“Restroom,” by Kim Gibson

Dec 20th, 2017 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

“Hi, may I use the restroom?”

Of course. First it’s Can I use the restroom? Blink, blink, blink! then boom, toilet paper mâché all over the goddamn floor because gas station bathroom floors are gross and can’t be stepped on. Pee all over the seats. Paper towel thrown around the room like she had herself a good ol’ paper towel ball fight.

She had to be about nineteen. Timid, the way she held herself. Soft like she’d never lifted anything heavier that her phone her whole life. Maybe the type who preaches she’s not like all the other girls then her clothes melt like wax when some tequila walks by.

“Sorry, customers only.”

“Oh. Um. All right.” She looks around the till, where I’ve got beef jerky, breath mints, Fisherman’s Friend, that sort of stuff. Below are the chocolate bars. She gets a Mr. Big and puts it on the counter.

“I’m sorry?” she says.


“Why are you laughing?”

“Ah. No, I just.” I pick up the bar and scan it. “$1.39.”

She pulls out a debit card.

“Er, minimum $5 purchase for plastic.”

“Oh,” she says again.


Let me tell you about oh’s. Oh’s are the source of power for passive-aggressive predators. The kind that use guilt like a plumber uses a drain snake. Yeah, slide it down your throat all finesse-like then break you up inside and somehow make you the jerk even though they were the manipulative tool that didn’t have the cojones to deal with a situation like an adult and communicate their displeasure properly. And what the hell did she think her oh would do anyway? Magically change the purchasing rules and erase the debit transaction fee? It costs as much to process your payment as it does for you to pee and binge on rice crisp chocolate.

She goes to the cooler and gets a water, then picks up a magazine off the rack and puts it down. Something old ladyish too, like Chatelaine’s or something, but a knock-off.

I scan them in. “$4.39.”

She doesn’t say anything, but turns away immediately, going down another aisle, walking like she’s trying to hold a dime between her knees.

She comes back with a bag of chips. Dutifully, I scan it. “Congratulations, it’s over five-hundred cents!”

She slides her debit card in the receiver.

“Wait. Pull ou—ahem. Sorry, remove it for a sec?”

She does, looking up at me with big eyes. Like, anime eyes. Disney’s Rapunzel. Absolutely ridiculous doe balls.

I sent the transaction to the receiver. “‘Kay, you can go ahead now.”

This time, she tries to tap it. Why didn’t she try tapping it earlier? Was it “Oh, yeah, I can tap these magical motherfuckers to pay for things under a hundred bucks”? Or, maybe, was it the sudden impatience of the bladder, that rush that demands the urethra be set free right now, that the extra four seconds it would have taken to select an account and put in a pin was just incredibly unbearable? I guess, to be fair, ladies’ peechanisms act with gravity and get set off by coughing or something ridiculous like that.

When she tries tapping a second time, I find myself needing to intervene again. “No tap. Sorry. Says…says up there.” I tap the note taped to the top.

Without looking up at me, she puts the debit card in again and follows the prompts, bending at the hips and crossing her legs.

As soon as it says “Accepted,” she takes her card back and bolts for the back.

“You’ll need a key!” I pick it up and wave it. It has this giant key-chain on it, a big paint stick with the Home Depot logo on it.

She wiggles back to me, and I say wiggle in the loosest sense, but that’s kind of what it looked like. Man, she really had to go. I started to feel a little bad about the $5 thing.

Even though she was clearly not having any of this, she takes the key from me gently and smiles a bit, kind of like Terminator does when he tries to smile for the first time. Then she shimmies on down to the back again, sidestepping two kids that came in for some slurpees bigger than the volume of their stomachs.

I can see her in the theft mirror up in the corner struggling with the lock. She tries it one way, then flips it, then flips it back. She’s getting increasingly more frantic and fumbly with the key when finally she jams it in there and yanks.

I can hear the faint snap before she even reacts. She’s just kind of standing there, head hung, hair covering her face, holding the paint stick in front of her, half a key dangling from it. I guess forget what I said about being soft. Jeez, when’s the last time you broke a key?

Normally, depending on the time of day, I’d either be pissed or laughing my ass off at this point, but now…I don’t know what it is, really, but now this kind of feels like my problem too? Well, it is, obviously. I’m gonna have to call my manager about the jammed lock, but…on a personal level, you know? I don’t know, maybe it’s because she hasn’t been a dick to me this whole time, but…is this sympathizing?

It might be. I’m rounding the counter right now.

