I clicked my way through the Chinese restaurant’s main dining room, scanning the gleaming wood façade that so perfectly echoes old Shanghai. The tables were mostly empty, with my party of two seated opposite a family group of grandparents and little girls. I was alone in the restroom for a few minutes and was slipping my purse back over my shoulder and unlocking the stall door when I saw teeny shoes edge by. The door to the handicap stall slapped shut, the metal bar slid in place, and the girl did her business while I washed up.
As I pulled towels from the dispenser, the door opened again and in came another small-shoed girl. She couldn’t have been much beyond the third grade—eight or so, I reasoned.
“Marie? Marie!” She wasn’t saying the name loudly, but her high-pitched voice ricocheted off the room’s tiled walls and high ceiling. “Are you in here? I know you are!”
The entreaty was repeated and after a pause, the little girl in the corner stall answered. Her voice came low and annoyed.
“Annie,” she said. I could envision her rolling her eyes as she drew out the syllables of her friend’s name. “It’s not polite to talk to other people when they’re using the bathroom.”
The little girl caught my eye for a moment before she walked herself into a stall, locked the door, and dropped trou. “Anyway,” she began, “did you try that thing PopPop was eating? It looked disgusting!”