There is something to be said for graffiti found in toilet cubicles. And I mean real toilet graffiti, not just the scrawled tags that rebellious teenagers scribble across walls. Real graffiti that has absolutely no artistic merit (that stuff is saved for the bus interchanges), and is usually witty. Mostly wryly-observed commentary about today's social standards.
That, or toilet humour. But it's understandable.
To tell you the truth, though, I think graffiti has been going downhill since the 80's. Oh, sure, street art has flourished, but it seems nowadays that people are quite happy to bitch about the world's problems in public, instead of saving them for a quiet moment in the public loo with a permanent marker.
But, if we're being serious here for a moment, it's rather pathetic the obsession I have with graffiti in public toilets. I'm a 20-something who thinks that toilet humour is funny. I don't actually vandalise myself (I'm much too respectable for that) but the witticisms that can be found on walls are often the only saviour for otherwise utterly unsavoury public toilets. So much of a saviour in fact, that over the past decade I have found myself following graffiti movements and trends. I bet you didn't even know that there were trends within the toilet graffiti community. Oh, but I know all about rules being OK, and Kilroy being here and the Pope being fucked, even if you don't. I understand graffiti etiquette and know when it's appropriate to add to someone else's joke.
But because graffiti just isn't as popular an art form as it used to be, I get quite excited whenever I see anything worth reading. So you can imagine my joy this morning when I used the unisex toilets at the shopping centre while waiting for my bus, and saw a slogan just begging to be added to.
God is dead.
As I said before, I'm not really a practicing graffiti artist myself. I'm more of an observer of the art form's movements. But in this case, I just couldn't help myself. I whipped out my handy marker (hey, you can't blame an enthusiast like myself. At least I don't carry rubber ears in my pocket) and, in as neat a font I could manage, added onto it.
Now the vandalism read:
God is dead.
Yes, she is.
I was quite proud of myself, to tell you the truth. Not that I'm anti-religious or anti-anti-atheist, but you have to admit: it was a clever rejoinder to whoever had originally written on the already defaced wall.
I was chuffed.
I left the cubicle and went about my day: catching the bus, filing at work, highlighting apparently important passages about my boss' newest client. But I found myself wondering about the graffiti in the toilet at the shops. And, more importantly, who had written it.
The toilets were unisex, and the hand distinctly masculine, so I imagined it had been a male. Younger than me, by one or two years, with black hair and black eyes. Probably still going through his post-adolescent idealistic phase, disillusioned with the world and both sarcastic and cynical. And self-deprecating, of course. Skin like moonlight, a strong jaw, impossibly handsome.
I was in love already.
Would this man ever go back to that cubicle? Would he see my addition? Could this be the start of a beautiful relationship?
During her cigarette break I tried to ask Charlotte, my best friend (if you could call her that, she's such a bitch), what she thought about my chances of ever meeting my soul mate in a public toilet. Charlotte just laughed, smoke pouring out of her mouth and fag dangling from between her fingers.
"You're insane," she said breathily; smoke now streaming out of her nostrils. "You're not going to meet your fucking soul mate in a fucking public toilet. And because you both like graffiti? You're fucking insane."
Yeah, thanks Charlotte. You're a doll, boosting my self-esteem like that. Not.
"But, really," I said, carefully picking at my nails, "The odds aren't that bad. I mean, maybe he goes there often?"
"Maybe he's a she. Maybe he's a hermaphrodite. Unisex toilets, hello? You're fucking mental." She finished this statement by blowing smoke into my face, which she knows I hate. I hardly want to die because I'm a passive smoker, or whatever.
I tried not to take Charlotte's comments on board, though, despite the honesty of what she was saying. Sure, the honesty was kind of hard to hear through the cussing, but it was there. But I also didn't want to hear it.
I proceeded to think about the mystery artist for the rest of the day and night, but didn't tell anyone else. I didn't want to be mocked again, and was quite happy obsessing in peace.
By the next morning, I found myself heading to the shopping centre/bus interchange earlier than I usually would have. Pathetic, I know.
I went straight to the toilets, to the cubicle I had been in the day before. Locking the door behind me I searched the wall for the addition I made, and let a grin break out across my face as I saw that the mystery artist had indeed been back to the scene of the crime. And written more. (Take that Charlotte: one point to me.)
Now beneath my own hand it continued:
She is also black.
Smiling, I pulled my pen out of my pocket, popped off the lid and raised my hand to write. But then I paused. I didn't actually know what I could add to this, to continue my and fellow graffiti artist's witty repertoire. My blood ran cold. How would he and I continue our illicit affair, if we couldn't communicate using graffiti? This was terrible. Our relationship was doomed before it had even started. Already I could feel my heart sinking, and I mourned the loss of my angst ridden, chiselled younger man.
