Photo illustration by Sean Williams

Field Report
Of Modern Serfdom in the Corporate Restroom

Where to go from here? What to do?

I only own one suit, and I wear it every goddamned day. I’ve sweat in its sterile embrace enough times that it is truly my suit; though I bought it second hand. My coworkers know what a shitty suit it is. Most of them have one suit for each day of the week. A few of them wear the same suit every Monday and so on throughout the week so that the color pastiche moves from grey to dark grey to navy, and by Friday: black. They comb the halls here as if the place mysteriously feeds them cocktails of speed and bravado. Their smiles cackle and they come together at the lunch hour like a pack of wild fucking dogs. They eat entire sandwiches in two bites, sucking the marrow from each chunk while it bulges between teeth and cheek. Giant rodents that run this thing like clockwork.

I don’t remember what it is I am supposed to be doing. I have a desk and a computer I’m allowed to use, but I know it’s using me. Cold and unblinking, it takes what it can and leaves the scraps for those vulture fluorescent lights. By the time I make it to the bathroom for my mid-morning freak-out, my face and neck feel cold and clammy. I am fully prepared to tell all of my superiors that I have irritable bowel syndrome. It would be a lie, but the only thing that keeps me from screaming like a banshee, tearing at my flesh with an old spork and lathering the wound with a packet of hot sauce is my frequent trips to the bathroom.

I go to the bathroom down on the third floor. The bathroom nobody ever uses. I sit in a stall and try to calm myself. I go through the motion of pulling down my pants and underwear, but I rarely shit anything. Mostly I sit on the verge of tears with a newspaper in my lap. The paper is another part of the ruse. I will rustle it should someone come into the bathroom, but mostly it sits on my lap so I don’t have to look at my stupid penis. I milk the trip to the bathroom for as much time as seems reasonable. I imagine that if I really did have irritable bowel syndrome, I’d want to sit until I was sure every strand of scat was through me. So I sit until I’m sure that every strand of discontent has been numbed long enough that I can return to my desk for another two hours of eating trail mix and reading emails that I don’t understand.

Today was different. I was in the midst of my normal routine, when something moved up through me like a weed cracking through the sidewalk. I was chewing on a raisin, and while half of my mind was worrying about part of the raisin sticking to my tooth and dissolving the enamel, the other half caught a glimpse of my supervisor’s new secretary. I don’t know her name, and I’m sure nobody has told her mine, but she looked over at me and smiled. Not even a weak smile. It was a direct, warm, inviting smile. Up it came, a horrible missile of hope. It’s liftoff from the base of me tickled my anus enough that I immediately moved toward the elevator. There was no time to smile back. I fled. Down to the third floor and into my sanctuary. I tore through the hallway and exploded through the bathroom door. The stalls were full. All three of them. This was absolutely unprecedented. I did not know what to do. While I panicked, prancing in place, a trickle of piss made down my leg and into my sock. I hadn’t even noticed I was so flummoxed. I hadn’t noticed and now I’d pissed my only suit. I felt my jaw go slack, and I backed into a corner. Wedging myself in-between the cold tiled wall and the arm of a gleaming white urinal I squatted down and hugged my knees to my chest. The pants of my cheap suit were balmy with urine. There was a deceptive coziness to the warm, wet sensation that quickly evaporated as it dropped to room temperature and began to stink.
I started sobbing. Quietly at first. I held my tears as best as I could, but soon I was a complete, heaving mess. My chest punched against my thighs and I buried my head so that my kneecaps locked into my eye sockets.

“Are you alright?” I heard a voice call out from one of the stalls.

“I need to get out of this,” I whimpered.

“I’m sorry,” the voice replied, “But I don’t think I can help you.”

-Charles Skitter

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