Laws of the Ladies Room
“I’ve lived in Milwaukee my whole life and never been to the Pfister.”
This is how Dana and I became best friends. Okay. Not really. We were more like Spontaneous BFFs, the kind you experience at intimate intersections, such as the ladies room. What begins as a comment about hand soap, or the hour, or a fierce pair of shoes could bloom into a confessional, a counseling session, a health consultation or even a plot.
The Laws of the Ladies Room do not reflect those on the other side of our door. First of all, time stands still. We can exchange full biographies, transcribe a complete cell phone directory, or annotate entire relationships in the time it takes to tinkle, lather, primp and adjust our pantyhose. Second, judgment and the concept of “TMI” is suspended, like zero gravity on the moon. Finally, as quickly as we are seized with the pull of “sisterhood,” we accept that the bonds will fall away from us like whispers once we toss our paper towels and exit.
I am drawn to the floor-to-ceiling window as I emerge from my bathroom stall. I gaze down at the city’s glitter and shine when my new best friend leaves her stall and joins me to coo at the view.
“This is amazing,” Dana said. “Milwaukee is so beautiful.”
I agreed and said she’d picked a gorgeous night to take in the view.
“It’s my anniversary,” she said. “Seven years.”
“Ahh,” I said, raising my eyebrows, “the itch.”
Dana laughed, giving a little shrug with one shoulder. She always does that thing with her shoulder.
“Whatever this year is called, we’re glad we made it,” Dana says, turning away from the window and heading to the basin to wash her hands. I follow her. Me and my homegirl, Dana, have always been big on hygiene. Like, this one time…
As we dry our hands, Dana explains how she and her husband wanted to do something different tonight, something they’d never done. “We’re both homebodies,” she said. “If we do go out, we go to our regular neighborhood bar. We never come downtown.”
She’s drawn to the window again. Quietly, she repeats, “So beautiful.”
I offer to take her photo, apologizing in advance for the camera on my less-than-smart phone. She’s been teasing me about this phone for the longest…
“I don’t like taking pictures,” Dana says, interrupting my disclaimer. “They never turn out good. I never look right.”
I look from her face to the sparkling night scene beneath us, and back to her. “Look, I don’t about ‘looking right,’” I said. “I think you look like a woman enjoying her seventh wedding anniversary.”
I smile at her. She knows we’re taking this picture.
After our 45-second photo shoot, Dana’s shoulders relax and the loose smile returns to her lips. Intuitively, I know to feel profoundly happy for her, like a best friend would. We stop in front of the mirror one more time. She pulls a panel of long brown hair behind her ear and I check my teeth for lipstick. We emerge from the ladies room adjusting our expressions as if masking traces of mischief. Classic.
I follow her in to Blu, wanting to congratulate her husband. (I wonder if he’s going to ask me about that …) Watching his face strain to process the two of us approaching, all chummy and grinning, snapped us both back to reality. He would not be interested with the Laws of the Ladies Room, not our secret handshake, not our You-Go-Girl cheer, not our list ranking of sexy movie stars. Not even the best places to find that brand of hair conditioner. Instead, his face asked, “What took you so long?”
Dana and I let our giggles deflate into cordial pleasantries. She introduced me as the hotel writer. I offered to buy their next round of drinks. We all bid good night. I made my way from the twenty-third-floor view and into the clear and real night. Dana and I were best friends for only six minutes but, by Law, it was all the time we needed.