Brent Youngs

Writing On Bathroom Walls

Writing On Bathroom Walls
Chapter 1
            The feeling of nausea was overwhelming. Sweat beads gathered on her forehead and upper lip. She swallowed heavily several times in an effort to subdue the feeling. Her hands were cold, eyes blurred by fever and sweat.  She knew the moment of no return was approaching.
            Madison Ell had felt sick all morning.  She debated about coming to work, but the end of the month is always a pressure-packed time for a software support specialist. Her hope was that there would be enough work to keep her mind occupied and her senses distracted from the flu-like symptoms. By 8:30 that morning, she realized that her tactics were failing as the sickness gained momentum. She removed the telephone headset from around her neck and slowly pushed away from her desk. She didn’t want to make a scene – though she concluded that the scene of her sprinting to the hallway door would be much more publicly acceptable than the scene of her vomiting all over the general ledger report on her desk. She stood up from her chair and began to walk toward the office exit door, leading to the hallway. Her cubicle was only a few feet from the door, but she still had to walk past her nosey co-workers.
            “Whatcha doin’ Maddie?” asked Sarah, Madison’s cubicle neighbor and co-worker.  Sarah was one of her more tolerable associates of the accounting world.  At 29, Madison had hoped the nickname of ‘Maddie’ had faded with other high school memories. But for some reason it seemed to fit coming from Sarah.
       “Why are my bladder and bowel functions so interesting to these people?”  Madison thought.
            “I’m not feeling well. I need some air,” Madison said, moving quickly to the door.  She could hear a faint response from Sarah as she turned the door knob and pushed the door open, into the hallway. The fresh, cool air was welcoming to her warm face as she entered the hallway and began walking toward the women’s bathroom. With each step the uncontrollable urge to be sick gained momentum. Madison looked down the long hallway, realizing that she still had quite a journey to reach the women’s bathroom. However, she knew the men’s bathroom was much closer.  She took only a few steps and knew she wouldn’t make it. With her hand over her mouth, she slammed through the men’s door, did a quick check for any occupants and, with a split second relief of the vacancy, sprinted to the last stall. She locked the door behind her, raised the toilet lid and fell to her knees.  The sickness exited her body quickly, leaving her weak and shaking. As disgusted as she was to be sitting on the floor of a men’s bathroom, Madison quickly felt much better. She sat on the floor and leaned against the wall, trying to gain enough strength and composure to stand. Each attempt to pull herself up left her weaker and dizzy. She rested her arms on the toilet’s cold lid. Out of the corner of her eye she saw scribbling on the wall, behind the toilet seat and in very faint, but legible, print. Only a person in her very unfortunate position would have ever noticed.  Curiosity pulled her closer to the writing



                                    i watch as she walks
                                    not on concrete with heels
                                    but barefoot on the clouds
                                    she may be no angel
                                    but angelic she is to me

            “Well there’s something you don’t see every day,” she said to herself.  She leaned closer as she saw more writing, even smaller.
                                    the smile behind the eyes
                                    the one nobody sees but i

