by Paula Ingerfeld

Through the blurred vision of my eyes, my wrists seem to be skinnier under the flickering neon lights of the ladies’ room. Earlier that night, I overheard a girl complaining, for there is only one restroom for men and one for women. She demanded one for all genders and one for all, except for men. At least she has a clear vision of a better world, a better world for all, also for men I suppose. Outside the cabin, the girls are having a frisky conversation in Spanish. Every time the door opens, their muddled blabbering gets mixed up with static techno beats and the roaring sound of an ecstatic crowd. When the door closes the voices go muffled again and I can hear my own heavy breathing. Whatever it is that keeps the crowd outside this restroom in high spirits, it slipped through my shaky fingers and I´m about to flush it down the toilet. I rest my head on my right arm and watch my hands as they are hanging limply over the toilet seat. Under the white skin I can trace my veins which meander over tendons and knuckles like bluish snakes that have neither a beginning nor an end. There´s purple blood running within them and perhaps a fair amount of vodka which we lavishly poured into plastic cups filled with coke, about two hours ago, when the night was still a promising one. A shiny event we ran towards to in quivering anticipation and which we drank towards to with an unsettling matter of course.

In this very moment the consequences of my efforts to have a terrific time are taking over me with the strength of a tremendous, black wave pulling me under the surface, making me forget where to find the way up again. I once read about an infamous wave called “the Widowmaker“, which is around six metres tall and is quiet  popular among extreme surfers. It´s stupid, I think to myself, to expose oneself to such deadly forces, surfing on the verge of demise, or worse, challenging a complete loss of control over one´s body. But I guess there is a certain thrill to it, to see how far you can go without losing control. If I wasn´t on the bathroom floor right now, feeling sick to my stomach, I would be surfing too. I would chase a cheap high, balance my body through a sea of countless, dancing figures and inhale the fresh breeze of sweet perfume and sweaty skin. But I don´t. I took a nosedive off my board and I have been swallowed by the god­damned widowmaker itself. It´s not that I´m new to feeling sort of widowed, like someone who has been left by someone else – or something else perhaps. It´s not the diving, or the loosing as a separate act on its own. It is the coming up for air, the comeback to the surface and the realization that you are out on the sea all by yourself, not knowing where to find a shore. And you also realize that you can fill your lungs with salty air, you can breathe in and out as well, but it´s just that no matter how deeply you breathe in, you cannot get filled up to the fullest. The air you breathe is not enough to keep you alive out there. At its best, it can barely keep you afloat.

 I lean deeper into the toilet, hoping to throw up soon in order to get rid of my bellyache and to slow down my jumpy heartbeat. My eyes feel unusually dry, I would like to shed a tear or two just to untense, to pour out my disgust. But vodka and tears seem to be locked up in my biosystem without wanting to leave anytime soon. So I force myself up off the floor and lean against the cabin wall. I close my eyes and count until the dizziness fades away slowly: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven  – I open them carefully only to read what´s written on the opposite wall in smudged, red letters: “I WISH YOU WERE HERE“.

I look down at myself. The fabric of my blouse gives off a luminous gleam – how pretty. We make it a ritual to dress up nicely and make ourselves look noticeable. An extensive preparation for a few hours of synthetical euphoria. Hoop earrings, cat-eyes, glitter dust – porcelain faces with scarlet cheeks, flushed and twisted. I drink away the terror and it seems like we get closer by every other gulp of liquor while the faces around us become boisterous grimaces. And I can look into your  glassy eyes now, since I see your face in tunnel vi­sion, hyperfocus. We become nothing but  poisoned bodies, that get carried away within smoky air and hot hands and so do our words – if we wanted them to be heard they would vanish into the noise. There is no need for big words in this collective high. And so I laugh and smile like an idiot because everything seems to be not so bad after all. Under the electric lights it feels like things will work out somehow in the end and as if I won´t feel any emptiness in my lungs tomorrow and as if there were inclusive toilets for every gender.

I make myself pretty to end up on the dirty floor of a toilet cabin and watch my hands in a delirious state. I make myself pretty to end up in a pretty ugly reality. I lift up one finger after another in slow motion which takes up far too much of my strength. Outside the cabin I can still hear the Spanish girl´s voices. One of them is saying something to the others I understand: “Vamos a bailar!” Let´s go dancing.

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