Okay, kids, I’m being haunted. By a living person - at least I hope she’s still living and if she isn’t, I don’t want to know about it - and I need to unload.
For my last dinner meal in Yankee To-own my mother took us (moi, Little Sister, Bro-in-Law and the Little Chirrens) to dinner at a pretty nice, new chop house.
In case you are unfamiliar with Carl Sandburg, Studs Terkel or the joy of unmitigated carnivore-ality, a chop house is Midwest-speak for a steak house.
Dinner is almost over, and Niece Child has to use the Little Cowgirl’s Room. Auntie City Girl to the rescue!
(Now that NC is out of diapers, of course.)
Niece Child and I arrive at said ladies room and are greeted with sobs. Coming out from behind a stall door. Not just sobbing, but wailing. Moaning Myrtle-caliber, can’t-catch-your-breath bawling. So we just stand there, shuffling our feet, desperately trying to use whatever tiny bit of telepathy humans have to hurry along the occupants of the other stalls.
Usually, Niece Child would look at me and ask, “Who is crying Auntie City Girl? WHY she crying? Is she HURT?” Fortunately, even a five-year-old knew instinctively in this situation to just count floor tiles and keep quiet.
After a few minutes the bathroom cleared and it was down to Niece Child in the handicapped stall quietly struggling to mount that enormous potty, Moaning Myrtle – who’d stopped sobbing – and me.
Then Myrtle emerged, bless her heart, washed her hands and tried to clean up her makeup. She held it together for about 90 seconds until she broke down again. Literally fell against the bathroom wall and just lost it. I felt so bad. I asked her if I could get her a glass of water. Couldn’t answer, just shook her head. So instead I went into the stall she’d occupied, gathered up a wad of clean tissue, put it in her hand and liberated the useless sopping gob of paper from her other hand, throwing it away.
By then Niece Child was done, we quickly washed hands and left the room. Got back to the table and told Little Sister what we’d witnessed.
We agreed that Myrtle had just been asked for a divorce or informed that her husband was sleeping with her sister/his secretary/their neighbor. Could not possibly have been anything else. The SOB did it in public to save himself a scene at home. Even a cell phone call informing this poor soul that her dog was dead could not have elicited that kind of public restroom my-world-just-fell-apart guttural wailing.
Asked my sister if she thought it would be totally inappropriate to bring the poor woman a glass of wine. I mean, I’ve been there, I’ve done that, and upon reflection alcohol in the bathroom would have been greatly welcomed. But that's not my world anymore and I hesitated.
LS reminded me that in Yankee To-own, as in other major cities, you really don’t insert yourself into the situations of strangers unless you are willing to accept the potentially angry/painful/fatal consequences.
So I didn’t do it. We left the restaurant and presumably left her with the porcelain for company. And I’ve hated myself ever since.