by Patrick Timony
illustration by Dave Meshell
The man behind the token counter looks like the no-nonsense type who will be angry if I ask him to let me back through the turnstyle so I can take a wicked pee. He has the stern “no pee questions” look of a man who has been asked to turn a blind eye toward such subway-patron-shenanigan-ry one too many times… “It’s only 85 cents to get back through the turnstyle,” I think. Maybe I should just go out, whizz, pay again to get back in, and write the 85 cents off as an education in urinary time schedule management.
I am just inside the entrance of the Hynes Convention Center T-Stop and right underneath an Au Bon Pain equipped with the only public bathroom left in all of downtown Boston. I will be playing my guitar a good five hours in the subway before I earn enough money to get me through the first few days of the week.
Since my bladder was deluged with coffee and orange juice at breakfast, then left to mull over their volume through a two hour class, it’s singing hymns in favor of my making a decisive move.
“No,” I think. “I won’t give into my instincts and slip unnoticed through the impassively cupped fingers of life by paying twice to get into the subway, or wait three times as long in line at the DMV because I let other people butt in front of me, or pay the un-discounted price because I can’t summon the doo-dads to argue for a student discount with someone who can’t speak English. No, I won’t!” I tell myself, marching determinedly toward the sour-looking T-Man. Clouds of self-righteous anger plume from my flared nostrils.
Standing menacingly in front of the token window, my one eyebrow furrowed in grim determination, lush amounts of coarse chest hair sprouting from my masculinely sweat-stained tank top that barely contains my seething, heaving torso, my bulging, glistening pectorals, my righteous indignation. Cocked and loaded, I blurt terse drill-sergeant commands at the flaccid and trembling T-Man, who scrambles to hold open the gate and lick the floor clean in front of me as I stomp upstairs, piss viciously, and finally swagger back through the gate following the feverishly licking T-Man down into the applauding subway crowd. On the platform, I meet a busty movie actress who I woo on the way to the airport, whisk off to Puerta Vallarta and wed in a small stucco church, while a mariachi band plays with gusty machismo in the background. The T-guy is there as best man, licking the aisle clean for us to walk down and tossing subway tokens servilely in our wake.
The busty actress and I fade off into a blissful future of ever-increasing grandeur and smugness, always proceeded by the feverishly licking T-Man. On our windswept island home, we trade great bawdy guffaws with the Mexican fishermen about the pathetic, whimpering T-Man. Over shots of Tequila at the local bodega, we stoke the cackling palm frond fire and chuckle contentedly at his abject spinelessness…
The real me slinks furtively up to the token window, cringing with subjugation and apology.
As I am crawling up to the window, the “No pee questions” look, that seemed to have been whittled indelibly into the T-Man’s face over a long and excruciating Monday morning of a career, surprisingly starts to evaporate. Before I even get a chance to start begging forgiveness for my grandparents’ collective existence as I had planned, his expression turns into a good-ol’-boy-who’s-glad-you’re-another-white-male-as-long-as-you-don’t-get-all-sissyboy-on-me-and apologize-for-ever-being-born-like-that-slant-eyed-gook-did-back-in-Nam-right-before-I-shot-the-whole-family grin.
“Whad kin ah do fer yah,” the good ol’ boy voice gravels like a butt emitting a wet and raucous but well-intentioned fart. There is a gook-hating, conspiratorial wink lurking in the shadows of his syllables.
Unfortunately, as the T-man is expressing the “ah” in his salutation, I ejaculate the phrase “I haf’ta pee,” like a whiney and introverted 3rd grader asking his teacher if it’s okay that the gerbil she lent him over summer vacation died of malnutrition. Our two phrases mix like a short Charles Ives symphony about a train wreck, and in the ensuing flustered state, we both try to compensate by copping the other’s attitude.
The T-man starts to apologize that I can go use the bathroom in Au Bon Pain and he’ll just let me back in, at the same time as I start, indignantly, to demand my rights as a tax-paying (poetic license), law-abiding (18-wheeler license), productive member of society (Starship Enterprise license), and again our words overlap each other in a carnival-like verbal automobile accident.
Embarrassed, I mutter, “that’s okay,” and schlump down to the T-tracks, my bloated bladder quivering and hanging pendulously over my belt, as the T-Man sputters confusedly from his glass booth.
When I get to the platform, the dark tunnel entrance at the end of the station beckons me. With a vaporous hiss, a ghostly message that reads “Men’s Room” wavers hauntingly over the tunnel arch. Never one to cower from a challenge, I stash my guitar, stride into the tunnel, and pee on the third rail.
Electricity jolts its way up the stream of liquid conductivity, blackening my penis and delivering billions of electrons which course through my body. I twitch and jitter violently until the pee runs out and the connection is broken. Thus, both drained and empowered, I go and play all night at Park Street without stopping, and make a million dollars.
I spend the million sending out 500,000 tapes off to record company executives and 80 years later one of them answers, offering to make me a big star. Complete with a Cuban cigar hanging out of my mouth and a bleached blonde 14-year old wrapped lasciviously around my pelvis, I decline their offer, dedicate my life to poetic poverty, and use my pee-on-the-third-rail trick to fuel many an uncalled-for-in-length busking stint at Park Street and recharge my batteries well into my ripe old 140’s.
Well, not really. Actually, I hold it all day and learn that unless you are drinking cheap, preservative-laden American beer, you can hold your pee almost indefinitely, which is both a valuable thing to know and, at 85 cents a turn, a lot cheaper than the educational institutions in this town.