Cracking up over something, the details of which I now cannot recall and were probably terribly silly, Lisa and I took our places in the ever-growing wait for the Kennedy Center's garage-level restroom. As I leaned against the wall, exhausted from the crowds of reggae fans dancing above our heads and the stifling humidity pressing down on all of us, I accidentally nudged the arm of the woman standing next to me with my huge black Kenneth Cole tote. If you've ever spent time with me, chances are good you've met this bag. I bump into a lot of things with it, because I am klutzy and it is massive.
"Excuse (hic!) me!" I snorted, trying to apologize to the stranger around an unfortunately-timed burst of hiccups brought on by laughter and the Sam Adams Summer Ale I'd consumed a half-hour earlier. Still giggling, I started to rummage through my bag looking for my lip gloss when:
"I think someone has had a few too many drinks, because someone keeps invading my personal space!"
It took me a moment to realize she was talking about me. Hands still buried in my tote I looked up to see the woman I'd bumped into starting to gesture wildly from on high, as if conducting an invisible symphony of Woe. Looking past Lisa and me to the row of women snaking through the open Ladies Room door and into the hallway, she was clearly performing for an audience.
"This," she exclaimed as she wildly gesticulated, drawing a three-by-three foot box in the air around her person , "is my personal space. It is my zone. No one should enter it unless I specifically invite them too. Especially not drunk white girls. But what can you do when a drunk girl decides to get all up in your space?" She gestured to the bathroom ceiling with the kind of shrug that is both impassioned and downtrodden, the kind often made by Jewish mother types in Woody Allen movies. It was a gesture that seemed to say "no one will ever know how much I suffer, but this action might convey a smidgen of what I endure."
The other women in line were by this point staring at the walls or floor to avoid making eye contact with Personal Space, and both Lisa's and my mouths were hanging wide open as we looked at one another in total confusion. "Is she really talking about you IN FRONT OF YOU?" Lisa's eyes seemed to be asking.
"I don't know!" my eyes silently exclaimed in response. "Did that bitch really just call me a drunk? Why is she all rowdy about her space? What is she trying to accomplish with this? Are we going to rumble in a Kennedy Center bathroom?" It was a surreal moment, and felt like the first time I smoked out of an apple bong and spent the evening touching my friend Jason's nose and asking him "Are we really here? Is this really happening???"
As Personal Space continued her speech, the line continued to awkwardly shuffle towards the stalls. She finally concluded her speech with a dramatic flourish as the door to the handicapped stall opened, pausing for a moment before she swept into the toilet as if expecting the other women in line to break out in applause, or a perhaps a chorus of "Oh Happy Day!" With no adulation forthcoming she swept into the stall, bumping my own arm with her hemp duffle bag.
Lisa and I stood there for a moment, utterly unsure if what we thought had just happened had actually just happened. A woman came out of another stall and I entered it, shaking my head at the absurdity of the last few moments when Lisa called out behind me:
"EJ, honey, did I step on your foot? I'm sooooooo sorry!"
Without even thinking, I threw open the stall door and in my best Exorcist voice growled:
"YOU BITCH. THAT WAS MY PERSONAL SPACE."
I went about my business to the sounds of fifteen women hooting with laughter.
Personal Space was bent over at the sink washing her hands when I exited the stall, the other women in line still chuckling. She glowered at me as I washed my own hands, then continued to glower as we both walked over to the paper towel dispenser at the same time. We stood in front of it together, frozen for a moment in time; self-righteous lecturer and smartass, tipsy taunter locked in a battle of wills for the right to dry our hands. I blinked first, but only so I could goad her further by dripping with sarcasm and calling her old:
"After you. MA'AM.
And that is the very anti-climactic story of how I almost threw down in a Kennedy Center bathroom.