I just need to shave, then it’s off to work. But shaving means going into the bathroom, and if I go in there I’ll have to pee.
Who am I kidding? I already have to pee. But I can’t.
Maybe I can skip the shave, I think, just tell folks I’m growing a beard. Hell, maybe I should…
But that wouldn’t stop me from having to pee, and now that I’ve thought of it… it’s getting rather urgent.
Okay, this is silly! I’m in my own apartment. There’s no one else around, and I know it.
I know it.
I stride into the empty room with a no-nonsense, take-charge walk, radiating confidence; chin high, eyes steely, jaw set. I flip the seat up, take a wide stance, unzip, and aim.
Here it comes…
The hairs stand up on the back of my neck.
I ignore it. I know it’s bullshit, it’s always been bullshit — all in my head. I have to ignore it and relax. Just relax and let the pressure go.
The back of my neck feels alive with creepy-crawlies and not a drop falls. I twist to look behind me, see nothing.
Someone is watching me. No one is there — no one I can see — but I can feel someone watching me. I can’t piss when someone’s watching — I never could.
“C’mon, c’mon,” I say through gritted teeth. Straining to relax is a strange, contradictory thing to do, not even remotely as funny as it sounds.
“Relax the muscles and the mind will follow,” Dr. Raines has told me. It’s times like this, standing here aiming uselessly into the bowl, feeling eyes upon me, I remember her advice and want to punch her in the face. She prescribed Seroquel, then Risperdal, claiming they would get rid of this ‘phantom watcher’, but here it is, stronger than ever.
It’s no phantom. Someone is watching me. I can feel it.
I slap the seat down, spinning away from the toilet my bladder unrelieved, and grip the sink-edge, breathing hard in frustration.This started six months ago. I’ve been medicated for three months and it’s only gotten worse. I feel it off and on all day, always strongest in the bathroom, where it’s the biggest problem.
It’s easier in the dark, when they can’t see. I’ve been getting up before dawn, using the bathroom successfully in the dark, but I overslept today.
Maybe I can make it to the office.
The office bathrooms are windowless; I can turn off the light and have the confidence of pitch blackness.
Of course, that’s why people started talking. They kept finding me sitting in a stall, alone in the dark.
I raise my eyes to the mirror. I can at least get rid of the stubble.
I peek inside the medicine cabinet. I can’t help it. It’s empty as I knew it would be. Worried about the possibility of a one-way mirror, I had removed everything someone could use to disguise a camera.
My God that sounds paranoid.
I lather my face and begin to smooth my skin with long strokes of the razor, working by feel. I constantly check the room behind me in the reflection. The feeling is stronger than ever, like there’s someone about to tap me on the shoulder. I turn several times, not trusting the mirror to show me.
There’s no one.
I wipe lather from my face with a towel, leaning in to examine my strange, staring eyes.
“I’m really losing it, aren’t I,” I ask aloud.
In the mirror, one eye closes in a slow wink. I freeze, that pressure almost finding spontaneous release.
I’d swear I didn’t do that.
I lean back. Something is wrong, I can sense it. My reflection wears a confident grin.
But I don’t feel confident.
I tap the glass, my reflection stretching out a hand to tap the same spot. It sounds… hollow.
That’s not right.
My reflection smiles knowingly, though I feel anything but happy. My eyes feel wide and staring, not squinting slightly in good humor.
I tap harder; the surface ripples in concentric rings, like water in a pool. That’s not right either.
They must have replaced the glass, installed some sort of secret camera, but I’m on to them now! Enraged, I pound a fist against the glass—
— and my hand breaks through the surface without a crack or a splinter, like pounding on the surface of a pond. Expecting resistance, finding none, I topple forward, my head striking the glass and yet not striking it, plunging through the flat surface into some other space. There is a pull, powerful suction, like a flowing river, and my feet leave the floor. I feel a terrible twisting in my head as I tumble to the ground, rolling to a crouch.
Everything is gray, swirling and silent. And so cold! To my right is one bathroom wall, complete with toilet, some of the floor… but it all trails off to the gray nothing beneath my feet. Light pours in through a rectangular hole hanging in the gray to my left.
I stand and look through.
My bathroom. Me. Rising slowly from a crouch, staring back at myself through this strange window suspended in space.
I want to pound on the glass again, ask what the hell is going on, but I can’t. Because he doesn’t. He touches his own face in wonder.
So do I.
So do I.
We clap our hands in his delight, though I hear neither set of hands.
He waves jauntily at me, spins on his heel and strides away. I do the same though I strain to stop, thrust a fist back into the real world, do anything! But all I can do is turn and walk away into that gray nothingness as the bathroom dissolves. There I wait, eagerly anticipating the next time he approaches a mirror.
So I can approach it too.