            The bathroom door opened with a loud squeak! Suddenly she remembered exactly where she was. She stood up quickly as panic replaced nausea. She listened as an unknown man entered. She held her breath and stood motionless as she listened. Within a few seconds the door opened again.
            “What is this?  Grand Central Station?” she whispered to herself.
            She listened as the two men exchanged elevator-standard conversation about the weather and a sports team. Finally, both men did their business, washed and left.  Relieved for a moment, her anxiety grew as she contemplated getting out of there without being seen.
            “I’ll just casually walk out and act like nothing has happened. And if someone walks in I’ll just . . . freaking die,” she thought.
            She unlocked the stall door and cautiously walked out. She walked slowly, expecting the bathroom door to open at any moment. She made it to the door, grabbed the handle and walked into the hallway with her best ‘everything-is-normal-here’ posture.  She walked quickly to the door leading into her office area.  “Do I walk like an angel on clouds?” she chuckled to herself,  knowing without hesitation the answer to this question as she was frequently the victim of a timely trip or fall in front of crowds or VIP’s. She opened the door and walked back to her cubicle.  She was feeling relieved, both physically and mentally, as she sat down heavily in her chair.
            “You okay, Maddie?” Sarah asked, from the other side of the cubicle wall.
            “I’m good. Thank you,” replied Madison.  She heard the sound of Sarah’s chair sliding followed by footsteps. Madison rolled her eyes, knowing that nosey Sarah was coming to find out more details of her quick exit to the hall.
            Sarah stepped into the doorway of Madison’s cubicle and leaned against the wall. “Did you make it?”
            “What?” Madison asked, surprised and somewhat disgusted.
            Sarah laughed. “Maddie, you were completely pale with just a tiny shade of green. You were either about to spew or had just been dumped. And I assume the former.”  Madison laughed. “So did you?”
            “Yes! And I’m not having this conversation.”
            “Well you look much better.”
            “Thanks,” Madison said, as she turned back to her desk.  “I look much better? Geez, how bad did I look?”  She opened her top, left-hand drawer. Digging through the top layer of papers, tissues, dental floss and tea bags, she retrieved a small mirror. She pulled it close to her face for a thorough investigation. “Ugh,” she said to herself, as the mirror revealed a pale, disheveled look. Madison was a moderately attractive woman, who did little to improve her appearance in the way of makeup or stylish haircuts. Her pale green eyes were easily her favorite feature, but rarely did she make any attempt to highlight them. Her golden brown hair was shoulder length with a part in the middle. She wore very little makeup, and today the naturally dark circles under her eyes stood out like skid marks on a pale white highway. “I looked worse than this?” she asked, loud enough for Sarah to hear.
            “Moments ago you did,” Sarah answered, from her cubed office area.
            “I’m sorry.”
            “Stop it. Put the mirror away, it will only make you feel worse.  Hey, do you still have that trial balance?”
            “Yes,” Madison answered in a deflated tone. She placed the mirror in the open drawer, closed the drawer and positioned herself back to her desk.  “Why can’t I be pretty? Why can’t I be angelic?” she thought.  “The smile behind the eyes that nobody sees but I?” she said, silently to herself.  “What’s that supposed to mean?”  She was intrigued by the writing on the wall and irritated that she was not able to read the remaining lines. Her eyes were scanning through figures on the trial balance report, but her mind was scanning that wall, wondering what the next lines were. In a reaction to a wishful thought, she reached her right hand to each earlobe, hoping to find one of the tiny gold loop earrings missing.
“Stupid. You’re not going back in the men’s toilet to read some gay guy’s scribbling. Geez Madison. Get a grip,” she thought.
            Madison occupied herself with tedious tasks for the remainder of the morning. Her mind continued to retreat back to the subject of the wall writing, as much as she tried to concentrate on work.  She created distractions for herself by walking to the break room for coffee and water. She glanced into each office or cubicle that was occupied by a man, wondering if this could be the powder room poet. She knew most of the men in her office, though only at a surface level, and had all but eliminated each of them as a possibility.  However, that only accounted for a small percentage of the men who utilized that bathroom during an average week.  
            “Hey, Sarah?” Madison asked, after returning to her desk with yet another cup of water.
            “Yes, dear. Watcha need?” Sarah replied, from her desk.
            “You know most of the men in this office pretty well don’t you?”
            “Define ‘pretty well’ before I answer that.”
            “I mean . . . you know them. Not just like their name but you know something about them, don’t you?”
            Madison heard the familiar noise of Sarah’s chair moving away from her desk and Sarah’s weight lifting from the chair. Madison looked toward the door of her cubicle, anticipating Sarah’s appearance.  “Okay, what’s up? Who is it?”
            “What? No. I’m just asking,” Madison replied to Sarah’s inquiring.
            “Uh huh. Come on. Spill it. Wait … bad choice of words,  considering.”
            “No.  I mean, there’s nothing to spill. It’s not about me. I’m just asking.”
            Sarah walked inside the partition wall and leaned against Madison’s desk. “You can tell me.  I can keep a secret. I’m already excited for you, and a little relieved. In the two years you’ve worked here, I don’t think I’ve ever heard about you going on a date. So who is he?”
            “Ssshhh,” Madison whispered loudly. “There is no ‘he’. Geez, I was just asking if you knew them. I’m not dating anyone. I wouldn’t do that.  I mean I would but I wouldn’t talk about it.  I mean I would tell you if . . . . oh just forget it.”  Madison was well aware that the office rumor mill stopped and started at Sarah’s office.
            “Then why are you asking about the men in the office?”
            “Just . . . . never mind,” Madison said, turning back toward her desk.
            “Between you and me sweetie, there ain’t a one of them worthy of shining my shoes.” Lowering her voice she said, “But that copier guy could buff my pumps if he wanted to.”
            “Oh my gosh, Sarah!”
            “Well he could. I mean, he’s crap at his job. The poor sap practically lives here but those ocean eyes and that shy little . . . sorry. Was I drooling?” Turning back to Madison she said, “You know it wouldn’t hurt you to get out now and then, with a man I mean. Loosen up a bit and show that wild side.”
            “I get out plenty, thank you very much,” Madison snapped, knowing her words were false.
            “Well, if you decide to ‘get out’ with someone in the office, I had better be the first to know,” Sarah said, with a wink as she turned to leave the cubicle doorway.
            “Like that will happen,” Madison thought.  Madison knew that Sarah meant well, but Sarah had a way of reminding Madison that her life was less than exciting, in the romance category. Demanding work hours, preference for a quiet lifestyle and a personality that complimented her high IQ, had created challenges for any romantic ventures.  Loneliness was not a stranger to Madison, though she justified several times that “there are worse things than being lonely” and “there is a difference between being alone and being lonely.” Deep sighs and empty laughter in a quiet house reminded her that justifications only worked temporarily.  “Like anything will happen.”




