was disrupting it every time I came in to take a leak.
Still, I had to pee. And it was coming out quickly. No time to go down six flights of stairs to reach the bathroom in the lobby. Not that I would want to use that decrepit shithole, anyway.
I entered then, and the smell immediately hit me like a brick being smashed into my face. It was really strong this time. It was burning my nose hairs. I didn’t mind it, though. It felt kinda nice.
They checked to see who I was, and seeing that I wasn’t any threat to their little festival, they went back to their smoking without saying a word. I was used to this. They knew I wouldn’t rat on them.
I opened the stall, shut the door, and began to piss.
Agh, that horrible noise that piss makes when it drops into the toilet water, screaming out at you like a man clutching a bullet wound just fresh enough to stain his new white shirt, screaming for somebody to stop the terrible pain that shot through him like a current of electricity running up and down their veins, sending a strike of pain straight to his heart, agonizing and torturing him until he drops onto the cold sidewalk below and slowly rots away into eternity-
They pretended they couldn’t hear that noise, but I knew that they could. I knew that it aggravated them that I was interrupting the sounds they wanted to hear, and I knew that they would never tell me this. They were nice in that regard. Of course, niceness doesn’t matter when you can read rightride through somebody’s face and see what they’re really thinking.
So I aimed for the side of the bowl, like I usually did. A courtesy, and not much else.
It was a rhythm. I pissed while they smoked. I piss, they smoke. Piss, smoke, piss, smoke. It was the natural way of things. Piss, smoke. Piss, smoke. Piss, smoke.
And so on.
When I was done, I flushed down the remains of my little adventure. I pressed down the lever twice - you had to, or the toilet wouldn’t flush everything down. Plus, it just made more noise for them to listen to. I was feeling adventurous. The yellow puddle swirled away into the heaven it deserved, which we never knew was right below our feet. Bluntly: my piss died. So it goes.
I decided not to wash my hands. I was pushing it with the flushing - I didn’t need to extend my awkward little visit. I left without a word.
That was the way it was. In and out, all the time. You did your business, and I did mine. And we were okay with that. Piss, smoke. Piss, smoke.
I can’t say I haven’t wished to join them on occasion. Break up the routine, maybe. Maybe it was something more than that. Maybe I needed something to cling to. They had that all squared away, but I had nothing but piss.
In any case, standards triumphed over temptation, like it always did. Piss, smoke. The ceremony continues in the bathroom, and I have no part of it.