“I pooped myself,” my wife said sheepishly.
“Really?” I giggled, laying in the driveway next to my motorcycle and a pile of tools.
“It’s not funny!” She furrowed her brow in warning.
“All right. All right.”
“It happened so fast. I thought I was done, but after I left the bathroom I suddenly needed to go again and, well, I didn’t make it.”
Elizabeth’s confession was no surprise. Pregnant women have endless problems regarding the bathroom and my wife was no different. During the third trimester as the growing baby stole space from her bladder, Elizabeth would waddle to the bathroom every twenty minutes only to emerge unrelieved because she managed only a squirt. It was an unrelenting cycle for her of discomfort and disappointment. She generally kept a sense of humor, but as time passed and the pregnancy took its toll she started losing control of her functions.
“It’s just a little crap, honey,” I said. “Don’t worry about it.”
“But it’s so embarrassing.”
“We all have accidents.”
“It’s nothing a shower and washing machine won’t fix.”
“Easy for you to say. You didn’t just soil your pants.”
I put down my wrench and looked my wife in the eyes. “It’s time I share something with you. Something that happened during my trip to Manchester.”
The English city had been ground zero for the most foul, most heinous incident ever to beset me as a grown man. It was a dark memory that sat in my closet sharing martinis with cackling skeletons.
Two years earlier I had gone to Manchester for a scientific conference. My flight departed San Francisco in the afternoon, so I spent the first half of the day at work before hopping a plane. It was sixteen hours of crowded terminals and recycled air that took me through Frankfurt, Germany before ending in England the following morning.
By the time I arrived at the hotel – a large European chain overlooking Piccadilly Gardens – I had not slept in twenty four hours. But once there, sleep was not an option. Going to bed during the day would ensure a long night awake when the city was dormant as well as a subsequent day of fighting to stay awake.
To combat the problem, a colleague from New York City who was also coming to the conference had suggested we stay awake by going to a bar. Chris was a true master at turning any functional necessity into an excuse to drink, and this was no different. He had found a way to use beer as a tool to stave off sleep.
When I called his room there was no answer, so I unpacked and shuffled emails for a few hours to keep awake. The second call still gave no answer, and with nothing else in the room to keep me awake I headed for the bar. European football was in full swing and there was bound to be sports zealots there who would drink with a drowsy American.
Ten minutes later I sat alone at a line of stools at the hotel bar. Tables throughout the place were vacant too, besides a few nicely-dressed folks who sat by themselves ignoring the game. The bar was decorated with the same neutral-tone, non-offensive crap most hotels use these days, and a neighborhood pub would have been better. Someplace with leaded-glass windows and mahogany fixtures adorned with brass patinaed by the oils of a human hand. But leaving the hotel would make meeting Chris harder, so I tucked in with the bartender and ordered a pint of Old Speckled Hen.
The first beer was good. The second better. The third divine. And after still no answer from Chris on the bartender’s phone, I ordered a fourth beer and shot of whisky to quell my annoyance at his inability to materialize.
It was a bad choice.
The rush of alcohol combined with jet lag and thirty waking hours exploded in a psychedelic buzz. My vision distorted so edges blurred. Lights were haloed in a creamy haze. Sounds oscillated between muted and tinny as a horrible numbness flooded my limbs. I watched as my hands paid the check with various British coins from my pocket spilt awkwardly on the bar. My body rose, floating through the surrounding ether.
Back in my room, the bed sat conspicuously. Crisp sheets and a fluffy quilt emitted the flowery scent of soaps used to cleanse the linens. A chocolate sat smiling on the stacked pillows. But as the bed beckoned me, a tiny voice yelled, “You can not sleep!” I rubbed my chin and thought, “Maybe I could just lay on the bed, but not sleep?” Surely the television was loaded with intriguing programs to keep me awake as I reclined for a spell.
Kicking off my shoes, I tucked under the covers. It was divine.
Channel after channel played mundane melodramas or commercials hocking unneeded crap. A group of channels finally came showing football games. One had an especially bombastic announcer that made staying awake seem plausible. The ball was kicked in and the man yelled “GOAL” for a period long enough that he had to stop and recharge his breath. This was sure to keep me awake.
As the tiny men chased the ball along the pitch, green spouts formed on the side of the television. The room evolved into a forest where trees spread to the horizon. My bed grew into a deep patch of ivy that cupped my form. Fragments of blue sky broke through the trees above leaving puddles of light here and there. It was lovely.
But the woods grew dim and my joy waned. Something was out there. Something ominous. It was invisible and noiseless, but coming. And it was angry.
I curled up in the ivy and hid. An overwhelming need to urinate soon came, but getting up to piss was out of the question. The beast would find me. Then the answer came to me – I would piss in the ivy where I lay. Why not? Ivy was a plant and plants need water. Warmth encircled my waist as the pressure released.
My body jerked upright then leaped from the bed. I stood frozen, still half asleep and buzzing from alcohol and jet lag. Something was wrong.
As a child, I had wet my bed. At first it was no different from other kids, but when it persisted to the age of six things got weird. Other kids found out and started making fun of me. Sheets had to be repeatedly washed and towels were kept by my bed for late-night accidents. It was a dreadful thing for a kid to endure. But it ended and I got on with life. I managed to go without incident for thirty years, even making it through the intoxicated years of adolescence. But at thirty seven years of age, my streak was broken.