I’m ready for her “Oh” face when she looks at me with big tears on her face. Those tears have taken that mascara for a run. Like, the volcano has erupted, the lava has oozed, and now it has dried and hardened into a black mass. I am concurrently startled and filled with remorse.

“I’m sorry,” she whispers up at me, doing a half pistol squat with her legs tangled together.

“No, it’s—don’t worry about it. I’ll see if I can get it open for you.”

Oh. Am I now?

Where the hell did this come from?

How the fuck we gonna open this, Jay?

“Just…back up a bit, maybe?”

She crab-shuffles to the other side of the hall.

I stand in front of the door and oh my God you’ve got to be fucking me. Right. One, two, oh my God, three—

I kick the door above the handle and I severely underestimate the force I use. I feel her wet face smashed in between my shoulder blades and the paint stick cracks against my lower back, then we’re a heap on the floor.

The two kids are laughing from the slurpee machine as I pull myself up off the floor. “Oh, my God, I’m so sorry, are you okay?” I find myself saying for the first time ever.

She’s sitting on the floor, looking off into the corner of the hall, away from the boys, away from me, crying quietly as a dark spot blossoms on her jeans.

“Oh,” I say.

That fucking oh. So helpful, much assist.

“Here,” I say, trying to help her up by her arms. She softly shakes her head and folds them tighter around herself, twisting her legs so that no one might see.

“I can’t stop it,” she whispers, then clamps her eyes shut.

“Oh…shit, I’m sorry. Um.” I look at the two kids, who immediately fall silent, smiles still frozen on their faces.

“You need anything else?” I bark.

They mumble something in the negative.

“‘Kay, I’ll meet you at the till.” I usher the kids to the front, checking that there’s no one else in the store or at the pumps, then I take their filthy kid change for the drinks and strongly suggest they have a nice day.

I rush back to her. She hasn’t moved, and there’s a sizable puddle under her now.

“Ready to get up?” I ask.

She nods.

“Okay. I’m gonna help you up and take you behind the counter, okay? No one else is in the store, just us. Okay?” Did I ask her if it was okay? Is it okay with you? Okay, okay, ohkay. Now I’m embarrassed, and she’s the one who’s sitting in her own pee.

She nods again, and this time when I reach out, she takes my arms.

So, uh, have you ever been in a situation like this? Not the, I mean, crying, pee-covered girl hanging off your arm as you take her back into your place of work. Well, heh, I wouldn’t judge. I mean the…doing something for someone you don’t know for reasons you don’t know. I kind of body checked her into incontinence, but I…I don’t know, I don’t think I’m doing it out of some ill-borne guilt for that.

I don’t like people. They don’t like me. This should be really hilarious to me. Right now I feel really bad, though, and I want to hug her but I think that may not be received well and there may already be a little bit of pee on me so I think it’s best to keep it at a gentlemanly arm escort.

We get behind the counter and she slowly lets me go. Her head is still hung like her neck’s broken. She sniffs hard and rubs at her lava cheek.

“All right, so. Uh. Do you…live nearby?”

She shakes her head.

“Anyone you can call to come get you?”


“I don’t suppose you drove here.”

She shakes her head again and starts sobbing, folding her arms over her chest.

“Oh. Shit. Sorry, I should stop doing that.”


“No, saying ‘oh.’ Um. All right, so…I can…I’ll call my manager. You just bunker down here, have some of your snacks, take a breather. Here, take my chair.”

I roll the chair her way and she looks at me, startled. “Are you sure?”

“Ye—ah. Yeah, yeah, go ahead.” Didn’t think that one through.

“I’m okay, thanks,” she says, thank God, and squats down on the floor with a water bottle and the Mr. Big.

I call Dave and about a minute later I learn he’s about to go into court again so there’ll be no deus ex machina unless Trent or Logan are struck with a cord of kindness and come in when they aren’t scheduled. Those two guys are like me and I’m thinking…two normal me’s right now would be…ugh, no, this poor girl’s had enough of subdued me, I think.

I hang up the phone but I don’t turn to look at her yet. I feel like I need to have a solution before I face the music. There won’t even be music, she’ll just be quiet and Rapunzel-eyed, and goddammit I can’t disappoint a princess.

“I, um. Okay, so, I can…please don’t think of this as weird, but—” I turn to face her. “I can give you my pants and you can go.”


“I know it’s not exactly, uh, kosher to wear some strange dude’s pants, I guess, but…um, if you’re really in a bind, and you have no other options, I will give you my pants and you can wear them out of here and be on your way to wherever it was that you were going.”

