(AN: A few people may remember "Salvation From Samhain," my entry for the infamous Rae-chan's Halloween challenge. Well, Rae-chan issued a "bathroom challenge" back on October 16th, which I'm entering as well. The contest ends midnight on December 31st, so here's to hoping I make the deadline. I came up with my characters on the 25th of October but put off writing until after nanowrimo was over, as an aside. The "Dialogue in a Bathroom" contest stipulations are as follows:
There can be more than just dialogue, but I want the basis of the story to be "speaking."
The story cannot LEAVE the bathroom. At all. For any reason. If you have to literally lock your character(s) in, do it. For no reason should the story leave the bathroom (yes, I'm strange).
It can have as few as one characters, I will accept monologues. There is also no maximum limit of characters allowed, so if you wish to have a story with two football teams sharing a bathroom for some odd reason, please do.
Now that everyone knows what I'm attempting to accomplish, the story. And yes, I've cleared allowing characters other than my main character to leave the bathroom with Rae. Moving on.)
SOUL-SEARCHING: THE BATHROOM WALL GUIDE
-- by: lira-chan --
CHAPTER ONE: THE FIRST INTERVIEW
"Come on, Kyle, what's so difficult to understand about the request? At the very least, tell me why you won't do it!"
A slight crackle accompanied the thoroughly annoyed voice of a speaker who should have been long past fed up- but Jake was experienced in dealing with Kyle's theatrics, and hadn't yet given up on his friend.
"I understand perfectly well," Kyle snapped back, into his shiny new Verizon flip-phone. Jake had always said he should get a cell. "I just don't feel like explaining. Work it out for yourself."
"Let me get this straight," Jake said patiently, tone of voice identical to one a parent might use with a particularly difficult child. "You're telling me to just work out the logic you used in deciding to jet off to a location which, at this point in the conversation, remains undisclosed. And just how do you expect me to do this? With my overwhelming psychic abilities?"
"Well, that'd be a start…" Kyle agreed, impossibly.
"Tell me where you are."
"Then give me something to work with- the street name? The part of town? The color of the building you're in? Just give me something."
"You'll try to convince me to come back to the apartment," Kyle whined, plaintively.
"That's what I'm doing right now," Jake said flatly. "What would the difference be?"
"I'm in a bathroom." Kyle didn't even bother indicating that he was giving in. Jake was used to such concessions, by that point in their "relationship."
"And where might this bathroom be?"
"Of course it's important!" Jake usually tried to remain calm, at least when he was dealing with Kyle. Kyle was more than just a bit of a drama queen, and he didn't tend to deal well with other people's theatrics. Of course, he had no trouble at all pulling off theatrics of his own. It was just one of those little things that made Kyle who he was. Or that was what Jake always told himself- in order to keep himself from strangling his best and oldest friend. "Where are you?"
"I don't really feel like talking about it any more."
"Kyle, this is-"
Jake should have known better. The cell phone line went dead.
At the other end, a slightly ruffled-looking young man- Kyle- was flipping a brand new Verizon phone shut. He pocketed the silvery little thing, burying it deep within the pockets of the oversized, goose-down filled black-and-white ski jacket he wore. Behind Kyle, a row of hand dryers were perched at chest level on the tiled wall, the shiny white tiles Kyle leaned against causing his brown-black hair to stick to the wall, musing it further. Kyle's hair was just a bit too long, and his rubbing against the tiled wall was not helping its naturally ruffled appearance.
Kyle hadn't lied to Jake. He was in the men's bathroom on the main floor of one of the office buildings down town, accompanied by his sleeping bag, the overly warm winter coat he wore, and a school bag stuffed with "essentials." Kyle was fully prepared to camp out in the bathroom, and there was nothing Jake could do to stop him.
