The Immunity Corner
There is an indoor basketball gym down the road from my childhood neighborhood. One afternoon in my 8th summer, shooting hoops and jumping around like a goofy white kid with a bowl haircut, i ran around the gym sweating and dribbling with all the other kids my age.
By 3:05 i drank enough hydration to break my seal. So once i felt this tingle of groin pressure i ran down the cold long hall to the little tile bathroom across from the door with a faceless girl on it. The door swung open, then shut on itself. The tiles were little squares, stale baby blue squares with white grout. The floor sparkled slightly in a slimy way against the peering sunlight from the only window, bars on it. A couple of big white ceramic toilet mouths hung on the wall with a bolted slab of worn wood separating the two into half-ass cubicles like any other public bathroom in America. A sink, a mirror, and a couple stalls with marker messages hidden behind the toilet paper.
i went ahead and faced one of the mouths on the wall and bent down my athletic shorts. As a kid does, i played with the shapes i could draw, i hummed, i made faces in the hardware reflection, i looked around. i went about my mission.
Then with a curious glance down onto the dusty floor i saw the glare of a clump of chewed pink gum stuck between the bolts of the worn wood and two blue tile squares: a corner of the bathroom where shoes and cleats kick around the crusts of streets, where piss missed the mouth and spit scored seats, where cockroach legs skimper about at night, where the crud from rough coughs settle and coat, where sweat is swiped from sticky salt brows, where dandruff ruffles from the hair to the gravity of the air, where secret cigarettes are smoked in a rush and shoved into toilet water, where immunity resides, where immunity resides. . .
The sun simmered the tile, revealing the gum and each dust bunny den, clump of cleat dirt, and floating cosmic sand message hidden in the window light.
i shivered, shook off by jumping, and kicked the toilet stick into a flush frenzy with my sneaker. Craving a chew, i plucked the dusty gum from the immunity corner, thwipped it into my mouth, and ran back out to dribble with my friends.
Written in Asheville, NC 2012
Author’s Thought: In a sense, this is a statement against parents who panic and rush to the rescue of their child who’s about to eat a cookie he just dropped onto the floor.