Mother said big kids didn’t ask their teachers to wipe them and that if I didn’t learn how to do it for myself before I started kindergarten, I’d be walking around all day with poo-crusted cheeks. I now realize that this was likely a lie. Missy Vee, it turned out, was a very kind and uncommonly patient teacher. You have to be for kindergarten. Most likely, my parents were just tired of doing the deed for me. In retrospect, I don’t blame them. But, at the time, the idea of wiping myself offended me. So, began my journey into manhood.
I didn’t feel qualified. But Mom said it was easy, just a two-step process: first, you wipe until there’s no more poop on the paper, then you flush. See? Easy. And so, armed only with two-ply and willpower, I skipped to my loo and allowed my movement to pass.
The first wipe was plentiful. I succeeded in divorcing bounties untold from their home on my bottom. Really outstanding work. The second pass was less fruitful. The third scarcer still. The toilet paper became less streaked after each subsequent wipe but at no point did it return to being completely clean. In fact, I quickly discovered that if I held the paper right up to my eye, under the correct lighting I could see clear as day that there were trace amounts of poop still clinging to my behind. This was unacceptable. No matter how hard or how long I wiped, there always remained detectable amounts of feces on the paper. This problem was made worse still when I learned I could find yet more poop if I wrapped the paper around my finger and pushed it into my bum a ways. Not into, say, abyssal depths. Just a bit beneath the surface. Just enough to be sure.
I was given explicit instruction: wipe until there was no more poop on the paper. Yet, try as I might, I could not produce a single entirely white piece of toilet paper. The streak diminished, sure, but it merely approached the asymptote. I was trapped. I didn’t know if I would ever leave. I didn’t know how could I ever face my mother or attend kindergarten or start a family if I couldn’t even wipe my butt and yield a snow-white piece of paper. But I didn’t give up. It was a two-step process. You wipe. You flush. Simple. I couldn’t leave this ass half-wiped. And so I wiped harder.
The next wipe was red. Only a few dots here and there, but it was a hindrance for sure. As the paper grew redder with each successive wipe, it became impossible for me to gauge with any kind of accuracy how near I was to a pure piece of toilet paper. Before long, the paper was so bloody that to continue would have been a fool’s errand.
I, being a fool, continued.
I continued for another forty minutes of blind wipes and disappointment until, at last, my mother knocked at the door. Time was up. I was beaten. I flushed, and I left the toilet with a raw bottom and an empty heart.
I don’t suppose other children needed a schematic to figure out when to stop wiping. At times I find myself embarrassed by how inept, how inadequate such a simple task rendered me in my childhood. But that’s all behind me now. Now, I’m a professional. Now, I’m in control of my life. I’m confident now. Certainly, I no longer need to clear my schedule for mastering basic parts of the human condition. That would be stunting.
Now, I’m a man. I’m a man who’s qualified to decide on a career path, or make rent, or pay taxes, or say “I love you” and know it’s true, or define what “love” even looks like for me—or figure out if I have the capacity to not merely love another but be in love with another, or pursue a sustainable lifelong source of happiness, or seek to fulfill my biological need to nurture despite fear of fatherhood, or go to prison, or negotiate my own self-worth, or vote on a president, or surpass my father in terms of success—or believe there’s nothing oedipal about my need to surpass my father in terms of success—or decide if there’s a god in the universe or if god exists in the Abrahamic sense of the term (or if god even loves us, whatever ‘love’ means), or lead a life that is guaranteed not to condemn me in the afterlife, or be confident that it’ll be worth it to not kill myself just to escape my crippling indecision. To suggest the opposite would be silly.
Christopher Luis–Jorge is a Cuban-American author based in Philadelphia who specializes in the playful, the irreverent, and the brief. His work has been featured Golden Walkman, The Acentos Review, and The Cypress Dome.
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