I quickly stepped out of the cubicle, and walked to the taps. Splashing my face with cold water, I stared into the mirror in front of me, trying to see eye-to-eye with myself. I would just have to go home and think of something to add to our graffiti banter overnight. And then in the morning I could come back, and all would be well in the world, and my mystery man and I would eventually find each other and realise that we were "meant to be."
It was totally possible.
I steeled my shoulders. I had another 24 hours to think of something so witty that whoever read it would fall instantly in love with me.
So of course, I went straight to Charlotte.
"Charlotte," I asked as we stood beside the coffee machine, "How does one go about making people fall in love with them."
Charlotte coughed, and the coffee machine spluttered. One day she's going to kill herself. Charlotte that is, not the coffee machine. The coffee machine does make brown sludge, but I don't see how that's going to kill it.
"Oh, you're such a darl, darl," she said, sipping from her Styrofoam cup. "Just show some skin."
"Uh, right," I said, "What if you have to make someone fall in love with you without seeing them face to face and only being able to communicate with writing?"
"Just write like a slut."
I wish I had remembered that Charlotte doesn't give useful advice before I asked her for it.
All night I hoped that a strike of genius would hit me while I slept. Instead, in my dreams I met my graffiti artist, and he looked exactly like I imagined him. In my dream he was completing his second degree (majoring in Philosophy), and his jeans were ripped at the knees. He carried two motorcycle helmets under his arms, one which he gave to me, and we had proceeded to zoom around town on his motorcycle, before being attacked by vampires and having to seek refuge under the sea. Hey, it was a dream.
But alas, despite all my hopes and wishes nothing had come to me graffiti-wise. I still didn't know what to write. My future ended here. A brief flicker of hope sputtered inside of me, when I thought that perhaps the mystery man had noticed my absence and left a kindly message enquiring after my health on the wall, but those expectations were dashed when I looked into the cubicle in the morning. There was nothing extra added.
For the third time in three days I locked the door behind me, and once more pulled out my permanent marker, wishing desperately that sudden inspiration would come. It didn't.
I continued staring at the door, but was startled out of my contemplation when a heavy knock sounded at my cubicle's door.
"Could you please open up?" a harassed voice from the other side asked. "I really need to use this toilet."
I growled angrily. The nerve of some people! "Use the other toilets," I called out helpfully, and perhaps a little snappily. Couldn't this person hear my woeful tone? Didn't they understand that my entire future hung in the balance?
"No, you see, it's rather urgent," the voice called again. "I'm running late for work and I need to use this particular cubicle."
I still had no idea what to write on the door in response to 'she is also black.' She is also black African American? Indian? Perhaps I could make some cruel and insensitive religious slur?
"Please!" the voice on the other side called out. It was clearly a he, and suddenly I felt like blaming him for my troubles. Because he kept bothering me, I would never think of a clever message to write and so, ultimately, I would never meet my one true love. The injustice of the world.
Unlocking the bathroom door ferociously, and glaring at the man that stood in front of me, I scowled. "What are you, some kind of sicko that has to use the same toilet everyday? You need help?"
He had pale freckled skin and white-blond hair, sticking up at odd angles. His nose was snubbed, giving him a boyish appearance, despite the fact that he looked older than myself, by one or two years. He didn't seem particularly concerned by the insult I had just given him, and instead pushed distractedly past me and lent around the toilet door. He peered for a second at the back of the door.
Time seemed to slow. He was looking at the back of the door. He was looking at the back of the door. Why would he be doing that unless he was the one who had been writing that graffiti. And now he was waiting for a written reply. One that I had not given. I couldn't believe that my cynical raven-haired sex god had turned out to be this fair, elf-like boy. Who wasn't a younger man! I mean, this guy carried a briefcase for goodness sake.
For a second I was glad that I hadn't replied. This blonde boy was so not my type of man. Even if he did share my love of vandalism and destruction of public property.
As he looked at the back of the door, his shoulders sunk. He turned slowly back to face me, and shot me a dejected gaze.
"Sorry about that," he mumbled, pushing past me again. I watched him walk away, and suddenly my hand was reaching into my pocket of it's own accord, pulling out my marker, and throwing it across the room, straight at the man's head. It hit with a slight slap, and the man spun around, eyebrows furrowed angrily. He met my gaze, and then dropped it to the floor to see what I had thrown.
When he saw the pen, any protestations he had been about to utter died on his lips. He looked back up at me, eyes wide. I smiled broadly.
What was I doing?
"Want to go discuss the role of graffiti on politics during the 70's sometime?" I asked.
He smiled back, and hesitated for only a second before answering. "Okay."
There was a pause, and he looked at me strangely. Seemingly embarrassed, he cleared his throat. "You know," he said, "I really thought you were going to be Swedish. You're not really my usual type."
I just laughed. He could say that for both of us. It's not like he was a tortured artist, or anything.
I'm sure that God was laughing too.
Dead, black or female.
AN. I thought a lot of this was rather stilted. Any help would be lovely.