Chapter 2
            As the end of the work day drew nearer, Madison began to “coincidentally” find more and more projects that would require her to work late.  Promptly at 5:00, Madison began hearing the familiar end-of-day rituals from Sarah’s cubicle. Madison blankly stared at pages on her desk, attempting to look involved in work, anticipating Sarah’s silhouette at her doorway.
            “Well Maddie, I’ve seen enough debits and credits for one day. How about you, kid, when are you getting out of here?” Sarah asked, as she adjusted a large, black faux leather bag across her shoulder.
            “In a few,” Madison replied, without looking up. “Just have a few more entries to check.”
            “Well, don’t work too hard. As for me, I have a beginner’s ballet class.  By tomorrow morning, I’ll be as graceful as an angel barefoot on the clouds.”
            Madison quickly turned her head to Sarah.  “Barefoot?  Clouds?. . . No way.”  Madison slightly smiled at her. “I’ll look forward to that. Have a good evening.”
            “Have fun.”  Sarah turned and walked toward the office exit door. Madison heard Sarah starting a conversation with someone in the hallway as the door shut.  She listened as other office members left through the same door. She stayed at her desk for nearly an hour, looking at ledgers and printing reports.  Working late was nothing new to Madison. She knew that within a few minutes, the elderly man who cleans the office and empties their trash cans would be coming in through that same door with his large, yellow trash bin and cleaning supplies. He knew Madison by name and was always very kind to her. “Surely he’s not the one. He does clean the bathrooms though. He must have seen it.”  
            Madison rose from her chair, picked up a collection of used coffee cups from her desk and began walking down the narrow office halls, toward the break room.  She inconspicuously examined each office and found them all to be vacant. She casually walked back toward her office. She spied the door leading to the hallway. “I can’t believe I’m doing this,” she said to herself, as she grabbed the silver knob, turned it and pushed the door open. She stood in the hallway, momentarily, with her hand still on the doorknob.  She looked down each hallway. She began walking down the long hallway toward the bathrooms.  She paused outside of the men’s bathroom, listening for any sounds behind the heavy, wooden door.  Again, she nervously looked down both ends of the hallway, quickly pushed the door open and stepped in.  The door squeaked loudly as it retreated to its closed position. Her heart was racing. Her breathing was heightened as she hurried to the back stall. She pushed open the metal door, walked inside, turned and bolted the door.  “Oh my gosh, what am I doing?” she asked anxiously.  “Audrey Hepburn wouldn’t do this.” She stood motionless with her back pressed against the door.  Her eyes fixed on the wall behind the toilet. A strong smell of cleaning fluid gave her a brief sense of relief that her late night companion had completed his duties.  She took two steps toward the wall and knelt down to the floor, crouching as low as she could without allowing her knees to touch the floor. She could see the writing but was not low enough or close enough to the wall to read.
            “Well doodleschmit,” she said, realizing that she was going to be forced to go down on her hands and knees in order to stretch far enough behind the toilet to read. She placed her knees on the cool, damp floor, positioned her left hand against the back wall and used her right hand as a balance.  She tried desperately to not touch the toilet itself but eventually placed a relaxed grip on the back. She leaned as far back as she could and saw the letters and words becoming clear.  She read:
                        but angelic she is to me
                                the smile behind the eyes
                                the one nobody sees but i.
                                she lights up a room
                                with but a single glance
                                I long for the courage
                                to take a chance
                                to speak a hello
                                to wave a good morn
                                but I stay in the shadows
                                and silently adore.

            “Oooh, that’s so sweet and sad,” she said quietly. “Take a chance!” she said to the words on the wall. She lifted herself up, brushed off her knees and stood quietly, still staring at the words. “Like I’m one to talk. What chances have I ever taken?”  She looked at the walls and ceiling of the bathroom stall.  “Well, I guess this counts,” she whispered as she began to unlock the stall door.  She walked out of the men’s room and down the hall toward her office door, staring blankly at the floor. She was at her desk before she realized it. She sat heavily in her chair, holding a pencil in her hand with the eraser end touching her upper lip delicately. “Why would someone write that? He’s definitely someone in the building. Probably on this floor,” she said.  She sat in silence for a few minutes. She shook her head and grinned slightly. “It’s probably been there for ten years and the guy is serving prison time for vandalizing private property.  Stupid,” she said. She stood up, placed her laptop in a carrying case and began to clean her desk area. “Time to go home, Madison. Time to get a life, Madison,” she uttered, as she exited her cubicle.  Madison went home, once again alone.













Chapter 3
            As with most mornings, Madison entered the two-story office building twenty minutes before most of her co-workers arrived at their self-designated parking spot.  With head down, she scurried past the first business office, which shared the common long hallway with her company. She didn’t like the glass doors, glass walls or the creepy guy who sat at the front desk in the early mornings. She often referred to him as the piranha in the fishbowl because of his “devouring look” as she passed by.
A normal office morning for Madison began with making the first pot of coffee, primarily because Angie, the office manager with the masculine tone and matching biceps, made the coffee entirely too strong for Madison’s taste. Sarah had speculated many times that Angie’s female hormones were slowly being killed off in a raging war against the “coffee that pours like concrete.”  Madison would treat herself to the first cup of coffee, change the date on the Inspiring-Word-Of-The-Day calendar that hung in the break room, then meander back to her desk, casually sipping her slightly sweetened coffee and wondering about the lives of her co-workers.  It was a time of the day that she cherished. But today something was different. Today she had more awareness as she walked past the empty, dimly lit cubicles and offices.  Today she studied the offices more, speculated more about the people. 
            She began the tedious process of elimination to determine which man, in her office at least, would be a prime suspect for writing such poetic jibberish on the walls.  She rarely ventured outside of her office area, but the office was small and relatively confined.  She knew most of the employees well, and the others at least by name.  She began a list of the men and women in the office.
                                Tammy Johnson                                                Brian Coleman
                                Sarah Roberts                                                         Tommy Taylor
                                Catrina  Johnson                                                  John Wright
                                Emily Johnson

