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Paper Seat Covers or No Paper Seat Covers

“It was a normal afternoon of public solitude.  You sat in the window of 1-2pm, Hollandale Galleria, beside the adult toys store (a Thursday, she was working its register).  She caught your fourth glance and dissolved it with disinterest.  You threw more her way.  It was your lunch break.  Why not?

“A fatherly-looking type walked out of her store with a large bag, the store’s logo surely rubbing his pant leg, though still invisible to any who might judge his purchase.  Jim, at the cellphone kiosk saw him leave as did a few others, plenty others.  The man with the bag caught your fourth glance and dissolved it with disinterest.  

‘“Hey Peggy’, you said upon seeing the manager of the food court pass you.

“‘Oh hello,’ she replied, pausing just long enough after hello to show she had forgotten your name after four days.

“It was alright.  You looked around at the weekday emptiness of the linoleum marketplace, unwrapped the barbecue double bacon cheeseburger you had been anticipating for a week, and initiated the countdown to your return to work.  Rarely does one experience such a burger, and never does one eat it slowly.  You demonstrated you were an exception to this commandment.  

“When you entered Third Street Dick’s your friend at the counter discarded your entrance with a glance to her desktop computer.  As you figured, their featured Video Download Vouchers had yet to be swapped out with the latest releases, but since Monday Transsexual Bounty Hunters 5 had sold out.  Each time you entered this place there was no anticipating what your eyes glued to, and, truthfully, you found the price tags far more distracting than the insertions, accessories, and enhancements. 

“There was a light on in the dressing room, but you preferred yourself as the only one in the store.  You looked to the only other and saw her peer to the lower level security guard, who stood by the opposite side escalator.  You quickly left the store and retreated to the nearby public restroom.  Paper seat covers or no paper seat covers, pulling down your pants and sitting on the plastic-in-the-guise-of-porcelain seat brought you to familiar feelings you preferred not to entertain.

“A new series of racial slurs were carved into the bathroom stall since yesterday, and in that time, your fingernails had accumulated another layer of dirt.  Who had sat on this seat before you today? after you had yesterday?  Would prior knowledge that it was your regular john have changed their choice of stall?  The stitches on your jeans’ zipper had unthreaded almost completely.  The cuff on your sweater was revealing the elastic beneath its polyester.  The smell of your shirt blended into that of your current business.  Of course it would.  

“You window shopped for your reflection while the mannequins gave you a familiar glaze-over look (you only noticed this when you turned your eyes slightly upward).  In particular, you remembered the a tan one in a brown hat, just tall enough to stare over the top of your head, his expression clearly unappreciative of those clothes.  The few moving mannequins lunching at the tail end of 2 shifted in their seats while you passed them through the main street of the food court.  By then, the sun had eased its way onto your strip of sidewalk, which was just outside the automatic doors leading from the mall.  You’d given up sitting and using a cup— that was too obvious— though within the hour you’d have to find another curb.  

“Light had disappeared behind the parking structure soon after the post-rush hour mall-goers gave you your days’ tips.  The evening was set to end with your standing in the department store’s handicap parking spaces, your left four and half fingers counting the sun’s time and nickels collected.  The freshly buzzing streetlights hummed you to walk back, to wherever, by means of whatever: eroded soles of your two-sizes-too-large shoes; sun-beat freckles on your solar-panel skin; eyes puffed by your asphalt sleeplessness, those twitches awakening you to find another wherever.  The mall was your here, where in the day, you would return to work, but you were the only one to walk under the streetlights at this time; you were the human reason tires replaced the insecurity of walking speed on night streets.  

“You asked no questions.  You never refused a ride to the shelter.  You figured that undeniable barbecue double bacon cheeseburger and the possibility of a bed and shower in a single day were too good to jeopardize.  But you noticed then loose suspension of the 80’s GM sedan slowly start to shake more over the humps of the uneven road.  Before I caught your eyes, I said ‘I realized at this time, it’s probably already full.  There’s a room that no one uses on the top floor of my apartment.  I mean, it might be more comfortable for you anyways.’

“You asked no questions, simply widened your eyes at the mention of that.

“As soon as we had arrived, I left you to prepare a meal.  In the shower, the coat of soap fell steadily from you.  You savored that warm clean.  Only a faint grey colored the end length of your nails afterwards.  And yes, the clothes I gave you smelled like quarters.  The empty room had one florescent light that was fixed to the wall of the most distant corner from your accommodations, and in its light you stood on the cold carpet until the day’s events laid you down on the single sheet mattress.  It had been so long, it felt like the first time you had fallen asleep to the sound of cars muffled by drywall.”  

My voice had slightly raised with my last few sentences. He turned his head toward me.

“And you awoke to my voice, no?”

He lay there, opening his eyes narrowly, his body still.


“Do you know why I brought you here?”

He held a long, tired blink. “Please,” he said, looking at me, obliging me to answer my own question.

I smiled and looked him up and down.  “Rarely does one encounter such a specimen,” I said as he attempted to move, “and never does one eat it slowly.”


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