'Can you spare a square?'

Meg Duncan is a columnist for the Courier-Post
Meg Duncan
Courier-Post Columnist
Posted: May. 8, 2019 4:57 pm

Can you spare a square?”

It was mid-movie and I sat there wishing I hadn't drank all that mountain dew. I finally found a lull in the plot, got up and said, "excuse me!" and "so sorry!" to about 15 pairs of knees.

Moments later I sat in relief and I heard a little cough in the neighboring stall. Then a small voice.

"Um. Excuse me. Hello?"

It was an odd time for a conversation, but I didn't want to be rude.


"Well. I was just wondering. Can you spare a square?"

I was kind of honored, and happy to help out in such a perilous situation. Until I reached for the toilet paper roll.

Two squares.

What to do? Risk my own cleaning experience to better hers? I didn't even know her — and I had at least another hour to sit comfortably in my seat.

This was the second time in my life I’d sat with a bathroom dilemma.

Eighth grade.

I sat there in the middle school stall talking the Jesus — which I did a lot there. Bathroom pep talks were a thing for for us, because I was a social wreck at school and needed Jesus to get through the day.

That’s actually no different from now — even the hiding in the bathroom part.

On that particular day, though, I was praying that God would just take a certain group of girls out of my life. I wanted them to forget that I existed.

Maybe if they just didn’t see my face, they wouldn’t write ugly on my paper when I got up to throw something away.

Maybe if they didn’t see my clothes, they wouldn’t laugh because of the wrinkles or the dog hair that I always ended up with before going out the door — because Smokey always had to have at least 15 hugs before I left for the day.

Maybe, like on that day, if they didn’t notice me changing beside them in the gym locker room, they wouldn’t hold their noses and run around singing, “Somebody stinks! I’m going to throw up!”

So I sat in the bathroom asking Jesus to just make me disappear, because it seemed easier — yet there I was still existing and becoming later to class by the second.

As I got up from my porcelain prayer pot, I heard a sniffle. Cracking the stall door, I looked out and saw one of the girls from that very group I was just praying out of my life right smack in front of the doorway — crying at the mirror.

I looked at her. She looked at me.

Are you ok?”

She tried to play it off for a moment, but she busted into heaving sobs.

Just people being dumb,” she said after wiping mascara from her face. “I’m fine.”

I nodded.

I’m really sorry. People are mean sometimes. I hope you have a better day.”

And we stood there together and shared a moment.

That was our last conversation to date. Her friends were all too aware of my existence for the rest of the years I was in school, but after that, she always stayed back when they ganged up on me.

Now, I sat in the bathroom stall with feet shuffling beside me as I debated grabbing both squares, hurrying through the wiping process and running.

But her Dr. Scholl's caught my eye. They looked a little like my granny used to wear and beside my pair of sweater boots, I felt an odd little bond.

I bet it took a lot of courage to call out for help, and she was probably there with her grandkids. Maybe they were sitting all alone in the theater while I debated whether to spare a square to their sweet granny.

So I quickly tore one off for me and handed the other to her — explaining there was only one to spare. And she thanked me like she owed me her life.

Awww. Shucks. It was nothing. But I felt kind of like a hero in some odd way. Then I took care of myself, washed my hands, and hurriedly went along my face without ever seeing her face.

But every time I see a pair of Dr. Scholl's, I wonder if we shared a square.

In Case You Missed It

Robert "Bob" Powell, 87, of Palmyra, Mo., passed away Thursday, July 9, 2020, surrounded by his family at his home in Palmyra. A Mass of Christian burial with full military rites by Boots-Dickson American Legion No. 174 will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday, July 14, 2020, at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Palmyra, with burial at St. Joseph Cemetery in Palmyra. Visitation will be from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, July 13, 2020, at Lewis Brothers Funeral Chapel in Palmyra, with a prayer service at 7 p.m.