50 Lira

A story suggested by my 1970's drug-abuse-encouraging porn-movie bathroom


You know about the Veteran of the Six Day War, who got shot right above the ear? He had to have two plates put in his head, one for meat and one for dairy.

I have attached a picture of my private bathroom in Savion. Notice the etched marble to your left, the orangeness, and the mirrors. There is no shower curtain, only thin slabs of glass, and no wall between the room and the bathroom. Exposed to the blank air and catching glimpses of myself in the mirror, showering makes me vulnerable and paranoid.

I make up stories about what has happened in this bathroom in the last 30 years, or rather than stories, scenes. One is about a wealthy couple, invited for the weekend, down from Jerusalem in 1974. Their names are David and Rhonda. David is manager of the DEC PDP-11 product line in Israel, and Rhonda does social work with recent emigres.

Rhonda has put out four lines of coke next to the sink, where I've put my toothbrush and razor. David watches his wife bend over the counter, listens to the sniff, and is overcome with lust. It is late on a Friday afternoon, and he leans over her stroke her back and sides, nuzzling her neck. He keeps away from the coke for now, even though it glows, charged with excitement, the brightest thing in the room. But he doesn't want to lose his arousal to its prick-softening kick.

They stay in that spot, rubbing, sliding out of their clothes, which are made of rough synthetics in terrifying colors, and he kicks the slacks and wide-collared shirts - as well as the floormat - away from their feet. She grips the edge of the sink, moaning quietly, head down, and David watches himself in the mirror as they make love. He imagines that Rhonda, plump and maybe 8 years younger, is a city prostitute whom he has plied with drugs, and as he gets into a rhythm, he watches his fleshy body shake back and forth in the mirror. He sucks in his cheeks to sharpen his face, holds up his head straight to lose the waddle under his chin, and sneers like a blue-movie star, all while trying to keep his balance.

He is sweating; moisture slides off his forehead and down his legs, over his feet, onto the floor. Soon the floor becomes slippery, and as he moves close to the end of the act, he feels his feet slide out, and he says, "ah, woop!"

The Slovene servant, who is saving to go back to Ljubljana and get an engineering degree, hears the thump, and then some screaming. He runs to the stairs, knocks on the door, and then opens the door and walks in.

The woman - Rhonda - has a huge goose-egg on her forehead and her face is caked with white powder and smeared make-up; the husband is unconscious, laying in an odd position on his side with his legs folded. The young man notices the man's rapidly fading tumescence and wishes he could walk out of the room, go to the airport, and fly home. There is a distinct funk in the room, which he chooses not to identify. Rhonda goes silent.

I will call the hospital, the young man says in Hebrew.

Oh, no. Please, no.

You should sit down, he says. He pulls a chair over to her and takes a look at the husband, who has tumbled backwards and nicked his head, but nothing worse than you get from fighting. Blood is coming out of his mouth, but very little - he bit his cheek in the fall.

They young man looks at David for a long moment. I do not think we need the hospital, he says. Just bed. Will you help me?

She is silent. She has big breasts, the young man thinks. He straightens the man's legs out and puts his hands under the soft shoulders, then looks over to Rhonda. She stumbles over over and picks up David's feet with effort. David is a big man. They drag him a few feet, and heft him into the bed.

I'm going to get you two ice packs and some aspirin, the young man says. You should get some rest. Shout if his breathing changes and I will come right away. I will check back often to make sure you're safe.

No, no, she said. It's all right now.

Please, it is important. I will prop the door open slightly so I don't disturb you coming in. I will tell Mr. A---- that you are both feeling ill.

You won't -

No, not at all.

She stares for a moment and then says, thank you. The young man nods and walks out. He checks back every 20 minutes, bringing water and aspirin and a pack of cigarettes when asked for them.

.  .  .  .  .  

After a few hours Rhonda tells him her husband has come briefly awake, foggy and embarassed, but knew where he was and what had happened, then fallen straight back to sleep. The young man feels a huge sense of relief, of having discharged his responsibilities fully, and goes to the kitchen, which has 2 ranges, 4 stoves, and 4 sinks to finish preparing dinner.

Max and Rhonda wake in poor spirits and leave early in the afternoon, after apologizing for being such awful guests. The couple who own the house are very sorry and wish them well, and hope they feel better soon. Both couples embrace and kiss. The servant comes in later to clean the room, revulsed as he mops the bathroom floor. By the bed, under the mechanical clock, he finds an envelope with a check for 50 Lira, which, he feels, is probably just about right.

.  .  .  .  .  

So that's one of my more mundane bathroom fantasies. They don't really go anywhere; they need more dialogue.

I don't want to write any more about where I am, at least for this week. It's too complex and sad, and I don't really understand it. The suicide bomb this morning was maybe 10, 15 minutes away from me by car, or bus. So I'll let you take over from here, for at least the week? Please.

Keep us informed.






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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at ford@ftrain.com and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.


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© 1974-2011 Paul Ford


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