Given the events of the week, I have asked my dear friend, Tony, to tell us one of my all-time favorite and hilarious stories from his tortured childhood...
I never liked using a strange toilet. I don't mean a "strange-looking" toilet, I mean a toilet I wasn't used to. I could force myself to pee in them if I really really had to, but I never, ever would shit in one. I didn't shit at school, I didn't shit at friend's or family's houses, and even at home, I always shunned the toilet in my parent's bathroom for my favorite in the master bath.
I am sure this is not terribly unusual among kids. It’s a small issue, really, among my particular constellation of neuroses, and I never told my parents or anybody about it. I am pretty much over it, now, though whenever my kids mention using the crapper at school, I feel like I am going to faint.
In any case, this was my state of mind at age 10, when my parents announced that they were going to send me off to my family in Italy for three weeks in the summer of 1978.
"Well," I said to myself, with impeccable internal logic, "you'll just have to hold it in." My plan was to eat just enough so nobody will ask questions, and intermittently pretend to go to the bathroom. Three weeks will be over before you know it. And off I went to my waiting Alitalia jet.
I arrived at my uncle's apartment in Rome, and was encouraged to go to the bathroom and "freshen up." Now, I had to go to the bathroom, at least to pee, and I figured I would keep an open mind on the shitting situation. I was in the grips of a cramp-induced moment of sanity and thought "well, if it isn't too different, maybe –"
It was worse than I had imagined:
1) Old fashioned keys and keyholes-- The bathroom (in fact all of the rooms) had the Benjamin-Franklin-tied-to-the-kite kind of key and corresponding keyhole. Anybody who watched cartoons as much as I did knew that this practically guaranteed being peeped at while on the shitter.
2) The bathroom window opened out onto a wrap-around balcony at eye level. Granted the glass was frosted, but still-- I'm mental.
3) No water in the bowl-- I firmly believe a toilet should have some water in it before flushing. I am getting dizzy just thinking about it.
The situation had crystallized. Clearly, peeing in these circumstances was going to be a challenge. Shitting was out, so I was back to plan A, and I put it into action.
Now, to be honest with you, I don't remember how long I kept it up. I am almost positive it was at least 1 week, and may have approached 2. I ate in small portions and went to the bathroom only to pee, but was careful to stay in there long enough to have conceivably shitted. Eventually, the urge to take a crap just subsided and disappeared. I had stopped myself up! I was feeling pretty good about this victory. I couldn't take a dump even if I wanted to.
How long could I keep it up? Had I beaten it for good? My head was in the clouds -- the clean, shit-less (though somewhat distended) clouds. Alas, I was soon to crash to Earth, a scatological Icarus.
I should mention that the Pope had died -- Pope Paul VI, that is -- and I happened to be in the country while the conclave was going on to pick a new pontiff. My family, like the other Italians, was really into the selection process, even though the only churchgoer among them was my grandmother.
In any case, I guess I got cocky or lazy. Maybe the papal situation distracted me. I don’t know, but somehow my family realized that I had stopped shitting. My uncle, a doctor, asked me about it and, after denying it at first, I finally told him, matter-of-factly, that I was mildly constipated (I omitted how I had gotten that way) and that it was normal for me not to go for a day or four and I was sure that the situation would rectify itself so why don’t we just watch the chimney on TV because, heh heh, you know, these things happen and I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you—
The tackle took place before I knew what was happening; I was flipped face down. I don’t really remember who was involved, but I suspect my older cousin Gian-Carlo was holding me down from the torso. Somebody pulled my pants down.
“I am just going to give you a enema.” Said my uncle, who produced a small rubber bulb from behind his back.
I was still dealing with the humiliation of being immobilized and having my pants pulled down with female cousins walking around, but the word “enema” managed to seep through. What followed was the archetypal enema dialectic engaged in for centuries by adults and children the world over.
Fortunately, my ass was still mobile and I used that freedom to present an ever-moving target.
“Okay, I won’t do it.” He backed off a bit.
“I’ll tell you what. If you stop moving I won't stick it in. I’ll just drip some water on your behind. I think it will help.”
“Just drip, not stick it in?” I sobbed.
Wordlessly, I stilled my ass, looking forward to get my pants back over them. Then, my uncle, the liar, proceeded to violate my sphincter and irrigate my carefully cultivated blockage.
Then it was over, and I was released. Humiliated, I half stood, and started pulling my pants back on.
“Oh, I wouldn’t bother if I were you.” Said the evil one.
Defeated, I held my pants up to cover my boyhood, and quickly shuffled off to the bathroom for the reckoning.
I entered, locked the door with the ridiculous fucking keyhole and sat down – kind of. At first I tried to hover, but to no avail. I was cramping up and knew it was a matter of seconds before—
With a rush, and no comforting ‘plop’ in this arid bowl, I was forced to accept my earthly limitations and made my contribution to the land of my forefathers.
And then, faintly, from another part of the apartment, I heard hubbub and cheering – clapping, in fact!
My worst fears had come true. They had somehow spied on me, and were now celebrating my capitulation and laughing at my profound embarrassment. Fuckers.
I washed my hands and looked at myself in the mirror. How would I face them?
I walked out with as much dignity as I could muster. They barely noticed me, and were all intently watching TV.
“What’s going on?”
“We have a new pope!” said my aunt.
Apparently, precisely at the moment I released my filth, the College of Cardinals released white smoke from the Sistine Chapel.
“Oh,” I said. Then, after a pause, “I went to the bathroom.”
They looked at me, then at each other, and gave me a round of applause.
I winced at my sore ass, and took my bow.