A Writer’s Notebook VII
The Gents consisted of a row of cubicles on one wall and a row of wash basins on the other. There was a mirror over the wash basins and shared access to liquid soap. Three urinals stood like soldiers on the wall opposite the entrance. The chemicals used to soften the stench of waste matter made my eyes water.
But needs must.
I took one of the empty cubicles, closed the door and made myself as comfortable as possible on the plastic seat of the loo. There’s only one thing you can do in a place like that. Not much to look at; I didn’t have a book with me so I concentrated on the business which had brought me there.
The surprising thing happened after about five minutes. I was beginning to think I’d finished and should rejoin the stream of life when there was a sound from the adjoining cubicle. A single syllable, perhaps a curse. A few seconds later a hand appeared in the gap between the floor and the wall which divided us.
The hand (a ring on the middle finger, recently manicured nails) was followed by a forearm swathed in the checked sleeve of a jacket. It reached upward and I swivelled on the loo, making sure my legs were well out of reach, but keeping my eyes on the action.
The hand located the leading edge of the toilet roll in my cubicle and pulled it through to its own domain. I watched it unroll, perhaps a metre or a metre and a half before I began to wonder if there would be any left for me. At which point, involuntarily, I placed my hand on the remains of the roll until a break was made.
“Sorry,” said the voice from next door. No detectable irony.
He left before me. I counted to a hundred to give him time. We never met or were formally introduced.