C’mon, Jenn. Hurry up. Let’s go.
The parking lot is jammed. Cars are driving back and forth slowly like sharks waiting for a space to open. A jeep spots us walking to our car and stops to wait and see. We open the car doors and he turns on his blinker, the space already filled before it’s empty.
I’m hurrying! Jeez, slow you roll would ya? What’s your problem? I slid into the front seat and slammed the car door shut. This is the moment I usually call Russ “Master Sergeant Cakepop;” a gentle reminder that he is no longer in the service and I am not one of his soldiers.
C’mon. We gotta go, he says.
What? You gotta go to the bathroom or something? Why are you in such a hurry?
I just glared at him waiting for a response, but I had my answer. Russ had a deadline, even if he didn’t say it.
Everybody poops. That’s what the book says anyway and it’s true. It’s not something anyone necessarily wants to talk about or think about, but as you get older, you realize how important poop, or shit, is to your life. You’ve got to have it or you’re dead.
While I was eating Lucky Charms as a kid, my Dad began every morning with a bowl of prunes. “To keep things moving,” he would say. He’d scoop them out of their jar, one at a time, little shriveled black bodies floating in a thin layer of grey juice. I couldn’t imagine anything more foul to eat first thing in the morning (why would you eat that when you could eat marshmallows?). I had no idea prunes were just dried plums. In my childish eyes, prunes were more closely related to oysters, another foul grey blob floating in a thin layer of milkish juice, than they were to anything that grew on a tree. I chalked up this procedure as an adult activity and not worthy of consideration. Luckily, I could push it out of my mind.
As I got a little older, I became a “horse girl.” Once I was introduced to horses I never left the barn. With the horses came big piles of horse shit. While no one ever intends to walk in it, the fact is it is almost impossible not to when you are working around horses. When I did, like other horse-crazy girls, I could have cared less.
Horses are prone to a myriad of gastrointestinal issues due to the sheer quantity of intestine they possess (more to twist) and their poor biological design which prevents them (spoiler alert: fun fact!) from throwing up. A horse’s digestion, and subsequently their waste, is a one-way street. As a result, I learned very fast to pay attention to each horse’s habits—whether they were eating, drinking and whether they were pooping.
If nothing was happening, we might give them a bran mash to help move things along. When that didn’t work, we would have to call the vet to come out to the farm and “tube” them. This involves sticking a tube down one nostril, continuing down their throat and straight into their stomach, delivering mineral oil to “grease the wheels.” If all else fails, at which point the horse might start to show signs of pain and discomfort, surgery becomes the only option left.
We also had a couple of dogs when I was a kid, but after horses, picking up dog poop was non-sequitur; not even worth much consideration. What I did ponder (as an adult, I’m ashamed to say) is why dog poop is often referred to as “turds,” but horse poop never is. What gives? Even when a pile of horse manure is broken down into individual shit balls, it is never referred to as a turd. Ever. Turd is reserved solely for canine waste and shitty people (pun alert!).
So jump forward a couple of years (cough, a couple of decades), when animal poop is so yesterday and I start to consider my own gastrointestinal issues. I feel like this is a middle-aged phenomenon? Anyone else? As a consistent runner, my pre-run planning revolves around making sure I’ve pooped before I leave the house. This requires waking up early enough so there is time for two cups of coffee and some writing (because these two things go hand in hand). The old days of rolling out of bed, lacing up, and peeing next to the car before heading out with my running buddy were definitely over.
But there is nothing better to shed light on all of your awkwardness as a human then….another human, especially one whose brains you want to fuck inside out ten ways to Sunday.
Back to the boyfriend in the car. He told me it was a scientific fact a person’s desire to poop increased the closer he or she got to home. I googled this premise in disbelief, but lo and behold, there at the top of the search results was an article in The Atlantic (and if The Atlantic says it, it has to be true!). Apparently it is common to experience more ease defecating in your own home. It is a common psychological response to being more comfortable in your own surroundings and the result of your body responding positively to its own familiar environment. Who knew?
For the first two years of dating, I wasn’t convinced Russ even took a shit. Ever. He is a super-clean freak, and it actually appears natural for him (mindboggling, actually). In fact, I’ve never even heard him fart. Not once. Not even a hint of a toot. (Who doesn’t do this??). He never has a speck of dirt on him, even his shoes, no matter what he’s doing or what the conditions are. Russ has a place for everything and everything is always in its place. Even in his drawers and cabinets, everything is stacked neatly, aligned perfectly, in their packages, looking brand new.
Case in point: I found 40 bars of Dove soap stacked neatly under his bathroom sink.
Let that sink in, people.
I took photographic evidence to remind myself, and others, that I wasn’t exaggerating when I said forty!
