Buzzing July lunchtime. It is getting so hot the back of my thighs stick to the seat. I miss pause-glacial winter, I miss slap-nasty rain, I miss whatever doesn’t make the insects come out and cause my brain to feel like it will melt and sidle down my neck, catching on my ribs and making me forget whole periods of my life and the names of common zoo animals.
I am sitting in a Pret with my new colleague Lisa. Lisa is maybe two or three years younger than me. She is slight and wiry, a mousy atom of a person. She has a sharp, pretty face and bitten-down nails. She has chosen a three-storey calorific blockbuster of a BLT and I have opted for a “seasonal selection” sandwich. Two bites in and I regret my choice. It is the middle of the week and I am sweating and I have food envy and I am a novelty-cuckold. A dribble of wasabi mayo escapes onto my body con skirt. Now I have a suspicious stain on my body con skirt.
I’m worried about my health, says Lisa.
Woah there sister, I don’t care and I hardly know you, I think, but on my face I affix a concerned expression.
Why is that, I ask.
I know we are eating, says Lisa, but.
She leans in.
Lately, when I urinate, my pee is, my pee is golden.
Uh, everyone’s pee is golden.
No, it is gold. It glitters and everything.
No, I’m not kidding, Lisa demurs. She tells me that when she looks in the toilet bowl there is a liquid in it the colour of fine spun manuka honey, of overpriced salon blonde (Lisa and I are brunette and dyed auburn respectively)- Academy Award hued, iridescent, glimmering piss.
With gold flecks and everything, says Lisa.
That is so weird.
Have you seen a doctor?
I have. I sent in a sample. The doctor said the test results were all normal, and by the time I had sent the sample in it looked dull and ordinary, just like normal urine, but trust me, it looks amazing when it is fresh. Really beautiful.
This is a really odd conversation.
I know. I’m sorry. I just had to tell someone.
Why did you have to tell me, I think. I consider Lisa. I consider her brown eyes, her gray nail polish, her chiffon blouse, and the crumbs strewn before her on the table.
I have only known, or barely known, this small, strange person for two weeks. Before that she folded neatly into the ether of unimaginable existence, living and breathing and drinking and crankily commuting around this harebrained, labyrinthine, people-choked city.
For at least eight hours a day, we sit opposite each other in an open-plan office. We online window-shop and read the Daily Mail website in minimized windows, we nod along in team meetings, and daydream separately by the kettle. But for the most part we drain our energy over desks of cheerful fake wood using in-house operating systems to analyze Risk.
I have seen Lisa more than I have seen my dying father. I have seen Lisa more than I have seen my friends. I have seen Lisa more than I have seen my boyfriend, who seems increasingly bored and disinterested, drifting away on an i-Calendar of overlapping schedules and chronic fatigue, terse texts and football matches.
I wonder if Lisa’s life is a bare shelf bereft of boyfriends or otherwise, people closer to her and/or more suitably appropriate to discuss her urine with. I feel sorry for her and wonder if she has several screws loose. I remember Tim, my colleague who interviewed her, saying she was totally impressive, switched on, on the ball, on the money, that one, he said. I wonder if he said all that because he didn’t really know what he was talking about/ never knows what he is talking about, and he was tired of interviewing people near the end of the day, and she was attractive.
I feel spiky and tired, and like I will wilt. Lisa is looking at me with a concerned expression.
There’s a bit of mayo on your skirt, she says. She puts some water on a napkin and hands it to me. I dab at the stain but it only makes it worse.
I’m sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable, Lisa says. I just really wanted to tell someone.
That’s okay, I reply. Maybe you pee gold because you are a really good person.
Lisa doesn’t seem to understand it is a joke and looks so stricken that she might cry if you gave her ten minutes, and froze that moment.
I took a picture, as evidence, Lisa says, glowing with encouragement, with cloying earnestness. I put down my sandwich. It is disgusting anyway, £4.50 of cosmopolitan disgustingness. Lisa fiddles around with the screen, scrolls through and hands me her phone.
I look at the screen, a high-res Android screen. I tilt my head sideways, this way and that, like a caricature of someone in a French gallery, the Louvre perhaps. The Mona Lisa! Behold! Ancient oil paints, and gilded frames. Halogen glow, no-glare, pixels and pixels.
It is a clear shot of a toilet bowl, white ceramic, containing a pale yellowish liquid. Nothing out of the ordinary; nothing too revolting. I could have seen worse, I have seen worse. I look at Lisa. Her small face is a cryptic, hopeful moon. In ten minutes we will need to cross the green, scan our cards in, take the elevator up to the fifth-storey office.
You’re right, I say, smiling slightly, holding on to her phone. That’s really something.
Sharlene Teo is a recipient of the David TK Wong Fellowship and Sozopol Fiction Seminars Fellowship. Her work has appeared in places such as Esquire, Eunoia Review, Amelia’s Magazine and Quarterly Literary Review Singapore. She is working on her first novel.