The Woman in the Bathroom
For the first few weeks, bleary-eyed and half asleep as I wandered up the dock and into the marina bathroom in the wee hours of the morning, I barley noticed anything amiss. A few times the overhead lights in the side shower area were unlit, then a few days later they were on again, then off again. On a several other occasions the two long wooden shower benches, that were usually placed end-to-end along the wall were moved together, then apart and then together again—shifting their positions seemingly at will. In retrospect, now that I think about it, a small bottle of a spa face cleanser that I kept hidden away in a drawer under the sink seemed to be getting used up more quickly than I would have expected given the small dollop I used each morning, but nothing was so out of place that I sensed anything out of the ordinary. I just figured that Alberto, who tends to the bathrooms well before dawn each day had moved things around so as to be able to get into the hard to reach spots to clean and forgot to put things back in order. Perhaps there was an electrical problem causing the lights to be on and then off again at different times. Again this was not an odd occurrence. This was after all an aging private bathroom for the use of boat owners and their guests here at the marina; not the fanciest facility by any stretch but clean and basic. Both the men’s and the women’s washrooms have that rustic, retro ambiance reminiscent of the 1960s — linoleum floors, painted industrial metal stalls, pre-fab showers and fluorescent lighting. There’s a punch button lock on the doors for access and the code is changed seasonally, and in theory, known only to boaters and their guests.
Then on one particularly early morning jaunt to the washroom I saw that there was a cel phone charging in the wall socket by the mirror, a dingy white towel and a rather eclectic paperback novel by Steve Martin sitting on the counter by the sink, but no one at the sink. I thought perhaps the other person in the bathroom with me was in the shower, but there were no sounds coming from the shower area, so I looked around the corner to make sure that whoever was there was okay and not injured, passed out or worse. Half-blind without my contact lenses in at that hour, I saw a woman I didn’t recognize casually laid out on the bench with her head leaning against a small pack or bag of some kind. I thought perhaps a purse but I really couldn’t see for sure. She was wearing a sleeveless tee-shirt and red athletic shorts—the kind of nylon shorts with white edging that guys wore in track at school. I asked her if she was alright and she briefly responded that she was fine and was just waiting for her cel phone to charge-up. Okay I thought, this is a little unusual at this hour, but not totally unusual. Who knows, perhaps she had a late night, a one-night-stand, a broken down vehicle…and either couldn’t get back-on whatever boat she’d partied-on or had gotten stranded and had decided to stick it out in the bathroom until morning. Her clothes weren’t what you’d likely have been wearing for any of the bars or restaurants in the area, and the book was a seemingly odd choice, more of a beach read, for a late night partier to be toting around, let alone on a night out…but I didn’t give it any more thought and meandered half-awake back up the dock to my boat.
A few days later, I was up in the bathroom at the crack of dawn and once again encountered the same woman in the same red athletic shorts and sleeveless tee-shirt. In the glare of the overhead lights I got a fairly good look at her this time, but still did not recognize her as a regular at the marina. She was an attractive women, about mid-thirties I guessed and she had her toiletries spread out on the counter and was doing her morning ritual, taking additional items out of a small red duffle bag perched on the edge of the sink. The same dingy towel was draped about, the same cel phone was plugged-into the wall socket and there now was one of those well-worn leather Aussie cowboy hats resting alongside the rest of her meager belongings. Much to my surprise, as I stood there, in spite of the fact that there were bottles of liquid hand soap by the sinks, she causally opened the drawer where I kept a few magazines and took out my bottle of face cleanser and started to use it. Somewhat startled I said, “Excuse me, that’s mine”. Without missing a beat she casually asked “Okay if I use some?”.
Hmm, this is getting interesting I thought, so I inquired, “ You don’t look familiar, what boat are you on?” She cheerfully answered with a heavy Eastern European accent, “Oh, I’m on ‘Obsequious’, its just around the corner”. Obsequious? I’ve been docking here for years and there was no boat by that name at this marina and certainly no boater would ever refer to the location of a vessel as being ‘around the corner’, let alone name their beloved boat with such an ugly moniker. But it was a nice, long, impressive, big, fun-sounding word with the letter ‘Q’ in it and I think she thought it played well to establish her legitimacy at the marina. In any event, she was quite chatty asking me my name and what boat I was on, did I exercise, jog and pay attention to what I ate. Her questions kept coming…on and on and I lost patience, for the chit-chat. I’m not a morning talker in the bathroom or otherwise, so I stopped answering and she finally stopped talking. A few moments later after a long silence I heard a soft rustling sound and then heard her swiftly and nearly silently exit the bathroom without another word. Intensely curious by now I quickly zipped-up and peeked out the door, thinking I’d see her going back to either a boat or a car and have the mystery of her provenance solved. But no, not so simple—there she was thumb-out, hitch-hiking up the road towards town. No red duffel bag, no hat, no pack, no purse. I popped back into the bathroom and looked around for her things. It didn’t take much snooping since the bathroom had only a few places were one could tuck something away without notice and within moments I found her duffel and her hat neatly stashed in a cabinet under the sink.
I reported her presence and my suspicion that she was spending nights, my best guess for a month or so, in the washroom to our dockmaster, who immediately confiscated her things and awaited her return that evening, when surely she’d come looking for her possessions. When she did and was promptly booted-out and told that the marina was private property and not to return, the codes were changed and everyone was made aware of who she was and where she shouldn’t be and all was back in order. But in fact, she had done her homework well and unbeknownst to each of us, she had befriended at least a half a dozen or more of the boat owners at the marina during her surreptitious stay. They all knew her as Tiffany, and isn’t she a delightful women. She had told one boater she was training for an Iron Man event, another she was an actress in rehearsals. She had dined on one boat and had cocktails on another.
Who she really was, where she came from, how she ended up at the marina so far from town or public transportation, and where she spent her days was curious. I felt bad for ratting her out of her temporary summer quarters, but it wasn’t for long so I needn’t have worried. As in no time at all, just a few days later, she had evidently charmed her way back-in, secured the new access code and there she was in the wee hours, ensconced in her summer abode with a cheery “Good morning” greeting—dressed in the same sleeveless tee-shirt and red athletic shorts, brushing her teeth with her duffle perched on the sink, and her cel phone plugged-in and charging.