To have an Achilles’ Heal is inevitable.
To have a laundry list of Achilles’ Heals is inevitably human.
For me, my metal weaknesses include and are not limited to a terrible short term memory, adult ADD (self diagnosed), anxiety about existential things out of my control, and never saying ‘no’ quite enough.
Physically, I’m going bald.
I’ve been struck with a bout of stress induced alopecia (my beard resembles patchy mange). And my longest running, and the most dire ill to my existence, is the unfortunate circumstance of an over active bowel.
Basically, when its time, its time…
It probably doesn’t help that I drink a pot of coffee a day. The diuretic pushes everything out. Quick.
Beyond that, being a strict vegetarian for 17 years speeds things up. Eating all that ruffage, your body breaking down piles of plant matter and forcing it to eject.
I’m shit out of luck either way. Pun intended. My diet/habits aren’t changing anytime soon.
And, it seems that as I get older the situation just gets worse.
My wife and I share a euphemism. When announced, the only, thankfully large, bathroom in our house is immediately limited to single occupancy. If she is inside, cutting her finger nails, brushing her teeth, she knows to exit fast.
‘I gotta’ rev up like a deuce.’
Our safe word.
It started as a joke.
More recently it’s blurted as an expletive: a warning.
A warning, in essence, to stay out and away.
Considering I’m constantly pedaling through the city, I’ve got emergency spots hidden in just about every quadrant.
It’s a mental list of easily accessible public/private bathrooms that are seldomly used.
I can’t wait in a line, I just can’t spare the time.
Or for dire emergencies, a host of less convenient locales:
Abandoned lots with plenty of unkept foliage for camoflage,
and numerous secret spots along the river where no one, not even boaters, can spot me.
When its time, I have to consider a combination of geography, timing, and how much energy I need to exert to get from here to there across the cityscape.
So far, with plenty of planned emergency routes, accidents have been avoided.
Initially, It hit me in class. 7th grade.
Ms. Constatine wouldn’t grant me a hall pass.
So I held it. Curled over in one of those industrial, iron-curtain-like work chairs.
I held it, tight, for 50 minutes.
And then the bell rang.
With my jean jacket and matching denim book bag, I sprinted out of class and down the hall to the loo. Rushing in, it seemed that every kid from our floor was inside. Ten classrooms worth. Hanging. Shit talking. The ones with the most gall smoking cigarettes in the corner, wafting their exhalations out of the louvered windows.
Going down the line of stalls, I grabbed each of the handles.
One, two: locked.
The third, missing a latch.
The fourth, wide open.
Toilet paper was piled a foot high in the commode. The martian green tile floors wet from God knows what.
I shut the door behind me, and with the scraps left over on the cardboard tube, I persisted to clean up the scene as best I could.
Finally, I flushed the toilet. It wasn’t until third pull that the pile of waste paper went down.
Planting my torso on the stool, the teen-aged, primeval rage climaxed outside the stall. Their voices, a cacophonous growl as water logged, toilet paper balls cascaded over the bathroom door.
I was hit. My thigh. The crown of my head. The rusty water dripping over my exposed skin.
This was their attempt at insult.
My punishment for committing personal business, for committing what was taboo.
To sink so low as to have to use the school shitter?
It was uncool, it was uncivilized.
I stopped eating breakfast. Eating anything that early could adversely affect the forty five minute bus ride to school.
And I knew the bus wasn’t stopping under any circumstances.
I stopped eating lunch.
Instead, each day, I spent $.90 on two cartons of chocolate milk.
My rationale: no solids going in, no solids coming out.
And after a while, during the school week, I just stopped eating.
Problem solved I thought.
Until my digestion went haywire. My situation exacerbated: liquids only, churning inside my gut, failing to properly digest.
The problem I so desperately tried to solve, made exponentially worse.
And once again I found myself, in pain, back inside the miasmal bathroom, huddled over the commode in fear.
By high school I had learned to be a decent student. And by being a decent student, instructors preserved my inalienable rights. Mainly, the one needed to get to the boys room in time.
Things were under control, and with control comes the confidence I needed to become social, to meet friends, and most importantly, to meet girls.
I tried to break into the dating scene.
I had noticed her for awhile. She sat at the back of the bus. Quiet.
I liked her solemn eccentricities.
Beyond that, her dark hair, extremely thin frame, and dark eyes.
One afternoon I decided to get off at her bus stop.
Jill was her name.
She liked reading and music.
She went to church on Sundays.
I liked her.
After a couple weeks of innocuous courtship, Jill invited me over to her house.
It was dark out, a cold front had raked across the state.
I pulled on my grass green hoodie and started to walk five blocks to her front door.
Out of nervousness my stomach began to creak. Things churned and sputtered as I walked past a dozen houses to get to hers.
At her front door I knocked. A minute seemed an hour, the anticipation, the nervousness tied my innards in knots.
The deadbolt unlocked, and as she opened, my bowels felt like they had dropped.
‘Jill, I forgot something.’
Unable to come up with a concrete, legitimate excuse, I quickly walked away.
‘What?’ She hollered.
Keeping my cool, I waved, ‘I’ll be back in just a second.’
Half way down her road I picked up my pace. Before I knew it I was sprinting full speed.
Breaking a sweat, I had passed a dozen houses.
Every muscle in my body clenched tight, holding everything in that so desperately wanted to escape.
Until I just couldn’t hold anymore.
I ran into a corner lot.
In it was a house, with a long winding driveway skirted by a half dozen well pruned bushes. Each bush, prime enough for some sort of cover.
I fumbled with my belt, finally unbuckling it, and squatted as the hateful pain drained itself.
Lightheaded, I was left vulnerable to the elements.
Vulnerable, when the owner of the house walked up his driveway, a dog beside him, and found me, hunched over, relieving myself in his front yard.
He stopped. His dog winced.
And we made eye contact.
Naked from the waist down, freezing in the chill night air, I had no alibi, no code word to excuse myself.
Exposed to my lifelong existential fear, I was caught, revving up like a deuce.