Parallel Lives

I opened the door to the bathroom and quickly recoiled.  The light switch was on my side of the door so she was sat in full illumination on the toilet.  In that one second glimpse I had seen her peroxide bleached hair, bright red lips and her weathered face, a map of saggy crevasses of loose ancient skin that lined her rough hewn face.  Our eyes had met in mutual surprise and I quickly closed the door.  I opened it again to confirm my initial findings and quickly closed it once more.  Loose white cotton pants, a graying dusty jumper and a hand held out in wonder.  Neither her nor I yelped in surprise at this sudden and unexpected encounter.

I did not have a single idea where this lady, possibly 80 or 90 years old, had come from but I knew I had to tempt her out of my living space.  I rapped once, twice, at the wooden door hoping to engage her in a dialogue.  No reply came to my knocking and I could not bring myself to speak out because my throat had dried out at this sudden intrusion.  I rapped again, quickly and forcefully, hoping that she’d recognise my insistence in my drumming on the door.  A muffled cough, a moving of her body perhaps, came in response.  I flicked the light switch from the on to off and on position quickly, in warning, and once again opened the door.

This time our eyes met without the surprise.  She had managed to cover herself but still sat defiantly on toilet, as if it were her natural place in this world.  I pointed to another exit, insistently waving my hand.  She bade no attention to it and curled her rouge stained lips in a sneer of distrust.  I exited quickly and closed the door once again.  Small beads of sweat were starting to form upon my forehead, a physical manifestation of the knot of stress I was beginning to feel in the pit of my stomach.

I had a date tonight, a girl I had had the luck of meeting at a job function.  I had hoped to tempt her back to my lodgings after a romantic meal out but this old lady would not move.  I simply could not bring Susanna back here with the threat of the old lady haunting the place.

I chewed my lips in thoughtful concentration, how did I lure this person out, how could I tempt her to leave what was, after all, my bathroom.  I declined to think of how she had managed to find herself there, of how long she had sat on her porcelain throne in the dark.  I had returned from work just over an hour ago and had heard no movement from the bathroom since my return, thus it was conceivable she had kept quiet and still for at least that long, if not longer.  Did she want or need anything?  No, she had seemed quite content to sit silently without any indication of want or of need of anything.  As if she was happy to remain in silence.

She had to go.  I knew not where, just that she had to leave my lodgings.  I opened the door, not quickly this time but slowly and forcefully and indicated that she had to leave.  Again she sneered at my gesticulations and turned her head away from my direct gaze.  I remained unperturbed and stood my ground.  It was now or never.

I held her in a strong embrace, her face mere inches from my own, glazed blue eyes staring defiantly into mine for the first time.  Her body was lighter than her frame suggested.  I quickly moved her into a standing position and she was forced to use her legs and steady her body; it wobbled for a second on its axis but quickly regained its composure.  I pointed once more into the direction in which I wished her to march.

I was not prepared for the forlorn look that graced her pitted face at that moment.  Her entire body slouched, her sneer becoming a sad smile and her eyes became downcast, looking to the floor as if for support.  It was an arresting sight, the fragility of the human spirit embodied in a broken body.  My heart sighed and my hand automatically held her shoulder in a physical embrace, in moral and emotional support.

It was at that moment that I received a quick sting on the cheek.  I had no time to process it but I knew it was her hand that had singed my cheek, leaving, I noticed in the bathroom mirror opposite, a red mark on my flesh.  She instantly sat back down on the toilet and took down her cotton pants.  I sighed in desperation and quietly closed the door behind me as I made my escape.

I did not meet Susanna that night, nor the next when she telephoned to arrange another date.  Instead I sat still and quiet upon my neatly made bed, wondering just who the woman in my bathroom was and just want it is that she wants.

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