The pressing need to relieve myself rouses me from a deep sleep. Barely cognizant, I pry my miserable self out of the warmth of the tangled blankets and shuffle through the dark apartment.
My lover sleeps unperturbed.
Still more than half-asleep, I step into the bathroom. As the door closes with a punctuating click, I clumsily feel for the light switch, wondering why the lights seem to be on already. I open my eyes only to realize that I am peering at a door, but something is amiss. There is no light switch. I begin to blink in rapid succession.
Self, this is not the bathroom door. Self, this is the apartment door. And, Self, it has just shut and, hence automatically locked. Self, thou art on the wrong side of door.
My blinking stops and I stare, wide-eyed.
Self, thou art in the hallway of the apartment building.
My outfit consists of a tiny pair of black string bikini undies and red toenail polish.
And I have to go to the bathroom REALLY BAD.
I knock on the door, simultaneously hoping to wake my sleeping lover and fearing the knock will have the same effect on the adjacent denizens. It is dead silent in the hallway.
Vigorously springing up and down, my legs squeezed together, I bravely knock again, this time louder.
Clutching my copious front end with both arms, I tiptoe down the steps.
While holding the vestibule door open with a red-painted toe, I scoop up a K-Mart circular that had been discarded by one of the brownstone apartment dwellers who, fortunately for me, apparently found this bit of mail unworthy of being transported up the stairs for a proper funeral by garbage. I open the pages and bury my chest within them. So thankful am I for this avant garde halter, I vow to spend at least $100 in Kmart by year's end.
Knowing full well that allowing the vestibule door to shut will put yet another locked barrier between me and the apartment/sleeping lover, the need to relieve my bladder overcomes me. I step into the mercifully vacant vestibule and allow the door to shut.
And then out the exterior door, into the freezing night I go.
With assertions such as "5 Hours Only!" and "Buy One Get One Free!" and "Special Buy! Save $20" pressing close against my bosom, I negotiate the least malicious looking bush in the thankfully enclosed courtyard and squat down, unleashing the full definition of the word "relief."
Laughter floats over the night.
And with it, two people, giddy with the glow of last-call, step under the brownstone's stone arch and into the courtyard.
I stop my glorious relief in mid-stream.
"Did you hear something?" says Human A.
"Maybe. I don't know," says Human B. "Who cares? Get over here."
Human A and B engage in a lip lock. A branch, heretofore unnoticed by the humble author, is uncomfortably poking her right buttock.
The peaceful late autumn night has that intimate quality in which every sound is accessible and clear, the perfect environment for me to vicariously share the detailed and oft breathless conversation that ensues between Human A and Human B. They comment on one another's various physical (and apparently competent) attributes. Then there are the matters of a blindfold and a pair of handcuffs to discuss. The exchange is brief in reality. Given the particulars of my situation, however, it seems to drag on forever. My body shivers, but for some reason, it is only the cold in my toes that bothers me. That and the branch and the unfinished business of my bladder. My vowed Kmart expenditure tumbles to $75, maybe $50.
"And then what?" says Human A (female).
"You won't know," says Human B (male) in a throaty voice. "You'll be blindfolded," which elicits a moan from Human A. They fall into each other again.
Usually, such a unique situation would have me fascinated. But I am not fascinated. I am thinking, Go inside! Fast forward through the sex talk and just go zock already. Desperate, I start to bounce, ever so slightly.
"Did you hear that?"
I cease to bounce.
A car zooms somewhere, slicing the silence of the night.
"I didn't hear anything. Come on," whispers Human B, "let's go inside, baby."
Thank god, I think.
They step inside and I am mercifully able to finish what I had started minutes ago, although between the branch and my nearly frostbitten toes, my Kmart budget plummets to, mmm, maybe five bucks.
Clutching the paper tightly, I scurry back into the vestibule, the exterior door of which remains unlocked at all times.
Gulping, I regard the brass panel of apartment buzzers.
You. Know. What. You. Have. To. Do.
It is a rare thing in a writer's life when they can perfectly apply a word such as stentorian.
That moment, dear readers, is upon me.
Because stentorian is the only word in my vast repertoire that accurately describes the sound associated with the entrance buzzer for apartment #9, the vibrating trill of which is so loud, so authoritative, that when unleashed, guests gasp, cigarettes drop and the resident cat screeches, jumps to the ceiling and bushes out to twice his normal size.
Shivering and frozen solid, I raise my trembling finger and depress the button.
Despite the fact that I know how loud the sound will be, that I've heard it at least a dozen times, it shocks me nonetheless as it is clearly audible from the vestibule even though apartment #9, in which the buzzer is located, is on the second floor of the three-story brownstone building.
Moments tick by.
Then comes perhaps the most wonderful and horrible sound of all, the equally loud answering blast of the admittance buzzer. With one hand holding the thin paper against my chest, I open the interior door and, shaking like a leaf, I bound up the stairs.
I knock gingerly on the wooden panel, next to the brass #9.
My lover opens the door. And I am there before him, trembling.
With my red toenail polish.
And my black string bikini undies.
And my Kmart circular.
He married me anyway.
That was more than 14 years ago. Happy anniversary, baby.