Jake had called Kyle on his cell phone at about five pm. At that point, many of the people in the office building had still been working, and while the bathroom hadn't been used excessively, the building itself hadn't yet emptied out. Several hours later, and Kyle was more than aware of the building's emptiness, despite his being located in a downstairs bathroom. The government employees, were they present in the building, would be residing in offices on the upper floors of the building. Pushing up one black-and-white sleeve, Kyle glanced down at the face of his expensive digital watch. A Christmas present- he'd only just graduated college the year before; he couldn't yet afford to "waste" money on expensive trinkets.
Eight-oh-four. If Kyle hadn't come up with this brilliant stake-out plan, he would currently be eating Chinese take-out with Jake, in their tiny little sixteenth-floor apartment. It was a Friday evening, and the take-out thing was practically a sacred ritual. They hadn't skipped a Friday for the past two and a half years.
"I guess it's too late to go home and order out now," Kyle murmured. There was no one there to hear him, but he hadn't heard any voices, not even his own, for three whole hours. For someone as social as Kyle, such a feat was unheard of. He needed to hear someone's voice, even if that someone was only Kyle himself.
Out of nowhere, Kyle heard a rattling, like a noise which might be caused by wheels spinning. He'd been talking to himself, so he hadn't heard the approach of the wheels, but as whoever was in the hall outside drew closer, the sound of wheels against the tiled floor grew louder. It was a welcome break from the silence in the bathroom, save for the fact that the approach of a stranger probably meant that Kyle would have to argue his way out of being forcibly removed from the office building. It wasn't a pleasant prospect, but Kyle hadn't expected "permission" to hold his vigil of sorts to come easy. Big corporate types didn't seem to appreciate having "little guys" wandering around their facilities at night- even if all Kyle wanted was the use of the bathroom, nothing more.
Even as Kyle was considering making up some sort of fantastic excuse as to why he and his sleeping bag were in the bathroom after hours, Kyle heard the sound of wheels grind to a stop. He glanced up from the tiled bathroom floor, and watched as the door to the bathroom swung inwards. A pushcart piled high with all sorts of various cleaning supplies entered through the doorway first, followed swiftly by a young man in a dirty blue uniform.
Kyle forgot his half-formulated excuse mid-sentence, and instead settled back against the wall to watch the man maneuver his cart more comfortably into the small open space in front of the line of sinks on the wall opposite Kyle. Kyle recognized the uniform easily as the standard issue for janitors at the company, but he was surprised to see that the young janitor was actually wearing the silly blue cap that came with the uniform. Kyle had always thought that anyone with half an ounce of good sense lost the cap on their first day. Beneath the cap, light brown hair spilled out. The man's eyes were also brown.
The man finished rolling his cart into position, locking the wheels in place and glancing up. Only then did he spot Kyle. He started visibly, and then seemed to squint his eyes and stare closer, as if he wasn't certain whether or not Kyle was really there.
"Hey. Kid," the man finally said, leaning back away from the cart and idly placing one hand in one of his back pockets. "You sure you're supposed to be in here?"
"Kid?" Kyle echoed, irritably. He'd have this janitor know that he was twenty-three years old, and an actual employee of the graphic design company that owned half the floors of the building- not just some random member of the cleaning staff. Kyle hopped to his feet, dusting himself off quickly before striding over to the brunette. He leaned up in the guy's face, trying to disregard how much height the other man had on him. It wasn't Kyle's fault he was short. "Who're you calling a kid?"
The man only blinked in response, apparently taken aback. For a moment, Kyle thought the janitor might actually laugh at him. "Whatever. So, young man, are you sure you're supposed to be in here?"
"Of course I am," Kyle insisted disdainfully. He leaned closer to the janitor, his annoyed expression still in place. "It still sounds like you're talking down to me," he complained. "And you're a janitor."
"So?" the man asked, surprising Kyle. He'd never met a janitor who was actually content with his lot in life. Then again, Kyle wasn't sure if he'd ever actually met a janitor, period.
"So, that means you're stupider than me," Kyle explained patiently.
"How do you figure that?"
Kyle frowned, and leaned away from the man for a moment in order to think. This janitor was actually doing about as well as Jake, in terms of putting up with Kyle. Then again, they still hadn't been conversing for very long.
