I have had some truly lovely moments in washrooms.
In London it’s a loo. In Australia it’s a toilet. In Canada it’s a washroom or a bathroom. Whatever the name, I have had some truly lovely moments in bathrooms. A better name for them would be Escape Rooms. A place to escape. Sometimes it has been my favourite part of a party or a gathering. The few moments I spent in the washroom, longer than necessity would have dictated, were the grounding moments, the only moments of calm, the reason I was able to continue visiting or listening or watching. I often enter a washroom with a great sigh of relief, almost gratitude. I breathe, I rest, I settle.
I don’t have a condition that necessitates I be close to a washroom for bodily function purposes. I am not a decorator, although I have gotten some pretty solid interior design goodies from bathrooms. I don’t hate large gatherings. Well, I actually sort of do. I am a normal person who gets overloaded, easily saturated on talk and noise and interactions. The bathroom can be my social/emotional saviour.
I have been in bathrooms that are nicer than most of the rooms in my house. I have been in bathrooms that are bigger than my bedroom. I have been in bathrooms that I never wanted to leave; they were so beautiful and inspiring. And quiet.
A friend’s washroom, just across from the long white granite kitchen island, where everyone gathers and exclaims and cracks pistachios as they watch something delicious being created yet again, is almost a religious experience. It is a tiny bathroom, but the ceiling is 12 feet above me, almost like sky. The walls are a tall expanse of deep violet, one of them holds a long, narrow frame of Hebrew poetry, direct from Israel, full of soft colour, intricate figures, reaching tall and thin toward the white ceiling. I could look at it for hours. The sink is a glass bowl, slightly off kilter, thick and smooth, a vessel, a collector of drops. There is a violet glass prism both hefty and delicate on the counter beside the soap. I go to this bathroom like I would go into a church, for a moment of solitude and meditation before returning to the conversation outside.
I have been in restaurant bathrooms that are full of wood and wrought iron and gorgeous paintings, enough space to sit and ponder like you were in a gallery. I leave behind all of the noise and chaos and littered tables outside and sit for a moment, remembering who I am.
I remember a mall washroom where everything was white and new, space enough to engage in a full yoga practise if you so desired, or twirl and watch your skirt spin in the gigantic, infinitely clean mirror covering the whole wall. You could sing an aria; the acoustics would be out of this world. The actual toilets were around a corner, there were settees of velvet to recline upon. It was a shopping mall, for goodness sake. I was perplexed and in awe all at once. And soothed.
I spend a lot of time in coffee shops and I love the little bathrooms around the corner from the cream and sugar, displaying the local piece of art or ads for yoga and snow shovelling services. Sometimes they are blank and sweet, with a single succulent on a tiny shelf. Sometimes they are storage for the broom and the box of paper towels. Sometimes they smell really nice, with 3 ply toilet paper. And always, I visit them at least twice as I pour coffee and water into my mouth, punch away at my keyboard, trying to get my word count up; they give me a bit of distance to reflect, to validate and to gather my senses again and go forth, back to the work of being human.
This love of the loo may be a direct result of aging. I am a middle-aged woman, finished with one career and working on another, my children have turned into adults and live far away. My need for action is declining. FOMO is waning. What I want is to be centred, grounded, quiet, alone. Maybe it is just me, my introvert self rising. Maybe it is the path of life. Either way, a washroom can be a beautiful thing.