The bathrooms in the basement had an ill-drained, swampy smell.

The two Seventh Day Adventists who ran the A Vault a cipher-locked room
filled with safes, teletypes, and clocks showing the world's time zones
left religious tracts in the women's bathroom.
They dumped the booklets on the baby-blue wooden table
where the few other women left supplies too:
a box of Tampax, a hairbrush, a can of Aqua Net.

By the time I'd broken my concentration to go pee, I felt a real sense of urgency.
I locked myself in a stall and pressed my hands to my eyes, hard,
until I saw random lights and stolen patterns.
I wondered why I was working there and how many times I'd peed in this stall.

I'd been in the basement all night.

Instead of going back to my office, I sat in a chair next to the blue table
and read what the Seventh Day Adventists thought about masturbation.

I did not experience a spontaneous conversion in the bathroom.
No unexpected epiphany. But the bright flashes, my cold feet,
and the sourceless noises made it hard for me to find my way back to my office.

forward          anywhere         lines