Yesterday, I found a romance novel in the bathroom stall at work.
About this, I had questions.
Don’t get me wrong; I’ve seen some strange things in bathroom stalls in my day. Jewelry, cell phones, wallets (I could have really cleaned up if I had less severe moral scruples), underwear on one memorable and disgusting occasion (it’s polite to throw your underwear away when you’re done using it, not leave it for someone else to clean up. Everyone knows that). Even the occasional newspaper or magazine.
But a book? In particular, that book? I am befuddled.
It was a run-of-the-mill romance novel, perhaps a bit tamer than most (and I am only judging by the cover here; that particular genre has never been my shot of vodka, not that you’re going to know about anyway). It was just a guy and girl, hand drawn and not particularly well, dancing what might have been a waltz or the hokey pokey. Impossible to tell (who does the cover art for these things? First graders?).
Of course, being a curious sort, I quickly fanned through the book searching for $5 bill bookmarks or pressed roses or handwritten notes in the margins. I found nothing, not even an incriminating name scribbled into the jacket. So, I read the back flap.
It was so unmemorable that I cannot remember the title (I think it was something like “Marriage: Is Love Necessary?”) and obviously I don’t remember the names, but the plot went more or less like this. A woman we’ll call Marguerite wanted to have a baby but couldn’t because her main squeeze didn’t want any so when her boss (we’ll call him Darren Stormholder) proposed marriage and promised her a kid (I’m sure a money-back guarantee was involved, though it didn’t explicitly state this), Marguerite went along with it even though she didn’t love Darren Stormholder.
Wow. That’s high drama there. Or at least it would be if it wasn’t every other woman’s story for the century preceding this one.
I’m sure we can all guess what happens from there. The “loveless” marriage turns passionate in a hurry because everyone involved is so outstanding in bed that their respective minds blow up like atom bombs. Then there’s A Complication. Maybe in the form of the old boyfriend coming back in a fit of jealous rage. Maybe Marguerite is infertile (bummer). Or maybe they decide they don’t want kids after all, because it would interfere with their sexual marathons. Or maybe she finds out that Darren was married to someone else all along! There’s just no end to the possibility for intrigue here.
But in the end, of course, they’ll fall desperately into one another’s arms again and go off to cuddle their newborn, or learn to dance the jitterbug. Those are the only two possible endings.
So what I’m wondering is, why and how did this book come by its unfortunate fate in the loo? Who brought it in? Was it someone I know? Can I tease them? Were they reading it over their lunch break, perched on the toilet with a PB&J in their lap, reliving their misfit high school days? Because we’ve got perfectly nice weather outside, Ms. or Mrs. Reading-Romance-In-The-Bathroom. In fact, the weather’s been a shockingly good sport this summer—not too hot, and not too cold, which can’t possibly last much longer. You don’t need to be reading in the impersonal, uncomfortable bathroom.
Perhaps it was something to read while she was, well, uh, you know—doing what you do. Which I sort of thought was the point of graffiti, but what do I know? The more pressing question is, how did she manage to leave it behind? Surely it caught her eye when she was doing the once-over to make sure she didn’t leave anything behind in the stall, like her sunglasses or keys or false teeth? (Everyone does this, right?) Besides, wasn't she reading it?
I can see why they wouldn’t have wanted to read it, say, in the company break room. That’s just not the kind of impression you want to give the president and the CEO of the company (who naturally would choose that day to eat with the minions in a show of unity and team spirit). But still, you didn’t have to choose the bathroom. Yuck, first of all. Second, have you never heard of the old “bring a copy of War and Peace and hold it up with the romance novel behind it so everyone thinks you’re reading a classic and concentrating very hard because you do not ever appear to turn any pages”?
Third, did I just imagine this or is bringing reading material into the bathroom kind of a “guy thing”? I’m not talking about at home, behind closed doors. That’s your business (seriously, stop talking—I don’t want to know). I mean at work. As I said, I’ve seen the occasional magazine or newspaper, but that’s usually been at airports where you could imagine it falling out of someone’s bag, or possibly they were just really absorbed in their pre-torture reading in an attempt to distract themselves from their upcoming walk-on role in Hostel. Which is legitimate. But a book? That implies a commitment. Quite apart from the subject matter, what were you doing in the bathroom that took so long?
You know what, I’d rather you didn’t answer that. A new and horribly disturbing possibility has dawned on me that I would much prefer not to ever think about again. I'll just stay the hell out of that stall from now on.