"I work for the graphic design company that owns half this place," Kyle stated offhandishly, as if the accomplishment were no big deal. He hoped this janitor knew just how big a deal it was. "That means I'm a college graduate. Do you know what that means?"
The man actually laughed. "You're a bastard, aren't you? That's great and all, and I guess the company wouldn't argue with having one of its employees taking a piss after hours, but I really have to get to work. Mind moving?"
Kyle fumed. Jake never called him names, but even with the use of profanity taken into account, his janitor didn't seem too ruffled. Turning up his nose, he spun away from the man, moving to lean against the piece of a wall separating the sinks from the stalls that lined the rest of one side of the bathroom.
Kyle continued to watch as the man turned away- as if Kyle weren't even there! – and squeezed the water out of a mop in a bucket mounted in the bottom half of the pushcart. Kyle stared at the pushcart-bucket curiously; it had an odd clamp of sorts, with rollers, which was what the man had used to squeeze the excess water out of the mop. As he watched, the man began to methodically mop up the floor of the bathroom.
"What's your name?" Kyle asked suddenly, without moving from his position on the wall. He didn't want to get dirty mop water on his good work shoes.
"Peter," the janitor supplied without the slightest of pauses. He didn't even turn around, or halt his mopping.
"Peter," Kyle echoed, wanting to say something biting, something that might actually get under the skin of this "Peter." People weren't supposed to just ignore him, or even accept him. They were supposed to take notice of him, and make it clear that they had done so. Failing to come up with anything suitably scathing, Kyle merely muttered sarcastically, "What a wonderful name."
"Glad you think so. What's yours?"
For a full minute, the only sound was the swish of the mop against the tiled floor. Stupid Peter. He wasn't anything like Jake. At least when Jake wasn't annoyed with Kyle, Jake made it interesting. Kyle thought that everything should be interesting.
"Kyle," Kyle muttered, seeing as he was lacking a decent excuse not to supply his name. He wondered what Peter would have said if he'd provided a fake name- would Peter have been able to tell? Well, if Kyle had said something like "King Charles the Fifth," then probably… Kyle didn't exactly look like dead royalty.
"And why are you in an office building bathroom after hours?"
"None of your business," Kyle supplied pertly, fully intending to get back into his game. He was the one who infuriated people, and he was the one who'd be asking the questions.
…So much for that brilliant plan.
"So you like being a janitor," Kyle half-stated, half-questioned. So what if Peter was a bit of an impervious asshole? He was still kind of cute- Kyle had watched his hands moving when Peter was clamping down on the mop, squeezing out the water. Peter had nice hands.
"It pays well enough, for a blue-collar job. Part of that is probably the graphic design company. The corporate suits in this place are rather stuffy, but you artist types aren't too bad."
"If you're not a 'corporate suit'- obviously- and you're not an 'artist type'…" Kyle pondered. "…then what type are you?"
"Oh…" Peter actually sounded a bit taken by surprise by the question. He even ceased his mopping, for all of fifteen seconds. "I don't know. I was just making a comment."
"I think you're the 'impervious asshole' type," Kyle supplied decisively. He spoke so as to sound utterly serious, but was inwardly hoping that he might have finally scored a point on Peter.
Peter blinked, shook his head, and laughed. He replaced his mop in its bucket, wrung it out again, and returned to mopping. "You're impossible- a real bastard. Did you stay after hours just to heckle the cleaning staff? No… If that was the reason, I would have run into you before."
Kyle just grinned impishly- point or no, he was flattered. Peter actually thought he'd go to all the trouble of camping out just to pester him and the other janitors? How sweet. "What's your star sign?"
Finally, the response Kyle was aiming for. Peter stopped mid-swipe with the mop, turned to face Kyle, and offered him a thoroughly confused look.
"Star sign," Kyle repeated slowly, drawing out the syllables. "Yes, you can definitely tell that I am the college grad."
"More like preschool grad," Peter said, but his tone was good-natured. Kyle wasn't sure if he should be pleased to have irritated the man, or upset that he hadn't nettled Peter more. "So what the hell are you talking about- you can't possibly be serious, can you?"
