I’ve always believed that private moments are private for a reason, and being the recipient of a guilty conscience, I do all that I can to ensure that my private moments stay as private as possible. I do my damnedest to avoid changing in front of other people, the last thing you’ll ever hear from me is that I just got done pooping, and anything that requires a bedroom door to be closed will be secured by at least one, if not more, locking mechanisms (which was apparently lost on my senior year roommate as I saw his girlfriend’s vagina too many times for anyone’s liking). Secrecy has always been a virtue in the Kirkland house, and as I got older and heard that parents actually showered with their children growing up, I cringed at the thought. We’ve spent enough time together as a family growing up; there was never any reason for Justin to see Daddy or Mommy’s “things” in the shower. Gross.
Along with that secrecy though also comes a heavy feeling of guilt, as I previously mentioned. I’m actually kind of surprised that my family isn’t Catholic. I’ve spent a solid 20 out of my 22 years of life feeling guilty for everything I’ve ever done. Even at twelve years old, I approached my mom with shaking hands and asked her to accompany me to my bedroom. I sat her on the bed, closed and locked the door, and began to confess my sins. I explained to her that I masturbated, as if it was some kind of pagan’istic ritual that I had concocted on my own. I began to cry, not understanding that pretty much every twelve year old boy in my life had a two year jump on this newfound pleasure activity. I asked Mom if she would pray with me, and I vowed to God that I would never do it again… which lasted for about two weeks. Mom made me promise to never talk to her about masturbating again, and even though I had vowed to God that I would stop such heinous behaviors, that it was kind of a normal thing. I refused to believe her, and it was those strong morals that became the basis for the atrocity that I experienced in the East Town Mall Walmart.
After a grueling breakfast at the International House of Pancakes or IHOP as many of you may know it, my family naturally decided to go to Walmart. Actually, pretty much any outing that I had with my family between the ages of 6-17 involved some frivolous trip to Walmart. Most of the time we didn’t buy anything, but apparently there was something soothing about digesting our food in the aisles of America’s largest chain store. However, the issue is that there are a handful of restaurants, IHOP being one of those, that sends me into intestinal fits. I always dreaded visiting those places, knowing that Walmart was undoubtedly our next stop. I told my parents to go on through the store without me; I needed to make a brief visit to the restroom.
I hate the concept of the public restroom more than just about any other social norm in life. People were not meant to defecate or urinate in the company of others. As far as I’m concerned, you use the bathroom before you leave the house or you deserve to do it on yourself. However, when I’m in a pinch and am forced to use these stops, I always prefer the handicap stall. It allows for more freedom and mimics a personal bathroom more than any of the other stalls. As I was doing my business that day, I looked over and found a folded up piece of paper. I imagined it was a sale paper or some discarded Christian pamphlet, but no. To my surprise, it was two naked women: one was fixed atop a man (I’ll let you draw the details), and the other had apparently placed her chest in his mouth prior to the photo shoot. Uncomfortable and feeling more rushed than usual, I folded it up and replaced it on top of the toilet paper dispenser; someone would have more use for it than myself. I looked at the stall wall and saw a dark circle that looked as if it had been patched up. Something about this bathroom trip seemed unusually discomforting.
IHOP had really taken its toll, and in my boredom, I noticed the man’s feet next to me. He had everything pulled down. I haven’t studied the art of using the bathroom, but I do know that most people I’ve spoken with only pull down their lower body clothes far enough to get the job done. No need in pushing your jeans and skivvies down to the floor. The man began moaning, and I was hoping with all my might that maybe he’d just eaten something more potent than IHOP. I focused on getting the job done and stared ahead. No need to browse around the stall anymore. I looked back up to the wall, and like magic the hole was no longer patched. I could see straight through to the other wall. No person was visible, but the feet were still there. I glanced back down to find a man bent over, making repetitive grunting noises, staring into my stall.
I jumped up, covering myself, and ran out of the bathroom. All I could think was I just got spank banked in the Walmart bathroom. I thought I was better than this. I thought I was special. I asked the first customer service person what I should do. He went to get a manager. I waited outside the bathroom, unsure of what I would do if my attacker appea… there he was.
“Dude. What the hell was that in there?”
He looked frazzled, “I didn’t touch anyone! I didn’t touch anyone!”
He ran into me, nearly knocking me down and bolted down the toy aisle… the least reassuring aisle he could have gone down, in my opinion. I was sixteen at the time and had become a veteran to a slew of Lifetime movies. In some vain attempt to regain my innocence, I stormed after him, still unsure as to why I was doing it or what I would say. I just kept repeating in my head I’m not a victim. I’m not a victim. I finally saw him as he approached the exit of the Walmart, and I told the eighty something year old greeter woman to stop him. Obviously, not the best ally in this situation, but I used what resources I had available. He looked back and saw me, announcing to the valued customers once more, “I didn’t touch anyone!” The woman turned to me, angrily, and asked, “What is the issue that made you scream across the store.” Without any social decorum, I announced, “Well, the issue is that one of your customers was jacking off to me using the bathroom in the back of the store. That’s the issue, m’am.” With no defenders and still shaking, I left to find my parents.
I’ll never know who my attacker was, but I’ll always remember that face that stared at me so wistfully. I would later distract myself with questions like How did that man get so far bent over? That’s an unusually low barrier; he must have been missing a rib or something. And to this day, I have never visited another bathroom at a Walmart franchise. I sometimes wonder, one day when I have the funds at hand, if I should hire one of those sketch artists to recreate his face, print it out on numerous fliers and post them around local East Tennessee Walmarts. I bet he’s not even sorry about it, and maybe if he had talked with his mom about the guilt of masturbation at twelve years old, he wouldn’t be creepin’ under stalls checking out minors as he was finishing up a deed of his own.