Jason Lawrence Bell
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06-01-19                  PUSH ARROW TO BEGIN AUDIO

     ‘Forever is a long time, but painful memories last much longer’read the graffiti on the inside of the bathroom stall. Barry had become fascinated with random statements that are found in public places. He has collected hundreds of phrases from buses, subways, bathrooms and benches. He takes a photo of the graffiti, then he enters it into his graffiti journal with dates and locations. Hopefully someday, when Barry’s ready, he can select the best ones and publish a book. He believes there are others like him that see this specific type of graffiti as an art form or as poetry. And once it’s organized in a book, others will discover the value.

Barry often travels to different cities for fresh locations. He has even figured out how to search female public bathrooms without detection. He has an old woman’s overcoat and wig that gives him enough cover to slip in and take what he needs.

The most fascinating graffiti for Barry is the running dialogue. This happens when someone writes a response to the original phase next to it. Then someone will respond to both and add a line. Barry has seen up to 20 responses from a single line. Like the phase ‘forever is a long time but painful memories last longer’. Someone added ‘painful memories are better than no memories at all’. Then some else added ‘no memories are nirvana, painful memories are hell.’ What fascinates Barry is that it looks like a dialog but the people writing never see the response. They just add a line and move on. With no time consideration, responses could be minutes or months or years apart.

Today Barry just arrived at Chicago Airport and was going to spend the afternoon researching the restrooms. At first, he was seeing the usual, ‘my boss is a dick’ or ‘your mother was great last night’. In his book he would categorize them as Juveniles. Juveniles can be any age and Barry will give them their own chapter in his future book.

Barry decided that the women’s restrooms may be worth investigating. So, on went the overcoat and wig. Soon he was moving from stall to stall as they became available. Barry noticed that every stall had a peculiar message written on the back of the door. It was alarming and read ‘I am trapped, my husband has caught me trying to leave him. He will kill me. Please help! Call 876 299 4321 and tell my children I love them’. The desperate women had marked each stall with the message hoping someone would read it and respond to her plea for safety. Barry wondered how long the graffiti had been there. Airports usually paint over their graffiti often. So, this might be fresh.

Barry decided to call the number. A young child answered the phone. Barry asked, ‘is there an adult that I can talk to?’ The child yelled out, ‘uncle Steve there’s someone on the phone. Shortly a man’s voice answered ‘yeah, who is it?’ Barry started, ‘hello, this may seem strange but I believe it’s very serious. A woman in fear for her life has asked me to call this number for help. I don’t have a name but she’s somewhere at the Chicago Airport. Should I call police?’ The male asked, ‘what terminal is she in?’ Barry answered, ‘Terminal B, she was in the woman restroom but I think she may be gone.’ The voice spoke, ‘well thank you for your help. I will send somebody to take care of her. Don’t worry she a very disturbed woman, who is only a danger to herself. Don’t call the police. This is just a family matter, thank you.’ Then he hung up.

Barry set there thinking about the strange conversation when he heard a phone ring two stalls away. He heard a woman’s soft voice answer, ‘hello’. Then she yelled, ‘no leave me alone.’ She hung up, then Barry could hear her weeping. Barry realized maybe this woman is who wrote the messages on the doors. It was only she and Barry in the restroom. So, Barry moved to the stall next to her and tapped on the wall. He could hear her become silent and still. Barry asked, ‘are you the person who wrote the message for help?’ Barry quietly waited for an answer. Softly she asked, ‘are you a man? And what are you doing in the women’s restroom?’ Barry responded ‘that’s a long story, but are you in danger?’ The women started weeping, ‘my husband will kill me if he finds me. Last night he beat me badly, but I escaped. He has often said he will kill me. This time he will do it’. Barry continued, ‘I called the phone number to get help. And the uncle answered’. ‘Oh, no, he is my husband’s brother. He would help my husband kill me if he could. What did you tell him?’ ‘I think I may have made it worse. I told him which terminal we are at,’ confessed Barry. The woman just wept in fear. Barry tried to calm the woman, ‘trust me. I will figure out how to make you safe. Do you have a ticket for a flight? ‘Yes, in thirteen minutes my flight leaves to Denver where my brothers live. They can protect me. I am sad to leave my children but it’s better for them if I’m alive,’ she answered. ‘I agree. Okay, don’t ask me why, but I am wearing a woman’s disguise. Let’s trade clothes and you can slip out to your flight.’

The woman felt confused but it was a plan that might work, so she agreed. Then they both step out of their stalls. Barry was shocked at the bruises and cuts on her face. ‘Oh my god’ he thought as he became more determined to help her. She seemed just as shocked at Barry’s appearance, but didn’t want to waste time trying to understand this weird but heroic man. They were about the same size. They immodestly changed their clothes in front of each other. She had a large floppy hat with sunglasses and a coat. And Barry gave her his wig and overcoat. Barry said, ‘I think that works, you look very different.’ She looked at Barry with her clothes on, and didn’t know what to say. Anything she thought to say sounded like an insult and she didn’t what to insult such a kind-hearted man. Barry suggested she leave first because she may miss her flight. He will wait a few minutes then leave. She kissed Barry on the cheek and hurried out.

Barry listened at the door. Everything seemed to run smoothly. Barry went to the stalls. He wanted to finish taking pictures of the graffiti in each stall. As he was about to enter a stall, the restroom door burst open and an angry man with gun entered. He seemed to recognize Barry’s clothes and headed for Barry. Barry instinctively jumped  into the stall and locked the door. Then two gun shots came through the stall door hitting Barry in the shoulder and grazing his neck. The stall door crashed open and the man looked at Barry and knew it wasn’t his wife. ‘You pervert’, is all he said and he ran out of the bathroom. The police heard the shots and saw the man running from the bathroom with a gun. They followed and captured him outside. Another officer went to the woman restroom and found Barry. Barry knew his wounds were not life threatening. And as the paramedics were wheeling him out of the airport, Barry was already planning the last chapter of his book. ‘The Dangers of Graffiti’. Peace**