"Of course I'm serious," Kyle purred, sounding disdainful at the same time. "Hasn't anyone ever tried to pick you up before?"
Once again, Peter laughed. Kyle was coming to like Peter's laugh, even if he wasn't sure whether or not he actually liked Peter. Peter's laugh was warm and cheerful- Peter himself was only lukewarm at best, and not nearly jovial enough. Of course, if Peter had been overly cheery and sunny… Kyle might have had to put the man out of his misery.
"No, I can't say anyone's ever used that line on me before," Peter admitted, shaking his head. He was still amused, and proceeded to mop around Kyle as he spoke. "Usually they jump right to the usual, clichéd bad pick-up lines."
"Like what?" Kyle bounced a bit on the balls of his feet; pick-up lines were always fun. He needed more of those- it always earned a priceless look from Jake, whenever Kyle tried out his new lines. It wasn't like he'd actually use any of them if he were serious about someone. Well… Most likely he wouldn't.
"Did you know," Peter began, tone of voice slow and deliberate. He replaced his mop in its bucket, clamping down on it so it wouldn't fall over, and moved over beside Kyle. Continuing, he said, "the distance from here to here-" Peter held out his right arm, touching first his wrist with his left pointer finger, then the inside of his elbow. "-is the same as the distance from here to here."
On the third here, Peter tapped Kyle's shoulder- the one closer to Peter- with his right hand. On the final here, Peter brought his hand across Kyle's shoulders, settling it firmly, saying the "here," and tugging Kyle close for a moment, in a one-armed hug. Peter released Kyle, and smirked.
"I do believe I've just been hit on," Kyle pronounced, in a haughty falsetto. He brushed off both arms, as if he were worried that Peter had dirtied him, and then laughed. "That's a new one. I'll have to use it on Jake. He'll flip."
Peter offered Kyle a questioning look, as if to say "who is this Jake?" but Kyle ignored it. Shrugging it off, Peter went back over to his cart, grabbing a few rolls of toilet paper, each wrapped in brown paper.
"So you're a janitor," Kyle said again, altering his voice as if he were interviewing Peter for a new job.
Peter just nodded, before stacking his toilet paper rolls in his arms and disappearing into one of the stalls. Kyle followed immediately after him, standing right outside the stall.
"Are you happy with your job?"
"Why?" Peter grunted, replacing the empty toilet paper roll with a new one. He balled up the brown paper and pocketed it. "Are you dissatisfied with your job? Looking for a change of pace? You always could work with me- you'd be perfect for the job."
"Don't be a snot," Kyle said haughtily. "I'll ask the questions here."
"What is this?" Peter asked, breaking Kyle's "rule" as soon as it had been supplied. "Jeopardy?"
"Of course not," Kyle scoffed. "It's… An interview. Yes, that's right, this is an interview. So look smart!"
Peter just shook his head, brushing past Kyle on his way out of the stall and ducking into the next one over. He reappeared moments later; apparently the toilet paper in that stall didn't require a change. "You're positively nuts, but I haven't got anything better to do while I work. 'Interview' away."
"How long have you been working for this company?" Kyle questioned seriously.
"Five years," Peter supplied easily. He was already in the third bathroom stall.
"And you're satisfied with your job?"
"I already answered that. It's a blue-collar job. It's crap, it's mindless, but I don't have to do strenuous physical labor, and the company pays well enough. I don't have any major arguments, no."
"Are you satisfied with your life in general?"
"What sort of a job interview question is that?"
"No questions," Kyle snapped. Peter was almost done replacing toilet paper rolls- he was in the last stall already. "Just answers. So answer!"
"Fine. Umm… I guess I'm satisfied with my life. The job pays well enough, the friends I'm in touch with are fine, and I've got a pretty nice apartment. Like I said, no major arguments."
"Interesting…" Kyle murmured, humming to himself and stroking his chin, despite not having a beard there to play with. Kyle wouldn't have liked a real beard, anyway- he hated the feel of stubble. Clean-shaven was definitely the way to go.