                “What’s up with all these women named Johnson?” she said to herself, interrupting her list. She began counting. “One, two, three … six!  Six! Geez we have more women named Johnson than we have men.”  She looked up with a smile. “We have more women named Johnson than we have ‘johnsons’.” Laughing out loud, she spun her chair in a full circle.  “Geez, I crack myself up.”
            Within ten minutes Madison began hearing the first signs of her co-workers. She readied her desk and computer for another day of work as more and more of her co-workers arrived and did the same. Sarah was, as always, one of the last to arrive. She hung her coat, placed her purse on her desk and turned to walk to the break room.
            “Good morning, Sarah,” Madison said, startling Sarah.
            “Oh yeh,” said Sarah. “Good morning.”
            “Would you like some coffee?  I’m going that way myself.”
            Sarah pulled her head back a bit. “Uh sure. Who pumped your ass full of sunshine?”
            Madison gave her a sarcastic frown. “Now don’t be crass.  I just thought you might be tired with the dancing and all that?”
            “Well . . . thank you.  When you get back you can rub my feet too,” Sarah replied.
            “No thank you.  Be right back.” As Madison neared the break room, she could hear conversations mixed with occasional light laughter. Normally, this would require a detour or delay in Madison’s coffee run but today she jumped in head first.
            “Good morning. Hope you all had a great evening,” Madison said to the group of three men and one woman mingling over coffee.  The conversations ceased as everyone turned toward Madison while she filled two cups of coffee.  It was very uncommon for Madison to speak to a group of people this way, or any way for that matter. It’s not that she was rude but private, to a fault, and a bit of a social reject. Madison had spent so much time alone that she avoided these types of gatherings and conversations as much as possible, especially at work.
            “Well hey Madison. Nice to see you today,” offered Marcus, the young marketing man. ‘Marketing Marcus’ was one of the few people in the office who always greeted Madison with a smile, though it was seldom returned. He was handsome, young, articulate and creative.  Madison enjoyed seeing Marcus but was intimidated to the point of uttering senseless drivel at each conversation attempt.
            “Thank you,” she said, turning toward the group. “I just thought I would ‘take a chance and speak a hello or wave a good morn’ today,” she said, with a smile.  She watched each of the men’s eyes for any kind of reaction. There were reactions but not what she was hoping for.
            “Okay-y-y, well I need to get on a conference call,” one of the other men said, looking at his watch.
            “Yeah, um . . . yeah,” said the woman, as she left the room.
            “Good to see you Madison. Have a good day,” another man spoke as the rest of the gathered group left the rom.
            Marcus looked at her, attempted to speak but walked out quietly with mouth open and head down.
            Madison’s shoulders dropped and her smile faded. She suddenly felt like the ugly kid in class; the one nobody invites to the birthday parties.  Her plan had backfired and made her feel more alienated from her co-workers than ever. “Smart Madison. Real Smart,” she said softly to herself, as she left the break room.  She walked quickly back to her office area.  “Here,” she said, sitting Sarah’s coffee on her desk and hastily returning to her desk.
            “Thanks,” Sarah said loudly. “What about my foot massage?”  No response came from Madison’s direction.  Sarah stood up and walked to Madison’s doorway. She leaned against the cubicle wall and watched Madison flipping through papers on her desk while drinking her coffee.  “Did someone poo poo on my ray of sunshine?”
            “No. Just busy.”
            “Who was it?  I’ll give ‘em a wedgie they’ll never forget.”
            Madison turned quickly to Sarah.  “Nobody. Nobody did anything.  I’m an idiot. Enough said. Let’s just get to work and get this day over with, okay?”
            “Oh no!” Sarah said, walking toward Madison’s desk.  She pushed a pile of neatly arranged papers off the corner of the desk and sat down. “Now you tell me what is going on or I swear I will tell this entire office that we are lesbian lovers.”
            Madison gasped. “You are just vile.” She lowered her head. “I can’t.  You’ll think I’m the most pathetic thing that ever walked the planet.”
            “Oh honey, that time has come and gone. Now I think Amanda Sims is the most pathetic thing on the planet.”
            “I heard that,” spoke a faint voice from beyond Madison’s walls.
            “Love you Amanda. Oh! Hey ladies, today is copier guy day so don’t forget to gloss,” yelled Sarah.  She lowered her voice to a near whisper and got closer to Madison.  “So tell me.”
            Madison debated. “Okay but if I tell you, you have to promise that this goes no further than these walls.”
            Sarah sat up straight, took a long drink of her coffee and said, “Well you know that’s not going to happen so just spill it.”
            “Okay!  I promise.”
            Madison scooted closer to Sarah and told her the whole story of the day when she first discovered the writing on the wall. She revealed how she shamelessly went back in after hours to read the remaining and how she had just dropped lines of the writing in a very abnormal conversation in the break room, as part of her “investigation.”
            Sarah stared at Madison. “I don’t even . . . I’m speechless. Your first romantic venture in the three plus years that I’ve known you and it’s with the men’s pisser,” she said.
            Madison laughed. “No, but it’s sweet, don’t you think?”
            “You don’t know that it’s sweet!  You don’t know the first thing about this guy. Fortunately he’s probably long gone by now. BUT, it could be someone as creepy as piranha man.”
            “You don’t think it’s just a little bit sweet?” Madison asked.  “I mean he’s like this little shy man and he’s obviously in love with this gorgeous, angelic woman but he’s afraid she will reject him if he tries to share his feelings for her so he writes them down in a public, yet private, forum.” 
            “Oh my gosh. Maddie.  You are a hopeless, hopeless romantic.  Honey, I don’t want to burst your precious little love bubble, but he’s probably a middle-aged stalker that wears dark, thick glasses and still lives with his mom. And he’s not in love with this poor girl, he just uses her image for his late night activities.”
            “I still think it’s sweet,” insisted Madison.
            “And I still think it’s creepy.  And thank goodness the guy is probably long gone by now.”
            “How do you know?” asked Madison. “How would you know?  How would anyone know?”
            “Know what?”
            “If this guy is still here or has been gone for ten years?”
            “I don’t know,” Sarah said.  She paused for a moment. “I guess you could write back.”
            Madison’s face lit up with excitement. “You mean like write a response? On the wall!”
            “Well you seem to be in there on a regular basis, you might as well,” Sarah said.
            “Oh hush. I think it’s a brilliant idea!  And I think it’s doubly brilliant that it was YOUR idea.”
            “Just to prove to you that you’re insane,” Sarah said, standing up and walking back to her desk.