She looks up at me, tears quashed by the utter baffledness that was brought on by my offer. I mean, I wouldn’t even do this in sociables with people I know. “Wear Jay’s pants.” Ew, no, not even I want to wear my pants sometimes.

“I washed them yesterday, even. Worn…uh, four hours now. I don’t sweat much. You can have the belt too.”

She mumbles something.


“Okay.” She isn’t looking me in the eye and now she is bright red.

“Yeah?” And then it strikes me—I am offering my pants to a lady stranger.

She shifts awkwardly, laying her hands on her lap.

“Uh. Okay.” I look out the windows—no one there and no one coming. I undo my belt, drop my jeans, realize there are at least two cameras catching this right now, and step out of them. They’re baggy enough that I don’t have to fight much to get them off over my shoes.

I turn back to her and set the pants on the chair next to her. Then I stand fairly close and turn my back. “I’ll block the cameras,” I tell her.

She mumbles, I think a “thank you,” and I hear her take off her pants.

This is…this is it. This is the absolute most batshit crazy thing I’ve ever done. This will be the gas station story, a tale passed down the generations of staff, from tight layover to tight layover. This will be the tale at my wedding, should it ever come, that time Jay traded in his jeans for his first shred of humanity. This will be that story my grand kids get tired of hearing. “Fuck, Grandpa, with the jeans again?”

My belt tinkles when she does it up. She stands, and I turn around to find her awkwardly holding her wet pants in one hand and the broken key in the other.

“Oh,” I say, and cringe, as I take the key from her, then grab a bag, fan it out, and hand it to her wide open so she can dump her pants in.

“What are you going to do?” she asks softly.

“Probably see if I can get a locksmith in, I guess.”

“No, I mean…” She looks down.

“Right!” Yep. Still not thinking any of this through. “I guess I will call my parents,” I say slowly, like it’s such a cool plot twist unfolding in front of me that I didn’t see coming, “and see if they can bring me some pants.”

She twists her lips together like she’s trying to eat her tears rather than shed them. “I’m sorry.”

“Wh—no, no, retract that! You don’t get to say sorry unless you’ve gone and f—messed up like what I just did. This whole situation. Me, here, Jaying all over the place. Take my pants as my sorry, okay? I am, really, actually sorry.”

I wasn’t apologizing for making her pee herself, either. I was thinking about the really scathing stuff I labelled her with before she even had a chance to really say “Oh.” “I am sorry,” I said, a lot more softly than I had intended to.

Then I said, “How about you keep the pants and tell your friends this crazy story about the time the weird, creepy cashier guy gave you his pants? You know, when this blows over and you feel you can laugh at yourself again and not feel bad about it? Make it up to me by not saying sorry unless you earned it.”

She looks like she’s about to smile but she twists her mouth again instead. “Okay.”

“Okay.” I lift up the counter, she steps through, and I put the rest of her snacks in another bag and hand that to her. “Thank you,” she says quietly, then leaves.

Twenty minutes later a cop comes in and I am arrested for indecent exposure because I have no pants to put on. He at least lets me close shop and call my boss on the way to the station. Dave doesn’t fire me. I don’t know, I can’t tell you what goes on in another man’s head. Maybe he feels it would not be very apropos to fire his employee after he just went into court to defend himself.

So, yeah, I’m in the back of the police car, thinking, “Good job, Jay!” but also starting to think of a new resolution to plan my actions before I do them, because it is now just occurring to me I’ll be sitting in a jail cell with many strange men, for a few hours at least, bereft of pants.

Yeah. Good job, Jay.

When I come back to work, I find a pair of pants were left for me when Trent was on shift, and it is this—not the broken bathroom lock—that prompts the downward spiral that is this story, which is now embellished with Macauly Culkin-style antics, going commando, and weird romantic overtones, depending on which of my coworkers tells it.

A note came with the pants.

Sorry, not sorry.



Kim Gibson has been writing mostly garish fan fiction since she was seven. However, her first work, “The Indiana Jones Ride,” has been met with strong praise. “Wow! It’s like I’m on the ride again! Good work, Kimberly. Love, Mom” is among the positive reception from critics. She used to spend her time worrying about the man with the clipboard until the day came when she suddenly was the man with the clipboard. Almost literally, for she carries a clipboard as she judges children’s work by day and writes dubious tales by night.

Tags: , , , ,

Comments are closed.