"What is this?" Peter asked again, laughing a bit. He brushed by Kyle again, in order to dispose of the brown paper and empty toilet paper rolls.
"I told you. It's an interview. And you aren't allowed to ask questions- that's my job."
"What if I don't play along?"
"Come on- what are you going to do if I just ignore you?"
"I'll break out my ritualistic Mayan dagger and chop off your nuts," Kyle intoned in a foreboding tone of voice. His expression was perfectly sober, and he didn't sound anything but serious.
"Please tell me you're joking," Peter said, trying to laugh it off. Kyle noted gleefully that Peter's laughter was considerably weaker than before.
"Of course I am," Kyle declared cheerfully, dropping the dark, serious expression. "I don't even have a ritualistic Mayan dagger."
"Good," Peter said firmly, letting out what must have been a sigh of relief.
"It's an Aztec dagger. Wanna see?"
Kyle laughed loudly as Peter jerked, his spine stiffening. He finally had found a way to get through and score points on Peter. Threatening Peter's family jewels was probably a bit underhanded, but Kyle had never claimed to play fair.
"Feel like 'playing along' now?" Kyle asked pertly, spitting out each word in clipped tones, while smiling maniacally.
"Whatever you say." Peter seemed to be trying to make his words a joke, but Kyle could tell that he was still a bit off-put. He also noted that Peter was walking just a tad bit strangely when he moved back over to his cart. He was moving as if he were protecting something. Kyle's maniac grin widened.
"So… Don't have a girlfriend, do you?"
"That's a bit personal, isn't it?"
"Peter, I have two words for you. 'Ritualistic. Dagger.'"
"All right, all right. No, I don't have a girlfriend. Guys who work late nights mopping out bathrooms in deserted office buildings aren't always considered great catches."
"Of course not," Kyle scoffed. "I knew you couldn't possibly be completely satisfied with this dead-end job."
"Don't be an ass."
"Don't be an ostrich."
Kyle watched patiently as Peter started, almost dumping a bit too much cleaning solution into the little yellow bucket he was holding. Kyle figured he was about to clean the toilets or something. "What's that supposed to mean?" Peter asked slowly.
Kyle just grinned impossibly.
"All right, whatever, don't tell me." Peter replaced the cleaning solution and began running water from the sinks into the bucket.
"Do you want a girlfriend?"
"What's your prob- Okay, okay, I know. No questions. But honestly, I thought this was a job interview- asking about my love life is a bit personal."
"It's an incredibly well-paying job," Kyle supplied without a pause.
"Fine. No. I don't really care if I'm seeing anyone."
"You're ly-ing," Kyle sing-songed.
"That's incredibly annoying."
"Ly-ing. Ly-ing. Peter, you're ly-ing."
"You're just asking to be smacked with this soapy scrubbing brush, aren't you?"
"Actually, I was asking whether or not you really care that you're single. I'm asking the questions, remember? And you completely care- I can read it in your posturing, even. You poor, poor, sexually frustrated man."
Peter glanced over his shoulder from where he was about to enter a second bathroom stall. Peeking into the first out of the corner of one eye, Kyle caught a glimpse of a sparkly clean-looking toilet. At least Peter was good at what he did. Of course, the look Peter shot Kyle in looking back at him was rather… Perplexed. Kyle smirked.
"I'm good, aren't I?"
"Isn't the 'interview' over yet? I don't suppose you could possibly still be considering giving me this 'job' at this point."
"Actually, you're still very much in the running. Have more faith in yourself."
Peter shot Kyle a glare, and strode into the third stall.
"How much money do you make a year, anyway?"
"I'd prefer not to say. It's enough for one person to live off of, if that's worth anything."
"I'm just surprised that you're not threatening me with that nonexistent dagger of yours again."
"Good point…" Kyle murmured a bit deviously.
"Kyle. That wasn't a suggestion."
Peter ignored Kyle for a few moments. He was almost done scrubbing the toilets. Finally, "What?"
