She stood up, looking around herself in horror. What have I done? she thought, and she panicked. She bolted, grabbing her purse and keys and darting to her car. She sped down the street, tears streaming down her face. What now, what now, what now?
At a red light, she flipped down her visor. She looked into her bloodshot eyes. What you need, she told herself sternly, is a coffee.
She looked up and saw a Starbucks, just there on the corner. Perfect, she decided.
She pulled into the parking lot. There was only one other car, so all she had to do was get past a couple of people into the safety of the bathroom. Then she could wash up and compose herself. She took a deep breath and got out of the car. She walked in, flustered. There was a couple of women at the counter, chatting with the barista. She hesitated. Maybe I need to order first?
The women laughed, enjoying the conversation with the barista. No, she decided. Everyone was distracted. Bathroom first.
She darted through the door and up the little hall to the bathrooms. In and locked the door, and finally, for a moment, she felt safe. She took off her gloves, horrified at her hands. She ran them under the water, cleaning them frantically, losing track of time. After a few minutes, she heard voices in the hall outside the bathroom.
Dammit! Those women were coming. She turned off the water. One of them tried to get in, but the lock held. “Just a minute,” she shouted – a little too loudly, a little too edgy. She frantically looked around. The sink was a mess, so she grabbed paper towels and silently cleaned it as best she could.
Her phone chimed. Dammit! She grabbed it out of her pocket. It was her sister, demanding answers. She silenced it and laid it on the toilet paper holder, flushed the toilet so it’d sound like she was being normal, then washed the sink and her hands again. Her hands… they were almost clean.
She darted out of the bathroom. A little too quickly – she forgot her phone. The two women went into the bathroom together, but she stopped them in time – “I left my phone, I think. Can you see it?”
The shorter woman smiled. “Yes,” she said, handing it to her, “here it is.”
The pair of them smiled at her and shut the door.
Alone in the hall, she realized her hands were dripping. She hadn’t dried them. And they still weren’t clean. She dashed into the men’s, hoping to get her hands clean and get out before anyone noticed. After scrubbing a few minutes, they were finally clean. She dried them off and opened the door, only to find another woman standing in the hall, waiting to use the bathroom. The other woman gave her an odd look, but said nothing.
She panicked. She mumbled something inane about needing to pee but the men’s being too dirty, and the woman offered to let her go first – so she tried the door. The voice of the short girl rang out, “Just a minute!” and she wanted to bash her head against the door. Of course they were still in there – why else would this other girl be in the hall? Finally, the two of them came out, and she avoided their eyes and darted back in.
Door closed, locked. She sat on the toilet and took great gasping breaths of air. What have I done? What am I doing? What now, what now?
Finally, she decided. Get coffee, get out of here. Call my sister. Make a plan.
Get coffee. Get out. Call my sister. Make a plan.
And that’s what she did.