I was standing on the corner of fifty-seventh and sixth with my friend C. We’d spent the better part of the day together, filling our time with indulgent food, engaging art and girly pampering. The sun was just starting to dip between the buildings, casting slender strips of light across the cluttered sidewalks. We casually stood still as cabs and people swirled around us.
“Seriously, you don’t have to wait with me,” C said as we tucked against the entrance to a restaurant.
“Yeah, I know that, dorkus. I’ll hang until your cousin comes. It isn’t like I have a schedule to keep. My only stop before heading to the train is Stage to fetch some corned beef for my dad. Easy enough and on the way.”
I shifted my weight between my tired feet. I passed my overstuffed handbag from hand to hand. And we chatted. Just easy conversation to help pass the last bit of time we had left together.
“Wow, I didn’t realize how hungry I was,” C confessed as she placed an open palm on her stomach. “You hungry?”
“Nope. I have to poop,” I admitted while focusing on a tourist teetering in scuffed up, three inch, red, ankle boots.
“You really need to get past that,” C instructed.
The that she was talking about was my pooh issues. More specifically, my public pooh issues. I know it’s human. I know we all do it. I just don’t like doing it within reach of others. C knows this firsthand. Because back when I dated Jake on the Upper East Side, I used to only pooh at Starbucks one block over. Yes, I preferred hovering over public porcelain than sitting bare bummed on his clean and private toilet. There were just too many what-if scenarios. Noise, smell or the dreaded combination of noise with smell. Okay, just writing that sentence made me anxious.
Anyway, C knew about all of this because one day over fluffy eggs and toasted rye at EJ's I confessed. After almost shooting orange juice out her nose, she gathered her thoughts. She tried her best to convince me to loosen up. To just forget about it all. Then she jokingly suggested using her place as my Manhattan pooh escape. I draw the ridiculous line at catching a cross town bus solely for the sake of going to the bathroom.
Eight months into the my relationship with Jake, C called his apartment to confirm our Sunday plans for brunch. He told her I wasn’t there. That I’d run out for coffee but that he’d tell me to call her when I returned. When I got back, tall skim latte in hand, Jake confronted me. He wanted to know why when upon relaying my whereabouts C busted into a fit of laughter. And that was it. I confessed. He took my trembling hand in his, led me to the stark white bathroom halfway down the hall leading to his bedroom, held up the tattered book of matches that always sat on the toilet and told me to stop being a freak. We broke up a month later.
“I can’t help it,” I said to C as she checked her watch and peered around the corner. “I would seriously consider crawling out a three story window if I thought a beau heard me fart.”
“Wait, are you saying you’ve never pooped during your travels with what’s-his-name? Please, for the love of God, tell me your Starbucks habit doesn’t span beyond metro New York.”
“No. But this last trip? As we watched a movie in our room, I strategically crossed my legs and clenched my ass until we were a good fifteen minutes in and just as a good chase scene started, I edged toward the bathroom.”
C remained silent, walking the fine line of utter disbelief and uncontrollable laughter.
“And let me tell you,” I continued. “I just about died when he offered to pause the movie. Pause means silence. Pause means noise. Pause means I can’t poop,” I said, my excited voice suddenly drifting off to silence. “Yeah, I need help.”