On Saturday, Colin and I went to dinner at his boss’s apartment. Perhaps “boss” is too formal, but Anthony is the researcher here who’s welcomed Colin into his lab for the year. They’ve known each other for ages and get along as friends, despite Anthony being quite a bit older.
The meal began as all proper French meals do – with a champagne aperitif – before moving on to the main course of spicy quail tajine and finishing with a selection of cheeses and a few bites of local ice cream. C’était parfait.
As French meals do, this one lasted for hours and only ended when Colin and I looked at the time and realized we still had a long walk home. While Colin finished his after-dinner rum, I excused myself to use the toilet.
To note: I wrote “toilet” and not “bathroom” because, in Anthony’s apartment, the toilet is in a small room off the building’s main hallway, shared among several tenants. This is not a terribly unusual arrangement, although I personally can’t imagine it working for me.
But anyway, Anthony’s partner Anne-Claire showed me to the toilet room, handed me the key to lock it when I was finished, and then, just before leaving, pointed out one last thing:
“Be careful with the handle,” she said, pointing to the metal pin that you use to slide the latch into the keyhole when you’re inside. “It is not attached.” She pulled it out of the door, where it should have been welded to the rest of the latch, and held it up to demonstrate. We laughed, and I thanked her for letting me know.
When I had finished, I carefully inserted the metal key into the lock and began to pull the door shut. No sooner had I closed the door, before I’d even had a chance to turn the key, than I heard an unfortunate little clink.
I knew exactly what it was. That darn little pin had fallen off. I opened the door and knelt down to find it. As my hands moved over the floor tiles, though, a devastating realization set in. “No no no no no,” I breathed, searching in vain over the tiles, knowing all the time where I’d find the pin.
When I finally worked up the courage to look, there it was, unsurprisingly, at the bottom of the toilet bowl.
At that moment, my mind raced. I had two options: the first and seemingly best was simply to flee, pretending that I knew nothing and hoping that Anthony and Anne-Claire would assume one of the other tenants was responsible for the missing pin. “They would never know!” I told myself, my eyes wide and panicky.
Option two, which was more horrifying but admittedly more mature, was to reach into the toilet and retrieve the pin.
I hesitated for what felt like forever, not sure if I really wanted to be an adult in this situation.
But then, deciding that it’d be worse to jeopardize Colin’s relationship with his boss, I reached in and grabbed the piece of metal and jammed it back into the latch with all the force of my embarrassment. And then I left the door open, hurried back to the apartment, and handed Anne-Claire the key. “I’m sorry,” I said, “I couldn’t quite figure out the lock. Could you shut it for me?”