Chapter 4
            Madison was elated. She contemplated her reply for much of the day.  She practiced writing it on a yellow pad of paper, scratching through each attempt.  She scribbled responses under headings labeled   
            SWEET                                    THOUGHT-PROVOKING                INSPIRING

            She tried poems but the rhymes made no sense.  Frustrated, she sat looking at a collection of notes, words and scribbles that could have easily been the work of a four-year old with a box of markers.  The repeating thought that her written response may only be seen by a passing cockroach or a toilet repairman deflated her enthusiasm.  She wanted to inspire this mystery man to risk embarrassment and rejection, something she knew she could never do.   She groaned.
            “You all right over there Maddie?” Sarah asked.
            “No. Yes. I don’t know. I can’t think of anything to write,” Madison replied.
            “Are you still on that?  It doesn’t really matter what you write honey, nobody is ever going to read it. Just take a pen in there and wing it.”
            “I can’t do that.”
            “Sure you can.  That’s what all the great sheet rock authors do. I’ll even cover you.  Let’s go.”
            “Now?  We can’t go now. Someone will come in,” Madison insisted.
            “I’ll stand at the door and tell them it’s being fumigated. Come on.”
            “Now!  The sooner we get this over with the better off we’ll both be. Grab a pen.”
            Madison debated for just a few seconds, and nervously picked up her favorite pen – a red one her father had given her along with her first checkbook. The two walked side by side as they exited the office door into the hallway.  Anxiety overwhelmed Madison as they neared the men’s bathroom. She grabbed Sarah’s arm and said, “I can’t.  What if someone is in there?   What if . . .”
            Sarah pushed open the squeaky door to the bathroom and yelled, “Anybody in there?”  There was no response. “See, nobody home. Now go.”  Madison stood with her hand over her mouth in shock at Sarah’s audacity.  Sarah grabbed Madison by the arm and tugged her into the doorway. “Go! I’ll cover.”
            Madison rushed to the back stall, closed the door and locked it.  As she got closer to the toilet she noticed water on the floor. “Gross,” she said, as she unrolled more than half of a toilet paper roll and covered the floor.  She knelt down near the seat. “Oh my gosh!” she said, as she saw the writing.  “Oh my gosh!  He’s real. He’s here.”  Under the original writing she read the newly etched words:
                                                If only her sweetness
                                                would brighten my day
                                                just once with a glance
                                                or a smile my way
                                                She knows not of me
                                                or speaks of my name
                                                it does not matter
                                                in love I remain

            “Oh my gosh!  Oh my gosh!” Madison squealed quietly.  Light tears began to form in her eyes.  “He’s here.”  She read the words repeatedly.  A loud knock on the outside door brought her back to reality. 
            “Hurry up in there,” yelled Sarah.
            “Okay,” Madison replied, as she knelt down beside the toilet. She leaned forward and quickly scribbled her response.  She hurriedly stood up, straightened her skirt and unlocked the stall door. She walked quickly with her head down, opened the door and said, “Let’s go.”
            “Wait. What took so long? Did you write the next great novel or something?” Sarah asked.
            Madison stopped walking and turned to face Sarah just before they entered the office door. “He’s here.  He’s here. There was more writing just since yesterday!”
            “Are you serious?  Oh crap . . . he is real.  Well what did you say?”
            “Well . . ,” Madison said, retreating from Sarah’s look.
            “What did you say?” Sarah asked sternly.
            “I was overwhelmed and I almost cried.  I couldn’t think.”
            “And you responded with?”  Sarah asked.
            “Go for it,” she said, weakly.
            “GO FOR IT?  GO FOR IT?  You were in there for ten minutes and you only came up with ‘go for it’?  Maddie!”
            “I know. I know.  I panicked. I blew it.”
            Sarah looked at Madison and began to laugh.  After a brief protest, Madison also began to laugh.  










