I’ve never taken a normal poop in a public restroom.
I probably never will.
I’m terrified of germs.
I don’t care if God says all I have to do is take a regular doodie at Denny’s to save my seat in heaven, I’ll be standing outside the pearly gates with shit in my pants.
I’m not saying I’ll never, ever take a dump in a communal commode; I’m saying if I do, it won’t be “normal.” It’ll be rushed, sweaty, panicked, and traumatic.
I know I’m not alone.
No one strolls into a Chili’s and kicks back for leisurely plop.
You’re in that back room because you’ve run out of options. It was either soil yourself or sit in a stall while poop particles float around your head like some septic snow globe.
Yes, I realize there are worse places to make. You could pinch one off in poison ivy or get the squirts in Calcutta.
I mean, in all likelihood, at this very moment, thousands of people dying of diarrhea.
In this golden age of prosperity and medical breakthroughs, half the world is one fish taco away from shitting out a soul.
So yes, I know that complaining/whining about my fear of public restrooms is, as my father-in-law would say, “A high-class problem.”
Still, if you counted up the time I’ve spent worrying about toilets and stalls, creating excuses to stay in because my tummy’s feeling wonky or just sweating in some restaurant booth afraid to get up, I’ve lost years.
My friends think it’s hysterical. Once at a concert, they locked me in a Port-o-Potty and tied it shut with a rope. I still have nightmares.
But I don’t blame them. It was really funny. I got so flustered I started stutter-swearing. “F-f-f-ucking l-let me out, d-d-dickheads.”
But until two nights ago, I’d never really examined the genesis of my phobia. I hadn’t a clue where it all began. Then Emery Emery (host of Ardent Atheist) helped me pinpoint the moment.
I was in first grade.
My mom had taken my sister and me to the park for a picnic. We’d invited our neighbor Loretta and her daughter, Tabby, to come along. I had a crush on Tabby. She was two years older and she always wore these bright blue overalls. She could blow bubbles the size of my head with her Big League Chew, and she rode a bike better than anyone on the block. She could pop wheelies.
Anyway, that afternoon, mom set us up under a tree, and we ate PB&Js. I scarfed down three to show off for Tabby. She didn’t care. She just wanted to hit the slide behind the baseball diamond. I asked if I could go, and my mom said yes. “But be careful. That thing’s not sturdy.”
“I will,” I said. I’d never been to this particular park, but I wasn’t worried. It was a slide. How dangerous could it be?
Tabby tore off over the hill. I tried to keep up, but my abnormally large, unwieldy feet made it seem like I was running in marshmallow fluff.
Tabby was halfway up the ladder when I saw the slide. Thirty feet tall. Almost straight down. The sun bounced off the tin and blinded me good. I scurried into the shade.
Tabby got to the top and told me to watch. She looked like one of those daredevils that jump into baby pools with only an inch of water.
“Here goes!” Tabby kicked her legs forward and flew down like a comet. Her feet hit the ground and she kept going, running across the field, finally turning back. “Alright, your turn.”
“Yeah…” I stared up the ladder, gulped and grabbed the metal bars. They were hot and sticky. I felt Tabby’s eyes and started climbing. I focused on the rungs, tried not to look down. My stomach was tumbling like tennis shoes in a dryer.
A breeze hit my face, and I realized I’d reached the top. My palms were sweating like crazy. I almost lost my grip.
“Don’t let your legs touch the metal!” Tabby yelled through her cupped hands. “It’s hot as hell.”
I looked down. Everything tunneled. Right to Tabby. She was so tiny, so far away. But all I had to do was sit and let gravity take me to her.
I just had to get my feet under me.
Metal creaked. Everything swayed. My mom was right, this wasn’t sturdy at all. The slide was dented, warped, and less than two feet wide. One lean and I’d topple over, snap my spine like a carrot.
Sweat trickled down my forehead, plopped on the tin and sizzled. I wondered if that’s what my skin would sound like on the way down.
“Come on, chicken shit!” Tabby yelled.
I had no concept of time. It felt like I’d been up here for days. I needed to get this over with. I needed to look cool. I took a breath, then lowered myself when—
My stomach burbled.
I knew that feeling. I shot up quick, stood tall. My mouth watered as the metal frame creaked. Another little sway.
Why did I eat all those sandwiches?
And why did I think Tabby would be impressed?
My bony knees clacked into each other.
My butthole pulsed. Clench…release…clench…
Please, no, no, no…
I squeezed my cheeks, squeezed so hard my whole body shook, but I couldn’t hold it.
It started gushing. I clenched more, saw the bathrooms past the treeline. Only a hundred yards, maybe less.
Tabby blocked the sun from her eyes. “What’s wrong with you?”
I breathed through my nose, tried to will it all away, but the barbarians were at the gate.
My anus tried, but he couldn’t hold.
A wet, hot clump squished into my underwear.
I’d been breached.
Shit cascaded down legs, shorts, and socks.
I watched it flow over my laces and stream down the slide like microwaved ice cream.
Tabby’s face squinched up with disgust.
“Sorry…” I said as my foulness rolled down like a sad, stinky avalanche.
I couldn’t look anymore. I started back down the ladder, but I slipped. The mess had spilled backwards. It was dripping down the rungs, slicking them so there was no way to get footing.
That’s when I realized…there was only one direction to go.
“D-don’t l-look,” I stammered.
Tabby shook her head and turned. I crouched, stretched my legs. My shoes sloshed through the filth.
And I saw Tabby peek. I started to tell her to stop, but it didn’t matter. She’d already seen too much.
I just hoped it’d be over quickly, that I’d be off this stupid thing so we could go home.
I shoved off but hardly moved. The shit was congealing in the heat. I had to grab the sides and scooch. Shit splattered in these little arcs like when a car hits a puddle.
Finally, I got to the end and stood up, dripping and stained. I was crying. Tabby just stood there in horror.
“Please don’t tell anyone,” I said.
Tabby and I didn’t go to the same school, so I have no idea if she broke her promise, but I don’t see how a person could keep a story like that in.
I just hope she has forgotten.
I know I never will. My only prayer is Alzheimer’s. Maybe then I’ll be able to poop at Applebee’s.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/dinglemunch/325663678/”>stanleykost</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>