The bed came into focus and there in the middle was a massive yellow circle. I had just pissed my bed.
First came disbelief. Then shame as I frantically began stripping the bed, throwing the wet linens in the corner. Reaching the bare mattress revealed that it too was soaked. Fearful the piss might have gone through to the box spring, I pulled the mattress off the bed and stood it against the wall. The box spring was dry. Thank God for small favors.
I went to the bathroom and with my clothes on took a Silkwood shower. Scalding water ran freely over my body as I used two hotel shampoo bottles and a bar of soap to scrub my clothes. After cleaning and hanging them over the curtain rod, I turned attention to my skin. Lathering twice finally removed the film of shame.
Steam billowed from the bathroom as I walked naked to the hotel telephone. “Can you please send new bed linens up to room 317?”
The concierge must have had a computer with my information because he replied, “Of course, Mr. Moore. Is there something wrong with the room?”
“The room’s fine. I just spilled a drink on the bed.”
“Would you like us to clean it for you?”
“No! I’ll do it. Please just send up the sheets.”
“Yes, Mr. Moore. They will be up shortly.”
I got the hotel hairdryer from the bathroom and began blowing the mattress standing against the wall using the highest heat setting. The room warmed as the hairdryer ran and soon smelled like an uncleaned port-o-john in August. Still deep in a haze, I closed my eyes and did my work.
A light thumping came that sounded as if it was from the adjacent room. Once it stopped, I returned my attention to drying the mattress. But after a bit the thumping came again. Still tripping on alcohol and jetlag, I stupidly looked at the wall.
The door opened and man’s head poked through as he said, “Mr. Moore, I have your–”
His eyes surveyed the room. He took in the piss-laden sheets piled in the corner. The wet mattress leaning against the wall. And, finally, the naked man staring dumbly at him with a hair dryer screaming on full blast. Without another word, he backed out and closed the door.
“Hold on!” I bellowed, tumbling towards the door, not bothering to cover myself. I grabbed the soiled sheets, stopping at the nightstand to take a twenty-pound note from my wallet. Opening the door, I took the clean, folded sheets from the man then handed him the balled-up, soiled sheets with the bill resting on top.
The man looked down, then back up and said in a tone as dry as British gin, “Thank you, Mr. Moore.”
Elizabeth stared at me in shock. “That’s horrible.”
“But at least your accident was here,” I said. “And it’s just between you and me.”
“Fair point,” she replied. “I’m still upset.”
“I feel like I’m falling apart. I know I’m pregnant, but the older I get the more I’m sore. The more I’m tired. And the more I can’t hold my…stuff.”
“We’re getting older. Hell, neither of us can sleep through the night anymore without getting up at least once to piss.”
“Does that mean we’re falling apart?”
“Yup. And it’s gonna get worse each year. Just like this thing,” I said pointing at the old motorcycle beside me.
Elizabeth eyed my bike with suspect. For years it had leaked oil from a multitude of places. I tried various combinations of gaskets and sealants to stem the flow, but nothing worked. Elizabeth quietly abided my bitching, listening to endless diatribes on each leak. All but one.
Amidst the myriad of leaks, the sprocket seal on the main drive shaft of the engine began dripping. The shaft transferred the motion of the pistons to the transmission, so the seal was an important one to fix. The first time I replaced the seal as the manual required. It still leaked. The second time I did the same except with a healthy coating of high-temperature silicone sealant applied before pressing the seal into the motor case. It still leaked. The third time I tried an “old tractor secret” from a fellow at work. He said with great confidence the leak would stop if I used two seals, one in the normal orientation and one backward. I did and it leaked worse than even. Ready to throw in the towel, I replaced the seal one last time in the regular manner. It leaked. Cursing the old bike, I vowed never to change the seal again. I gave up, accepting the drive shaft would leak.
But a few weeks later something unusual happened – it stopped. Normally seals work for a period, then begin leaking from wear or breakage. But this one did the opposite. As I continued to fight all the other leaks, this one stopped as soon as I let go of my frustration and accepted it. I stopped trying to control this one thing and the old bike to made it right.
“Don’t ever compare me to one of your bikes again.” Elizabeth commanded.
“What? You don’t like being called a greasy old hog?”
“You better watch what you say or I’ll come down there and–”
“Not with that belly you won’t.”
She stared at me with eyes narrowed. Her face softened and she said, “I don’t want to get old.”
“You can’t stop it.”
“And I don’t want to fall apart.”
“It’s gonna happen.”
“What do we do?”
“Just go with it. Enjoy life.”
“That’s easy for you to say. You didn’t just crap yourself.”
“No I did not.”
“And your clothes still fit!”
“Yes they do.”
She stood over me with her hands on her hips. Her elbows pointed to each side of her rotund belly making her look like a giant tea pot.
“I’m done with this conversation,” Elizabeth said. “There’s stuff I need to finish.” She shambled towards the house, but before disappearing through the front door added without looking back, “Before I get old and fall apart.”
Still laying next to my motorcycle, I picked my wrench back up and mumbled, “At least we’ll do it together.”