Chapter 5
Two weeks passed without a single new word. Every evening Madison made a return trip to the men’s bathroom only to be disappointed.  It appeared that the mystery writer had been frightened away by her response.  She was depressed, feeling responsible for dowsing the fire that this man obviously had.  She vowed that this evening, she would venture into the men’s room for the last time. 
            “Well kiddo, it’s five and I’m getting this weekend started early.  I got a live one tonight,” Sarah said, as she stepped into the doorway of Madison’s cubicle. 
            “A live one, huh?   I didn’t think that was one of your requirements in a man,” Madison teased.
            “Only when dancing is involved. And tonight, I’m going to show him some moves that . . . well let’s just say that some of them haven’t been named yet.”
            Madison laughed. “You have a good time tonight and a good weekend.”
            “What are you doing tonight?  You should come!  I’ll dance with you too.”
            Madison stood and began sorting papers. “No thanks.  I’ve seen your moves and there’s a good reason that most of them haven’t been named.  No, I think I’ll just have a quiet evening at home with a good book and some wine.”
            Sarah shook her head and stared at Madison. “It’s Friday night.  You’re going to go look at that stupid wall again and leave here all depressed. Maddie get over it.  We obviously scared the poor fellow back into his hole and he probably won’t surface again until that big rat up north comes out to look for his shadow.  Let it go sweetie.”
            Madison sighed deeply. “I know.  I will.  I just want one more look and I’m done.  He either found his girl or like you said, we scared him into hibernation.  Either way, I think he’s done.  So am I.”
            “Promise,” Madison said, holding up her hand as if taking an oath.  
            Sarah gave Madison an ominous look, turned and disappeared into the hallway with the other office employees.  Madison stayed in her office until there were no more noises in the halls.  It was an all too familiar routine for Madison.  Once she heard the cleaning man enter the office through the hallway door, she knew he had already cleaned both bathrooms and would be walking her halls for the next fifteen minutes.  She grabbed her red pen and rushed to the door.  “This is it,” she said to herself.  “This is the last time. No more.”  She walked down the hall with a confident, almost angry stride.  Without pausing or checking for onlookers, she pushed open the door of the men’s room and walked in.  She went directly to the back stall and locked the door. Before she looked at the wall, she again told herself, “This is it.  I’m not doing this for you anymore.”  She knelt down close to the wall, raised her eyes and . . . . nothing. Nothing since her red handwritten ‘Go For It’.  Madison dropped her head in disappointment.  “Fine. Fine. You win.  Just give up and don’t even try. Fine.  See if I care.”  As she stood up, she heard the familiar squeak as the bathroom door closed. Madison froze. Both hands went to her mouth. She heard one footstep, then another. The footsteps were abnormally slow, quiet and far too spaced out for someone who was there for normal reasons. Madison was terrified as she knew she was not alone. All of the warnings from Sarah rushed through her mind. ‘Piranha! What if it’s him?  What if he is a psycho?’ she thought.  She tried not to breathe as she fought back panicked tears. Slowly she retreated into the back corner, trying not to make any noise.  Another footstep, closer . . .and another . . .and another.  The footsteps stopped just beyond the locked door of her stall.  The stall door rattled!  Madison screamed and sunk to the floor. The footsteps quickly retreated toward the exit door as Madison continued to scream and began to cry.  When she heard the squeak fr! om the d oor she went silent. Her breathing was heavy, her heart was racing.  She listened closely for any sounds.  She remained motionless in the corner for several minutes, listening.  Slowly and quietly she stood up.  Hands clinched into fists under her chin, she moved to the stall door with very deliberate and slow steps, taking time to listen for any sounds as she moved.  Her hands shook as she reached for the metal lock.  She slid the lock and the door swung open.  Much to her relief, she saw only an empty men’s bathroom. A deep sigh exited her mouth.   She walked to the outer door, cautiously opening it and walked back to her office.  She collapsed into her chair and cried.  Her relief was short-lived as she felt a presence at her cubicle door.
            “Are you alright, miss?” spoke a voice from the doorway.  Madison jumped with fear, sat up and tossed back in her chair.  The image was a man but not familiar and not completely clear through her tear-filled eyes.  “Miss Madison?”
            “Um . . .” she said weakly, as she tried to clear her eyes. “Oh yes,” she finally said as she recognized the man as her late night companion, the cleaning man. 
            “I didn’t mean to scare you in the bathroom.  I left my glass cleaner in there and when I saw the stall door closed, I thought I better check it.  I’m sorry to scare you.”
            “That was you?  Oh thank goodness. No, I’m sorry. I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t have . . . I’m sorry.”
            “Do you mind if I ask why you were in the men’s bathroom?”
            Fear was replaced with humiliation and embarrassment.  “I . . . I don’t know.”
            The elderly man raised his eyebrows at her uncertain response.  “Well, again I’m sorry to have scared you. Good night Miss Madison.” He turned and walked toward the exit door.
            “Good night,” Madison said quietly.  She stared at the floor, contemplating what had just taken place. “I’m sorry . . . . . for being an idiot,” she said even more quietly.
            Madison spent the remainder of that Friday evening wrapped in a blanket on the only couch in her quiet apartment.  She mixed fruity coladas, watched retired sitcom reruns and fell asleep to the purr of the only man in her life, her cat. 





