“Hey buddy,” I heard from the stall in the washroom of Stanley Park North. I was not this man’s buddy. I was not the designated bathroom buddy. Without hesitation, as I wasn’t doing anything to prevent me, I assumed the role of buddy.
“Will you help a brother out?”
“No toilet paper?”
“Not that.” He kicked a roll out beneath the door. The dust and debris and dirt from the Doc Martens and New Balances and Suicokes Kisee-V’s and Sketchers of pedestrians sullied the sheets of fresh white relief. “I forgot how to stand up.”
“Well,” I tried the door. The tall black slab was adorned with advisory posters urging patrons to keep the floor dry, throw their garbage in the bin, and flush when they finished in the spirit of making a clean, safe space anyone and everyone can use. “The door won’t budge.”
“Slide under it.”
I looked at the already browning toilet paper. “This is my only white shirt.”
“Damn. We can’t have that now.”
The black door ran up to the ceiling. Black scrapes painted a history of last second dashes to digestive relief.
“Why’d you choose the handicap stall?”
“It’s roomy, like I own an apartment. I can spread my legs.”
I felt my shoulders. They were toothpicks stuck together with gum husked inside a corned beef wrapping, not battering rams.
“You’re in no rush right?” he asked.
“I can’t even afford a watch.”
He laughed. “Just two dudes and a rubik’s cube.”
The shadow by the washroom entrance was growing long. My stomach groaned at the fading light. The man’s stomach responded in harmony.
“Try this – uh – what’s your name?” I asked.
“Bren,” he said.
“Bren. I’m Haruki. Try pushing off your -”
“Hi Haruki.” There was no tension in his voice.
“Hi Bren. Push off your knees with your hands, put your weight on your heels and shoot up like a rocket.”
“Like the song?”
“Just like the song.” I didn’t know which song. “I’ll count you down.”
“Five, four, three, two, one, now!”
Ten phalanx charging ten battlements shot through Bren’s hands, driving through his knees, buckling his ankles, gouging his heels into the floor, and surging him to exhale like a rusted crane hoisting a skyscraper. It was colossal. So big a voice boomed from the door. It was the man who cleaned the park. His girthy neck stretched his dangling Stanley Park North staff lanyard into a horse collar. He called us junkies and demanded we get out.
We weren’t junkies. We were Haruki and Bren. He made me leave Bren in the stall.