‘Paruresis’ was the medical term, better known as ‘urophobia’, and much more commonly described as ‘bashful bladder’. Whatever you cared to call it, it was Bromley’s cross to bear. Couldn’t remember when it had first begun affecting him, or why, but he had reached the point where he couldn’t be bothered expending the mental energy required to understand and then defeat this peculiar social tic. Hell, if all he had to worry about was an inability to urinate in public restrooms, he’d consider that state of affairs an accomplishment in and of itself.
So here he was, ensconced on a toilet seat in one of the Frog & Peach’s two cubicles in the Men’s lavatory. Actually, since the other one appeared to permanently have an ‘Out of Order’ sign hanging askew on its door, it would probably be more accurate to say that he was in the only cubicle in working condition. Even that was a bit of a stretch. In keeping with the pub’s general ethos, the entire bathroom was in a state of disrepair. That was to be expected in a place as classy as the F&P though. What really enthralled Bromley was the graffiti.
You can learn so much of people from what they scrawl on walls, he mused. His eyes traversed the messages, some barely legible, others in giant capital letters to ensure no misunderstanding. Some were of a lewd, sexual nature, others more jocular, a few political. Some were all three, like the witty, ‘Praxis makes Perfect!’, with the obligatory winking smiley face adjacent, drawn on the prophylactic dispenser next to the toilet roll. Bromley allowed himself a slight smirk. Praxis™ was the wonder-drug supreme, depending on the dosage it was effective in treatment of sexual dysfunction, along with depression, anxiety, muscle fatigue, cancer, hiccups, and a cornucopia of other ailments. Or at least, it had been. Emerging like a phoenix from the ashes of the last war, it had been hailed as the elixir just fifty years previously…only for the revelations of 2305 that Praxis™, in fact, was responsible for widespread sterilisation. The former slogan of the drug quickly became a shorthand amongst street artists to remind people of why never to trust authority.
That led to its own extremes of course. On the opposite side of the cubicle, the entire wall was a smorgasbord of half-baked conspiracy theories and paranoid delusions, a spider’s web of concocted fantasies and misinterpreted truths. Numerous influential figures and successful companies were drawn together as being part of some shadowy cabal controlling the world, keeping the population in docile ignorance. The picture painted was utterly terrifying; one simple equation declared, ‘UCD + IVI + ICS + CATI = Tyranny!’ Bromley couldn’t help but shake his head. The Union of Credit Distributors, the Intelligence & Value Initiative, the Inland Credit Service, and the City Authority Trading Institute… What a cobbled-together list of the boring, the tedious, the stultifying and the dull. Alphabet soup.
IVI featured prominently among the scattered decorations emblazoned on the walls. Mostly it was referred to by the phonetically identical, ‘Ivy’. Unsurprisingly enough, this was often preceded by the word, ‘Poison’. The gist of the barely-comprehensible messages was alleging a link between the IVI and the nebulous condition known as Kollik. Clearly, people never stopped looking for someone to blame for their circumstances, an arch-criminal or scapegoat. This desire to find an answer with more meaning than the mundane reality of their own inadequacy was saddening. Poor, wretched, desperate morons. Imaginative morons, but morons nonetheless.
Mind you, it was the IVI who created Praxis™, so… Bloody hell, Bromley knew he must’ve been lost in his thoughts for too long if he was beginning to give credence to these nutters. He stood up and pulled up his black combats as the automatic flush kicked in behind him. Hopefully Keeler had calmed down and was back to his usual jovial self. Bromley had made a break for the loo as quickly as possible once he realised that his friend was close to going off on one. To be fair, once Keeler was given a few minutes to regain his composure he was a good laugh again. Just try to avoid talking politics this time, Bromley reminded himself.
Just as he pulled the cubicle door open, Bromley noticed a small, perfectly-written message on the top left corner of the door. Strange, given the surroundings, that someone could put so much care into the calligraphy of such a piece of graffiti. The aggressive urgency of the words themselves were somehow anathema to the loving attention that had been given to crafting the florid lettering. The overall impression was a sense of bemusement, awe, and unease. It made him hesitate for a split second, before he strode out into the lounge once more. The words remained stuck in his head though.
‘You can’t reform profit capitalism and inhumanity. Just kick it till it breaks.’
Solidarity, brothers & sisters…★