ALL IS WELL. UNTIL IT ISN’T.
6:50 pm: Ten steps from the restaurant I feel a violent shift in my gut. The thirteen-block walk to my car seems manageable despite the uneasiness growing in my pelvic region, so I begin my trek.
6:51 pm: With each step comes more discomfort; a beastly churning rises from deep within.
6:52 pm: Like a cold fog rolling over the harbour comes the realization that I am going to poop my pants in the middle of a busy downtown street.
6:53 pm: No. I’m a graduate of the National Fucking Ballet School. This isn’t happening.
CROSSING THE THRESHOLD.
6:54 pm: This is happening.
6:55 pm: Are my bowels loosening? Is that a thing? My insides are coming undone. I crouch on the sidewalk and pretend to tie my shoes; they have no laces. This cramping, this urgency can mean only one thing: explosive diarrhea.
6:56 pm: I struggle to stand. My innards want out and I don’t think they are going to take no for an answer. I am sweating profusely with the effort of keeping my ass curtains closed. I can hardly walk now, I am shuffling. Women pass me with bouncing ponytails and yoga mats tucked under their arms. They walk confidently with wide strides. I continue inching forward as I tighten the grip on my tush.
6:57 pm: Shooting pain is accompanied by panic. What happens when I get to the car? I’ll have to sit in my own filth. My pants will be destroyed, of course — this is a Total Blowout situation. What will we tell people at the car dealership? Can you just order a new seat with no explanation? How much do car seats even cost?
6:58 pm: This is bogus! The lack parking in this city needs to be addressed. One shouldn’t have to crawl a mile to one’s car when in the throes of gut wrenching pain.
6:59 pm: I approach the public library, but know that it’s closed. Thank you, budgetary cuts. I stand on the steps, double checking the hours posted by the door. I’m hit by a ghastly odour. The Halifax Harbour? No. I’m choking on my own warning shot.
7:00 pm: Why aren’t there any trees or large shrubs to hide behind in this goddamned city? I shall write a strongly worded letter in support of green space when I get home.
7:01 pm: I would give anything for a toilet right now — literally anything. Please, God, don’t let me barf in my pants right here in the middle of the street. I will be a better person from now on if you save me from this imminent and cataclysmic rupture.
7:02 pm: I don’t think I can be a better person. This situation has become horrifying on many levels.
BELLY OF THE WHALE.
7:03 pm: I seriously consider yanking my pants down to pop a squat. Instead, I keep my pants secured around my waist, kneel and pretend to read something very important on my phone. My body is rigid with tension. Except for my wriggling digestive organs; they are bouncing around like a dog on a trampoline.
7:04 pm: Everything I see has become a potential toilet: large planters, mailboxes, garbage cans — anything to save me from this ungodly torture. I am no longer worried about catching herpes.
7:05 pm: Salvation! I peer through the window of a Tim Hortons, feeling hopeful until I remember that you have to ask for a key to use the bathroom. The bathroom located right next to the massive lineup at the cash register. No better than a sidewalk toilet, I decide, for at least when the deed is done on the street I can flee. In there I’d have to stop to return the key.
7:06 pm: I place my hands on the coffee shop window, trying to muster the strength to carry on. I slow my breath and tell myself that everything will be okay, but find it difficult to be calm knowing that my intestines have forsaken me. I imagine what it will be like to walk the rest of the way to my car with poop sliding down my legs; soiled, wet and embarrassed by the betrayal of my insides.
7:07 pm: I will get a sex change and move to Europe.
7:08 pm: So much for the new car smell.
7:09 pm: The mall! There are public washrooms on the lower level! I’ve been there a million times. There are what? A dozen stalls down there? Yes, at least. And in one of those far-off stalls lies a chance of preserving my dignity.
7:12 pm: I’m legitimately panicked as I squirm my way up the length of the mall, but the excitement of finally reaching a toilet and purging myself of the demon within has lengthened each stride by at least three inches. I try to stop thinking about the sweet release awaiting me because it — the stuff trying to get out of me — now feels a lot like a horse peeking out of a barn. I am crowning.
7:14 pm: The washrooms are closed for renovations. Crestfallen, my eyes begin to water. I catch a glimpse of my reflection in a shop window. Not only do I look like death, I’m actually looking forward to it.
7:16 pm: I slowly make my way out of the mall. In my regular life, when I’m not a poop cannon about to annihilate a group of innocents on a busy street, I’m an empathetic person. I would be a great comfort any one of my friends in the same situation. “Know what?” I’d say, “We’re going to laugh about this one day. No, no, trust me. This kind of thing can happen to anyone.”
7:20 pm: Back on the street I accept that there are no other viable options. I reflect on my life until now. It has been good. Really good. I guess I had this coming.
7:22 pm: There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.
7:23 pm: Shuffle forward. Pretend to tie invisible shoe laces. Take a deep breath. Not too deep! Stand. Repeat.
7:26 pm: I can see my car. Unless I’m hallucinating? Please don’t let this be a dream because I’m about to fertilize the lawn in front of this seniors complex and the defecation anticipation has become somewhat liberating.
7:27 pm: No. Not when I’m this close. I. Will. Go. On.
7:29 pm: I reach for the handle of the car door. I’m sweating like a farm animal, but as I pull the door open the cramping in my colon suddenly ceases. I slowly climb into the car, hands shaking, breath shallow. Unable to comprehend this abrupt end to the poop standoff, I wonder if I have actually pooped my pants but am now too numb to feel it. Poop paralysis, if you will. I adjust my position in the seat. There is no squishing, no whoopsie poopsie. I put the key in the ignition and drive home.
Seven months later I return to the same restaurant and order the same dish of roasted potatoes sautéed in cream sauce, topped with chopped bacon, corn, and seven different cheeses. As I leave the eatery, I feel the same violent shift in my gut as I did on that fateful night. But I’m not worried. I have battled this beast and my bowels have proven themselves loyal and strong. I begin the 1.2 km walk back to my car.