Moving in together, after dating for three years, was a game changer. Two weeks in, Russ had to make a special trip to the hardware store to buy a plunger to unclog the only toilet in the apartment. For me. Admitting to Mr. Clean that I had stopped up the only toilet was not an easy task. His responses to this awkward situation? Shaking his head and laughing he asked, “Why didn’t you tell me this at the beginning?” He still asks me that question regularly.
Russ, on the other hand, in his very quiet way, just disappeared every morning. It didn’t take long for me to notice the click of the door lock. “For privacy,” he says.
WTF? Does he think I’m going to break in? I assure him this is not even a remote possibility, not even by accident, but he still locks the door. The situation begs for some heckling which I do by dragging my fingernails down the door, asking him over and over, “Whatcha doin’ in there?,” a little bit like Sheldon Cooper.
One peculiarity to Russ is that he uses “bathroom wipes.” That’s actually a thing. They resemble baby wipes but they’re for adult asses. Read: no toilet paper necessary. By deductive reasoning, this means the toilet paper present in Russ’ previous apartment was there for purely aesthetical reasons; like having a plant in the corner of your living room.
Living together, I definitely evened the playing field. Russ is still astounded at my rate of use of toilet paper. Especially when I have my period and the paper pulls “double duty,” no pun intended, and it goes immediately from one roll to being spun onto another. He fingers that as the reason we are over budget most months.
Moving in together actually made us a threesome since Cracker and I were a package deal. My little canine sidekick, weighing in at fourteen pounds, had lived on a farm until he was thirteen. Moving to an apartment in the nation’s capital was a big change for the Jack Russell. Most of “apartment living” he loved. Cracker had started to demand a more comfortable, sedentary lifestyle in the last several years, so he was well-prepared for the indoors and spending more time in one of his many dog beds throughout the apartment. The biggest change for Cracker was the time he spent on a leash. He went from being on a leash four times a year to being on a leash four times a day. He didn’t mind though. The days of chasing rabbits and deer were well behind him. “Strolling” was his new preferred speed.
Now that Cracker was a proper city dog, his poop got picked up in a plastic baggie just like every other dog in the city limits. This was new for me too. Wrapping my hand around a fresh, warm turd surprised me every time. It wasn’t unlike picking up a dead mouse in the barn. Ask me how I know. I couldn’t help but think that extraterrestrials were looking down at earth wondering who worked for whom. By all accounts, it appeared that Cracker was in charge and I was the hired help doing his bidding; the person who followed him around and picked up his shit with my hand like I was following the Dalai Lama around.
As he had aged, Cracker became much more sensitive to extreme temperatures and also to what he ate. As the years rolled on, he was less tolerant of table scraps and certain dog treats. Only later did he throw them up, but initially his poop was the best indicator of how things were going. In order to accurately log his daily constitutions, Russ and I developed a letter scoring-guide so we could keep track of where Cracker was regardless of who was walking him. I won’t go into the gory details of what separated an “A” from a “B,” but by scoring it, we could keep tabs on how things were going on the inside since Cracker had a poker face most of the time and wasn’t prone to complaining.
I just lost my dear Cracker last November. People look at my like I have ten heads when I say that. “Lost” is an expression I’ve always used with my pets and my horses when they’ve crossed the rainbow bridge. I don’t know where the term came from, but it’s so a part of my vernacular that it took me a while to realize they didn’t understand the colloquialism. For a brief moment, they thought I had literally lost my 15 year-old sidekick. I didn’t. He crossed the rainbow bridge. Fast-moving cancer had the last laugh. I wasn’t ready to lose him. One day he was fine, and the next day he had a golf ball sized tumor on his neck. I miss my little bugger, even picking up his shit like he was the Dalai Lama of dogs.
As I finish this up, it is 5:30 in the morning and my boyfriend is curled up naked under his army-issued “poncho liner” (apparently the best piece of equipment the army makes and distributes) drinking a cup of coffee. I’ve been up since 3:30 (don’t judge!), drinking coffee, tweeting, writing, getting ready for a run.
I say, Well it turns out, it’s already a perfect day. First coffee, a perfect cup by the way, then a shit, then sex, and now it’s snowing. All before 6 am.
Wait. You shitted before we had sex? he asks.
He screws his face up in a grimace. Oh my God, really??? I can’t unsee that, Jenn. Ewwww….
Seriously? Well, you already shagged that. So like get over it.
Shaking his head.
What? Is there like an incubation period that has to occur between shitting and shagging that makes it ok?
It’s called a SHOWER.
We let the morning news fill in the silence between us (as I rolled my eyes, of course).
Today is cookie making day, he says.
And just like that, the perfect day went from talking shit to making cookies.