Chapter 6
            Monday morning arrived much too soon for Madison. Friday night’s humiliation was still stinging and she was sure that her encounter would soon add fuel to any hallway conversation.  She arrived earlier than normal. Her plan was to get her coffee and “bury herself in work” for the entire work day.  She was encouraged to see that Piranha Man wasn’t in his normal seat, staring through the glass door as she walked past.  She bypassed the jaunt to the kitchen and went directly to her desk.  She sat down her bag and began sorting through papers.  She pulled out her calculator, stapler and
            “Where’s my pen?” she said to herself. She opened her bag and other drawers, trying to locate her prized red pen. She began to retrace her steps on Friday and remembered when and where she had it last. “Oh no. Please no,” she said, leaning back in her chair.  She looked through the bag, drawers and all over her desk once again.  She slammed a desk drawer shut. “No! It’s just a pen.  I won’t.” She continued to work, fight off the frustration of losing her pen. In a short while, she began to hear stirrings from co-workers. She focused on her work until Sarah arrived.
            “Good morning sweet cheeks,” Sarah said, standing in the doorway of Madison’s cubicle office.
            “Good morning,” Madison replied.
            “Uh oh. Where’s that little glow you’ve been sporting for the last few weeks?  Mystery man write a dear john note on the wall? No pun intended.”
            “No. No more walls for me. It’s back to good old reality now. Stuff you can count on. Mystery man will have to figure out how to capture the heart of his muse without my help.”
            “Aww. Well good for you.  Reality ain’t so bad anyway.  Besides, I think mystery man’s muse is just a figment of his imagination. She’s definitely not any of the nags in here,” Sarah said, looking down the hall. “Morning girls. Copier guy this morning.” she yelled. Turning back to Madison, she said, “Seriously, it was getting a little weird though. Even for me.”
            “Why do you do that?” Madison asked.
            “What?  Copier guy?  The girls love it and . . .”
            “No.  Why must you put down the tiniest bit of excitement that I have . . . or had in my life.”
            “Honey, I’m not putting it down. I just think you crossed over into someone else’s fairytale and made it your own.  What if you did scare him away?  What if you caused a great romance to never see day one?  Or what if he really was some sick freak who would carve you up and keep you in his freezer, just for scribbling on his graffiti?  I just want what is best for you.”
            Madison stood up from her chair and grabbed her coffee cup. “You’re right. It’s best. And it was a little weird. Oh well. How about a cup of reality?” she asked, holding her coffee cup out to Sarah. “My treat.”
            “Come on. I’ll pour and you can tell me how many chest hairs you think Angie has,” Sarah said. Sarah tucked her arm under Madison’s arm as they walked to the kitchen.  As they entered the kitchen, they were met by Marketing Marcus and two other men.
            “Morning Sarah,” Marcus said. He looked at Madison, smiled and said, “Hi Madison.”  Madison met his smile with a shy grin.
            “Good morning Marcus,” Sarah said with a playfully high pitched voice, looking at Madison. Madison rushed Sarah through the process of pouring and preparing the coffee. “What?” Sarah asked of Madison’s impatience.
            “I just have a lot to do,” she whispered.
            “Okay. Okay,” Sarah said. She handed Madison her coffee. “Well gentlemen, it was nice seeing you. Have a good day.” The men each replied with pleasantries as the two left the kitchen with coffee in hand.  As the two ladies entered their respective cubicles, Sarah said, “That Marcus is a cutie, don’t you think?”  There was no response from Madison. “Maddie? Don’t you think he’s adorable?”  Again, there was no response.  “Maddie?” Sarah said, as she walked into Madison’s cubicle.  Madison stood just inside the door of her office with coffee cup in one hand and the other hand over her mouth.  She was frozen with panic. Her eyes were transfixed on her red pen lying in her chair.  “Maddie?”
            Madison slowly turned to Sarah. Her eyes were wide, her face was flushed.  “I dropped it in the stall Friday night.  It wasn’t here this morning.”
            “The pen?”
            “So somebody found it and brought it back. Big deal,” Sarah replied.
            “Somebody brought my pen back to my office. Everybody in this office has a red pen. All the guys have one.  You have one.”
            “So how do you know it’s yours and not . . .”
            “It’s mine.  My dad gave me this pen. I chew on the end when I’m reading. Look,” Madison said, pointing to the teeth marks on the plastic tip. “Somebody found it and knew where it belonged. Oh my gosh, Sarah.  What if he’s mad that I messed up his wall?  And this is his way of telling me he knows who I am?”
            “This is ridiculous. This whole thing is ridiculous. Are you seriously having a meltdown because somebody returned your pen? Granted it’s a little creepy but . . .”
            Madison turned quickly to Sarah. “Sarah,” she said, grabbing Sarah’s arm with both hands.
            “No Madison. No!  You are not going back in there,” Sarah snapped.
            “I have to. He was there.  I have to know,” Madison begged.
            “Know what?  This has gone beyond the stage of a bizarre little obsession. I don’t know what to think but what I know is you are not going back in there.”
            “Sarah, please!  I have to know.  If there’s nothing, then I’ll know it was just a nice and sort of scary gesture. But what if there is a response?”
            “Like ‘YOU AND YOUR MEDDLING FRIEND WILL DIE’?  That kind of response?  No thanks. I have to walk past piranha man every day too, you know.”
            “Please?” Madison begged.
            “Oh my word!  Maddie!” Sarah barked.  She fumbled for words before finally letting out an exasperated gasp of air and said, “Okay, but I’m packin’ heat this time.”  Sarah went to her cubicle and retrieved a small can of pepper spray from her purse. Madison grabbed her red pen and together they walked out the exit door into the hallway.  They stood at the door of the men’s bathroom listening for sounds inside. Slowly Sarah pushed open the squeaky door and meekly said, “Hello?”  No response.  Sarah opened the door wider as both she and Madison began to walk in.
            “What are you doing?  You have to stand guard,” Madison whispered loudly.
            “Not this time.  I want to see this for myself,” Sarah replied.
            “What if somebody comes? We’ll get caught.”
            “No we won’t. If somebody comes we’ll  . . . stand on the toilet and make fart noises. They’ll never know the difference. Come on,” Sarah whispered, as she slowly walked in. The door squeaked loudly behind them as it closed. “Geez.”
            “I know. It’s so loud,” Madison whispered.
            “Not that. It’s a lot cleaner in here than I thought it would be,” Sarah said.
            “Sssshhhh.  Come on.”  They walked to the back stall together, closed the door and locked it. 
            “Where is it?” Sarah asked, inspecting the walls.
            “Down there,” Madison replied, pointing to the toilet.  “Go look.”  Sarah peered at the wall behind the base of the toilet.  “Get down on your knees. You can’t see it all like that.”
            “I will not!” Sarah snapped.  “The germaphobe in me rolled over and died the minute you locked that door.  This is as close to pee spatter as I’m getting.”  Sarah looked closely at the wall. “But I do believe there is a response to your clever banter of ‘go for it’.”
            “Really!” Madison said excitedly. She bent down and squeezed into Sarah’s standing space. She read the written response out loud:
                                                I cry out her name from afar
                                                She doesn’t bend an ear
                                                Our souls are very distant
                                                Our hearts are very near
                                                I’ll speak her name once today
                                                And let our fate unfold
                                                I will allow myself to seek
                                                A treasure to behold

