A few years ago I didn’t feel like going home for Christmas. I wasn’t proud of how things were going in my life and I didn’t want to answer a bunch of questions. “So…what are you doing these days?”
After some badgering, my wife agreed to stay in L.A., but she refused to be cooped up in our apartment being sad. She wanted to do something. She wanted to volunteer, so we found a church that was handing out gifts and dishing turkey and mashed potatoes to the homeless. We got there early but the kitchen was already filled, so the coordinator asked Jess to hand out plates and for me to go to the parking lot to direct traffic and tell people where to line up.
I wanted to hand out toys or pumpkin pie, to see some kid’s eyes light up, but I didn’t want to complain so I stood outside and waved cars into the crowded lot. After twenty minutes, this guy in a trench coat came bounding up. He had a big smile of yellow teeth. I figured he was about to tell me how grateful and hungry he was. But then his face twisted up in anger.
“Shit, you ain’t no motherfucking Ryan Seacrest.”
He jabbed his finger in my face. “You ain’t no motherfucking Ryan Seacrest!”
I started to laugh because it was funny and scary and I giggle when I’m nervous. He kept jabbing that filthy finger.
“I mean, I’m all excited walking up, and you just some fucking nobody.”
I’ve experienced humiliation. I’ve shit my pants on magic mushrooms, popped a boner because of Viagra in a Mexican pool; I’ve had my wife’s finger jammed into my butt after the Super Bowl, and I was nearly committed for suicidal thoughts. But having a homeless man call me a fucking nobody was new cold layer of soil.
The guy said this was all bullshit. I kept waiting for him to laugh, to say he was just messing with me. But he was really pissed. I felt people staring, like I was doing something awful. I wanted to yell, “I’m just trying to help here! Fuck you, man!” But I bit my tongue. How would it look? Me bawling out this homeless man at a church on Christmas morning?
He was just crazy and amped up. I actually started feeling bad for NOT being Ryan Seacrest. If I’d worked harder in my career, if I’d been famous, this man wouldn’t be screaming. Christmas wouldn’t be ruined.
Why didn’t I just go home to see my family?
Heck, if I’d just been inside the church I could’ve offered the guy a warm roll or an iPod Shuffle as an apology for not hosting American Idol. Out here, all I could do was point him towards the line wrapping around the block.
“Oh, you motherfucker,” he muttered and shuffled off, stopping by a group of men and telling them I was a “liar” and “trying to fool poor folk.”
You think I’m tricking people? Yeah, that’s EXACTLY what’s happening. It’s a plot to rope homeless people into a free meal.
But I just stood there and pretended like I didn’t hear him calling me an asshole.
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>
Hey everyone, tonight I’ll be on Ardent Atheist discussing SCOTUS and DOMA and other wonderful acronyms (hopefully FUBAR and WTF) as well as today’s rulings on gay marriage. The show starts at 7:30 pm PST.
You can listen here:
It should be offensively fun!
about the show
Ardent Atheists Emery Emery and Heather Henderson talk with comedians, actors and friends about atheism, deism and the effects of religion on us all. Guests of the show are a mix of atheists, agnostics, deists, scientists, humanists and the occasional god-loving, scripture-quoting crusader. Discussions are deeply impassioned, mostly respectful and always funny.
In a little less than seven hours, the Supreme Court should be issuing their ruling on Proposition 8 and DOMA. I’m nervous. I don’t know how this is going to turn out. My lawyer friends seem to think they’ll strike down DOMA, but punt on Prop. 8. I hope for more. I hope that tomorrow the highest court in the land has the courage to rule in favor of love. I hope my mother will have the same freedom to marry as my father and sister. I hope teenage couples and adult couples and old couples never have to feel that their relationship is somehow less than anyone else’s.
But no matter the ruling, no matter how just or unjust it seems, no law can crush the human heart.
I haven’t been blogging much recently. After my best friend as a kid killed himself last month, I haven’t seen much point. I’d grown tired of my voice.
But tomorrow’s decision has reminded me why I started this blog in the first place. It wasn’t about me or my feelings. It was about how much I love my mom, how proud I am of her, and how humbled I am by her courage. And until she has the same rights as everyone else I hold dear, this fight doesn’t end.