I was 16 when I walked in on my friend’s mom stepping out of the shower. Like mine, his parents were teachers, so there was only one full bath for the family of four. Stridex wipes, wet friendship bracelets and dayglow scrunchies shared the vanity with mustache trimmers, wrinkle cream and empty boxes of Grecian Forumla. It was almost constantly in use. The busy schedules of the family caused them all to shower at random times throughout the day and night. I remember the mirror always being foggy, and the wood grained toilet seat perpetually damp.
So I have absolutely no excuse for walking into such a highly trafficked bathroom without knocking. I think we were in my friend’s bedroom recording an acoustic x-rated cover of “House of the Rising Sun” with lyrics that went, ”There is a twat in Santa Fe, they call the juicy one.” Don’t judge me. You were all 16 once, and when you were, you’d have thought it was just as hilarious as we did.
I remember being in a hurry. I had to pee, but there was only a certain amount of time before the dual cassette deck would eat one of the tapes while recording. I ran out of my friend’s room, down the short hallway and threw open the bathroom door.
There’s a very short period of time when someone is actually naked and visible during their shower routine. Nearly all the full nudity is spent inside the shower. Had I walked in then, perhaps she wouldn’t have even noticed. The rest of the time is generally spent wrapped in a towel or two applying lotions in front of the mirror. Between those two states, there are a few seconds where the person is stepping out of the shower to grab a towel when they are completely naked and exposed. It was during just such a vulnerable moment that the door came crashing in.
The shower curtain was fully open. She had one leg in the shower and one leg out. She was in motion. Not only did I see everything, but I saw it in a compromised and slightly awkward state. She tried to cover herself with the shower curtain, but her weight was leaning in the opposite direction causing her to flail a little and then brace herself against the wall so as not to fall. Seeing a friend’s mother nude is harrowing, but seeing her nude and on the floor after a tumble, can be a real life changer.
Out of pure instinct, I looked her up and down before I gasped and slammed the door. I stood there, frozen and panicked, trying to understand the reality of what just transpired. Do I pretend as if nothing happened? Do I apologize? Am I supposed to address it at all? Do I just walk away from the door? She was the adult, but I was the transgressor.
An hour later my friend and I were downstairs in the living room listening to Aerosmith’s “Three Mile Smile.” Fitting, I know, but I can assure you it was a total coincidence. I had told him what happened, and he had yet to make eye contact with me. I’m not sure why, but it’s ruthlessly embarrassing when you’re 16 and someone sees your mom naked. We sat on separate sides of the room staring off into space, he playing air guitar and I nervously air drumming.
I could hear his Mom coming down the stairs. She stopped on the landing, looked at me, and said, “You need to start knocking before you barge into our bathroom.” She wasn’t mad, just firm, like a teacher reprimanding a student. I said I was sorry, and that was the end of it. Everything returned back to normal pretty quickly. Sure, the image would never leave my mind, but the weirdness had at least dissipated a bit.
Then about a week later I was sitting on the toilet in their downstairs bathroom which doubled as the laundry room. My friend’s sister, who was two years older than us, barged in with a hamper full of her laundry. She didn’t even see me. I sat on the toilet completely unable to move as I watched her sort her lights and darks. I knew as soon as she turned around to leave the room, that I would be directly in her line of sight. There was no way she could miss me. I also couldn’t get up to sneak out lest she hear me, whip around, and catch me in the act of pulling up my pants. It took me a minute but I finally realized I had only one option.
I cleared my throat and meekly uttered the words, “Umm, I’m in here.” she shrieked and turned to take in the full view of her little brother’s friend taking a shit. I’ve had it both ways, and I’ll tell you that it’s far worse to be walked in on while crapping in someone else’s house than in your own. What made this situation even more unpleasant was that I had to tell her I was there. It wasn’t like she’d opened the door, said, “Oops” and closed it immediately. No, she walked in and started doing her laundry. I was left trying to figure out how to disappear or evaporate.
Later that evening, as I was having dinner with the family in relative silence my friend’s mom broke the tension and said,
“So, I hear we got even this afternoon.”
“Yea, I suppose we’re even now.” I said. Everyone fell silent again and gazed blankly into their salads.