The Taco Bell Bathroom at Bathurst Street

There’s a sign they hang
Hand written
Sharpie-scribbled on a scrap

A half minute of effort
The final act in a classic rite

There is no poetry in it: Washrooms are for customers only

Here the custom is layered
The custom that makes you a customer

Have a job
Or a source of money that is not a job
An inheritance
A wealthy benefactor
A gift

That is one layer

Next, look clean and well
Look unthreatening
Do not carry everything you own on your back
Wear shoes
Wear a shirt
(Having a job
Or a source of money that is not a job
Will also help with this)

This is another layer

Finally, use the money and shoes and shirt to be a customer
To purchase food or trinkets or life insurance

This is the final layer in this custom
That determines
Whether you are allowed to micturate

Micturate is a fancy way to say pee
(Knowing fancy words will not help you
If you still do not have the rest)

I knew fancy words
I knew fancy words and he knew how to fix computers and still

Still we were not customers
Because we had no jobs and carried everything we owned on our backs

There was a washroom
A Taco Bell Washroom
That won a prize
A peculiar sort of prize
The kind given out by people who are used to pretty things
People who wear shoes
People who purchase food or trinkets or life insurance

The award said it was the worst washroom
The worst in a city that sometimes seems to reach for worsts
We found so many worsts those nights

But they
The award giving they
Didn’t know about the sign
Hung in many places that were not the worst
But did not hang at my Taco Bell

That sign let them in and left me out
The sign was everywhere and they could not see it
Or if they did, they saw a shield
A wall
Barbed words to keep out the dregs

They didn’t know my Taco Bell
Open all night
Never hung the sign
Never made me hold my body tight
Or hide
Or freeze around a corner

Even when we didn’t have a dollar for a burrito
Even when we were unclean and unwell
Looked threatening
Carried everything we owned on our backs
Even when I sat at their table and cried because it was 3AM
And hope rises at 5:30

And yeah, the stairs were busted
And the lights weren’t always on
And once the stalls all disappeared and only left seats

But free
And never kept away because it’s more than customary
To say no
To say I’m sorry, but no

Buy something or leave

So the worst is still a sanctum
If the worst will let you in

And I hope they hung the prize
With pride

And never hung the sign

H. E. Casson is a Toronto area writer, art studio assistant, and all around creative type. Their work has been recently featured in Stonecrop Review, Apparition Lit, Writers Resist, Terse, and The Twofer Compendium. They believe that, at it’s best, writing can bridge the empathy and knowledge gaps between human beings – and at its worst it can be gosh-darned entertaining. Their favourite Taco Bell menu item is the Cinnamon Twists.

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