            “Wait. What?” Sarah asked.
            “He’s going to do it!  He’s going to speak her name!  He’s not going to kill me!  He’s taking my advice!” Madison yelled.  She grabbed Sarah around the shoulders and hugged her tightly.  “He’s going to go for it.”
            “Yay,” Sarah said sarcastically. “Now let’s get out of here.”
            At their first step toward the stall door, they heard the loud squeak of the bathroom door followed by the soft thud as it closed.  They each froze.  They heard no sounds, no footsteps.  Sarah raised her right hand to Madison, revealing the pepper spray. Madison’s heart was racing.  They were uncertain if someone had entered and was remaining motionless or had opened the door but not entered.  They heard a clicking sound as if from finger nails. Silence again.
            Without speaking, Madison mouthed, “Somebody is there.”  Sarah nodded.  They heard a footstep . . . and another. Madison’s left hand immediately covered her mouth.
            Sarah raised the bottle of pepper spray to eye level and pointed it at the stall door.  She mouthed, “Open the door.” Madison shook her head in disagreement.  Sarah gave her a scolding look and again mouthed the words, “Open the door.”  Slowly, Madison stepped directly behind the door. Her right hand was shaking as she reached for the door lock. She quickly pulled the latch. The door swung slowly open. Sarah forcefully pushed the door open fully and stepped in the doorway with her pepper spray pointed away from her.  Sarah screamed and closed her eyes, as Madison screamed with her head down, covered by her hands and arms.
            “No!” spoke a faint and vaguely familiar voice.
             “What the hell!” Sarah yelled. “What are you . . .”
            Madison slowly lifted her head from her folded arms.  She saw Sarah staring at a man. Her eyes began to focus and the image of the man became more defined and more familiar - dark hair with sideburns, dark tanned skin, perfect posture, with a chiseled frame that made its presence known through the light gray service shirt.  She gazed into ocean blue eyes.
            “Madison,” he whispered softly.
            “Copier guy?” Madison said nimbly.
            “This isn’t the way this looks,” Sarah said, lowering her pepper spray. “Why are you in here anyway?”
            He looked at Sarah briefly, then back at Madison. “I should ask the same of you,” he said.
            Madison stood tall and returned his gaze. “We were reading the writing. The writing on the wall back there,” she said, pointing to the toilet. “But then you already know that, don’t you?”  He nodded in agreement.
            “Wait. What?” Sarah asked. “That’s you? You wrote that drivel?”
            “It’s not drivel,” Madison snapped at Sarah. “I think it’s sweet.”
            “I’m glad you like it,” he said, never diverting his eyes away from her. His breathing was heaving.  Sarah watched the awkward dialogue and began to smile.
            “And the pen? That was you?” Sarah asked. “And why you never really fix our copiers?”
            “Yes,” he said softly.
            The squeaky door opened and a young man walked in. Sarah turned and walked toward him yelling, “Hey! Get outta here.  These two need some privacy.”   She grabbed the man by the shoulder and escorted him out the door.
            “We just came in to read your last words,” Madison said.
            “Then you know my intent,” he said.
             “To speak her name and let your fate unfold?”
            “So?  Speak it?”
            “I already have,” he replied.  “Madison,” he said softly.
            “Me?” Madison asked, delicately.
            “You,” he said, as he gently placed her hand in his.
            “I like that name,” Madison said with a smile. She took a cautious step toward him and placed her other hand in his. “Now what?”
            “Shall we let our fate unfold?” he asked.
            Madison leaned forward. She whispered, “Go for it.”
                                                          The  End     


All rights belong to its author. It was published on by demand of Brent Youngs.
Published on on 08/18/2011.


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