One of the most well-known phrases in the world maintains that there is nothing more certain than Death and Taxes. These two calamities are inescapable, timeless, and in the end, catch up voraciously with all of us.
In my opinion, there is something else which is almost just as fearsome and terrible – Public Toilets.
Sounds stupid, does it not? Well, it’s not all that dumb, really. In Malta, most public toilets are disgusting dens of iniquity and terror. Yes, seriously. You think the dirtiest most depraved pits of Slumville are bad? Come to Malta and enter a public toilet if you really want to experience what the term ‘germ-multiplication’ is all about.
Most of the time, I really and truly try to HOLD IT IN when I’m out, however, there come moments in a person’s life when they really HAVE TO GO. It’s during these unbearable moments of insane cramps that I steel myself, pinch my nose shut, and venture into the terrifying pit of doom and glorified dripping foulness that are Maltese public toilets.
I go in slowly, trying to stay away from the walls. As foul liquids ooze from the greasy grey linoleum and squish beneath my shoes, I inch my way cautiously to an open cubicle. At this point, the stench is usually unbearable. Lonely, engorged flies buzz in a corner of the tiny besmirched window, so soiled as to turn the midday sunlight into a tentacle-like dusky dawn.
I push the wooden door of a cubicle open with my foot, trying to make as little contact as possible. It squeaks maniacally as it slowly opens, its indeterminate colour yellowed with the passage of time, painted with impromptu felt-tip pen graffiti and swear words. The lusty cracks in the door almost drown out many of the hand-drawn penises and hearts, but not quite.
At this point, I am silently chiding myself as I encounter the same old problem. Where on earth am I going to put my handbag? I clutch at it, while clutching at myself as I shrink away from it all, knowing that it’s hopeless.
The toilet bowl, rimless, gapes at me like an eyeless monstrosity. It beckons me, knowing that I need it, knowing that I can’t hold out much longer. It is Sauron-like in its endless voracity, and although I cannot yet see the hideous putrefaction hiding inside it, the dried brown and yellow dots lining its border is already a warning.
I push the door closed with a shove. Paper towel in hand, I lock it and steel myself, then I turn towards the toilet bowl and peer in. It’s not as bad as I had thought. That’s what comes to mind at first. Then, I reconsider. Two dead cockroaches float and dance together in a small pond of slime and entrails. Or at least, that’s what it looks like. I close my eyes, turn around, pull up my skirt and pull down my underwear, keeping everything as far away from the toilet bowl as possible. I squat and angle, feet apart, hoping and praying that everything will go as smoothly as it should.
As I count backwards and try to relax in order to do the deed, I look up at the stall door and see the scrawled drawing of a penis talking to its female counterpart, near the door-knob. The balloon on its hairy head epically says ‘It’s hard to cum in here’. The vagina is silent. I nod, totally understanding the sentiment. Obviously, like me, the artist disliked public toilets.
Done. I stretch my hand towards the toilet paper dispenser, only to start laughing. Of course, it is empty. Thankfully, I remember that I have a paper towel in my hand. I stand up carefully, fold it over and use it. After making myself presentable again, I realise that I have to touch the doorknob in order to open the cubicle, since I don’t have any paper towels left.
Resigned, I sigh and do just that. As the door swings open, I look at my poor hand, sticky with some unnameable greenish substance, and gaze mournfully towards the smashed sink.