"That was the first time you actually used my name."
"Yeah. Cute. Whatever."
"No, seriously. You pass the test. You're definitely still a bit of an impervious ass, and while you might be kind of cute, you're not really my type… But we could definitely still be friends!"
Peter finished scrubbing the final toilet. He slowly turned, and exited the stall. He emptied the bucked of cleaning solution in the sink, rinsed it out, and replaced it on his cart. Only then did he turn to face Kyle, who had followed him back over to the pushcart. "You're insane."
"Of course I am," Kyle chirped. Swiftly, he popped over to his bag of "essentials"- still propped against the wall with the hand dryers, where he'd left it- and pulled a pen out of one of the side pockets. The pen was purple. And glittery. He reappeared by Peter's side. "You're done cleaning, right?"
"So you're leaving the bathroom, right?"
"Yeah… Aren't you?"
"No, actually, but that's not the point. Hand, please."
"Why- Okay, okay, I know. I'm not supposed to ask questions, especially not when they displease His Highness. Here."
Peter held out his hand. Kyle grabbed it, holding Peter's fingers in place with his left hand, so that the smooth back of Peter's hand was turned upwards. He uncapped his pen with his teeth.
"Please tell me you're not about to do what I think you're about to do."
Kyle ignored Peter; instead, he wrote his name in careful, sparkly-purple print, with his phone number appearing just below that. He admired his handiwork for a moment, and then dropped Peter's hand. Grinning maniacally again, he folded his hand like a phone, held it up by his ear, and mouthed "call me." Peter shook his head, looking unsure of what to say.
"Now do mine." Kyle shoved his hand out, the back facing up and the pen gripped between his fingers.
"What'll you do if I- Okay, I get it by now. Hold still." Despite his swift truncation of the question, Peter continued to smile good-naturedly as he wrote his number out on Kyle's hand.
"Good," Kyle purred. "Now get out there and clean more bathrooms!"
Again, all Peter could do was to shake his head in disbelief. "You really are impossible, aren't you? You're still a bastard, of course, but now you're a pretty damn persistent bastard- perceptive, too, I suppose."
Kyle just grinned. He loved praise.
Peter returned Kyle's pen, shook his head one last time, and wheeled his pushcart back out the bathroom door. Kyle watched him go, before returning to sitting on his sleeping bag under the row of hand dryers. He stared at the sparkly purple writing on his hand for a few moments, before retrieving his shiny new silver Verizon flip-phone. He keyed in Peter's number and saved it to his contacts list.
Of course, Kyle had no intention of calling Peter. He'd been fun to play with, if a bit hard to manipulate at first, but he really wasn't Kyle's type. That was why Kyle was there, after all. He was fed up with his job, his life, his friends. Well, friends minus Jake. Jake was just too much fun to be fed up with. Kyle had decided he needed a change.
He knew that holing up in the lobby's men's restroom in the building owned by the graphic design company he was busy being fed up with probably wasn't the best way of going about obtaining a change- unless the desired change was getting fired- but it was a very "Kyle" maneuver.
Kyle's theory was that, every day, dozens of different people entered and exited bathrooms. Bar-crawling wasn't Kyle's style- bars were too loud, too smoky, and too stifling. Kyle didn't stand out in bars- no one ever noticed his self-proclaimed wit. He kicked off his shoes and crawled into his sleeping bag. He knew for a fact that the lights in the bathroom would shut off automatically in- he checked his watch- exactly one hour and seventeen minutes. He didn't feel like waiting that long to sleep, so he tugged his sleeping bag over his head.
Kyle had a busy day coming up, after all. His little vacation of sorts was only just beginning- there were still dozens of prospective candidates to interview.
(AN: grin So, what do we think of Kyle? He's rather fun to write, as a matter of fact, so I hope he receives a decent welcome. His logic's incredibly warped- camped out in a bathroom in search of love and adventure- and an escape from graphic design boredom. This one'll be fairly short- I'm aiming for four chapters when finished. Comments? Complaints? Tell me what you think.)