Dear Women who argue about religion on restroom walls,
I couldn’t help but notice your engaging dialog on the restroom wall—the restroom situated (appropriately and thankfully) between the coffee shop, the wine shop, and the brewpub—regarding the nature of religion. As a reminder, the counter claim to “666 Hail Satan” was “Jesus Loves You,” but a counterargument was posited which, at the time of this letter, has not yet been responded to: “I doubt it.”
As with all religious discussions that get out of hand at an early stage, I noticed silence from the second (and, I add, Jesus-confident) writer. But where does this leave us, the reader? Surely, we must question the quick disintegration of logic, the “if/then” proposition of the question we all must answer—Who am I? What purpose do I serve? Why do we doubt? What is the meaning of my life? And, how do we answer these questions in only the time it takes to evacuate our bladders?
To wit: if our purpose is to enlighten others, why don’t more people argue on bathroom walls? Although we may assume that the audience is there for one specific and intended purpose, we have become accustomed to reading our phones doing “biz.” Therefore, why have the authors not returned to continue this argument to its rightful conclusion? One imagines a reader could expect several more exchanges which elucidate the nature of man and the necessity of a deity, either as “satan” or as “god.” After all, there is already a built-in and rather captive audience and, at least one other person was intrigued enough to continue the exploration of this philosophical question.
This question of continuity and continuation has been troubling me now for several days. I keep returning to the restroom hoping the conversation will have continued. Finding the original statements in their ongoing state of incompleteness, my inquiry has taken turns in unexpected directions. For example, why in that first stall was this dialog begun? Is it simply because well-read women know that the first stall is often less germ-infested than the subsequent stalls? Or is there something to the numerological import of “first” as in “one” as in “Alpha” before “Omega?” Is it simply chance the dialog was begun (and potentially concluded) in the same stall? Additionally, although the handwriting appears to be different, what if the same person is indeed arguing with herself? Does a better version of her know the answer? Is she seeking comfort in seeing the argument written rather than turn-tabled in her own brain?
I also wonder about the nature of this conversation (and I am still assuming conversation for now). What is the rhetorical appeal within these discussions? Clearly there is not enough logos to go on; are the authors hoping for an appeal to fear and/or loneliness? That we all experience the same sadness and desperation in which we find ourselves in, out in the world, when our body wants to publicly betray us, and what do most of us do? Pray. We pray that we find a restroom in time. Even the atheists among us.
The biggest question of all, of course, is why I’m simply engaging in this discussion as a reader and not as a contributor. It may have something to do with the fact that my mother once told me only trampy girls write on bathroom walls. I know she didn’t mean you, of course, dear writers, because your discussion is occurring at a more elevated level than “Sam Loves Sue 4-evah.” But, if there were a statement as simple as a proclamation of love, would I want to doubt the validity of the statement?
In the future, if you should continue engaging in such enlightening discussions, I wish (not just for me, but for all of us, of course) that you will have the courtesy to give us an answer to the question of “god” once and for all. I’m not saying there aren’t other places where I could look, but I am still a captive audience in that particular restroom. Changing stalls does not diminish my deepest desire to know the answer.
For now, however, I must say that I reject the argument as it stands and will begin my own in the near future (whenever I happen to remember to put a purple Sharpie in my purse). Thank you again for your sincere efforts.
A woman with a small bladder
Stacy Murison’s work has appeared in Flash Fiction Magazine, Hobart, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, River Teeth, and The Rumpus among others.