For a long time now, I have accepted the fact that there are monsters in this world. Monsters that roam around freely for one of two reasons. One, because they are very skilled at not being detected; and two, because people blind themselves from what they don’t want to see. This is just the world we live in, and I’ve accepted that.
What I didn’t realize until recently, however, is that sometimes the monsters themselves don’t realize they’re monsters. I might have gone my whole life without learning this, until a rather brutal run-in at the library.
This story takes place on an idle Tuesday not too long ago after a day’s work. I was reading a terrific book about a jewel thief in Manhattan and I was just enjoying the hell out of life. It was one of those rare moments where I was completely in my element and didn’t have a single complaint about anything or anyone.
Unfortunately, my bowels couldn’t say the same thing. For, about an hour into my reading time, my bowels pulled the red lever. You all know about the red lever, right? As any doctor can tell you, there are three levers in your bowels that are directly connected to your brain. The first is the green lever. This is an innocent lever that is attached to your brain by a nice silk rope. When your bowels pull this lever, they do so in a calm manner to politely inform you that that turkey sandwich you digested for lunch is ready to make its exit in the near future.
Then there is the brown lever. This lever is attached to your brain by a metal chain. When this is pulled, it is done so with a determined but professional ummph, to make you aware that the situation is coming to a head faster than originally anticipated, so it needs to be dealt with speedily but professionally.
The third lever, as you know, is the red lever. This lever is attached to your brain by rusty razor wire which is also wrapped around your stomach, and this lever is only pulled when your bowels are dealing with a situation that has caught them completely off guard and is forcing them to contemplate hara-kiri.
Suffice to say, there are few public places you want to be when that red lever gets pulled, and the public library is hardly one of them. And yet, that’s exactly where I was when I felt the razor wire cut into my brain and tear through my stomach.
Obviously, with that razor wire searing through your body, you have no time to think. So I didn’t. I jumped out of my seat and rushed towards the restroom and prayed I would find it’s one stall available.
Upon pushing open the heavy wooden door of the bathroom, I found my prayers were answered, the stall was empty, hope was within reach!
I slammed open the toilet lid and saw something that made me hesitate for just half a second. Apparently someone else had done their business in the stall before me, and hadn’t bothered to flush. At this moment of crisis, even taking the pause to flush the preceding waste seemed too risky, so instead I jumped on the throne and added to the nastiness.
Once I had finished my business, I rose from the throne, and turned to flush it all down.
But that’s where I stopped. Because it was quite evident that the waste I had created, coupled with the waste that was already in the bowl, had created a Frankenstein mud monster of unfortunate proportions. Suffice to say, it was obvious there was no way this monster was going down the pipes without a fight, a fight it would most likely win.
This left me with a moral dilemma. If I can’t flush it down, what do I do? The right thing to do would be to retrieve a librarian and confess my sins. But if that was the right thing to do, why did it seem so wrong? Did I really want to broadcast my foulness to outsiders…
At that moment, another option hit me. I could simply lie. I would still be doing the right thing, notifying the right people about the monster in the bowl, but I wouldn’t necessarily be confessing my crime. Perhaps I would even add a statement like: “I just walked in and found what some jerk face had left…”.
After giving it some thought, I didn’t like this option much either, not because of the deceitful aspect to it, but because I didn’t think I would get away with it. The librarian would take one look at my guilty face and cry out: “Don’t lie to me, you nasty sprayer of poops! It was you who has released this demon into our house!” Because librarians talk like that in my mind.
So I considered my two options, but just couldn’t come to a decision. So I washed my hands, hoping the answer would come to me there. But it didn’t. So I decided to exit the bathroom, hoping that entering the outside world would force the answer to present itself.
But no answer came. So I returned to my table and continued reading my book, figuring that maybe an answer would come when I wasn’t thinking about it.
Two minutes later, I had forgotten all about the mess I had made. I was in my element again. Life was good, and I didn’t have a complaint about anyone or anything…
And then it came. Directly behind me. A voice, a shrill, angry voice that I will never forget.
“Excuse me, did you just use the bathroom?”
Cue panic mode. Good God, someone found me. I don’t know how but they found me.
I looked up from my book and realized the other four people at the table were looking at me with wide, curious eyes. The eyes rose up, above me, when the angry voice spoke again.
“Excuse me sir, I asked if you just used the bathroom.”
I put my book down slowly and turned to face my accuser. When I set my eyes upon him, I was a little taken aback. For one thing, he was small in stature. Despite the fact that I was sitting and he was standing he was no more than 4 inches taller than me, with an unfortunate hump on his slouched back. But his stature and hump were nothing compared to his face. His was a worn, angry, beaten face. As if life had been picking on him mercilessly since he was born, sucker punching him at every turn. His eyes told the same story, but they had a depth of anger that told me something else as well. They told me that I had been the final straw. He had to deal with a lot of shit in his life, but mine was the one that broke the camel’s back.
“Well.” He said, practically spitting the word at me. “Didja?”
It seemed pointless to lie, as his tone suggested he knew for a certainty that I had used the facilities.
“Yes.” I said in an innocent tone, hoping that would suggest I had nothing to hide.
This answer prompted him to throw up his hands in the air with abandon, I looked back to the people at my table, who were still watching me, more curious than ever as to what exactly I had done in the bathroom.
‘You… don’t, um. understand,” I stammered out. “I just used the urinal.”
I could see the small man’s face twist up at this answer, and I was certain the next thing to follow was a series of expletives and accusations. But instead, he simply looked down to the floor, shook his head and muttered something unintelligible before disappearing down an aisle of books.
At first, I was relieved that the confrontation was over and that I had won, relatively. And then I felt anger towards that small man. What kind of person publicly interrogates a man’s bathroom actions? And then, finally, I felt what only could be described as a hard truth. This man was a hero. He had done what I had fantasized about oh-so-many times after walking in to an unholy mess in a public stall. How many times had I dreamed about finding the person that committed this outrage and rubbing their nose in it like they were a misbehaving pet? Too many to count, that’s for sure.
And yet I had never had the gumption to actually carry out this task, unlike this man. This man was a hero. A hero who had confronted his monster, who was me. I was a monster.
All of this made me sad and confused at the same time, and I contemplated the unfairness of life. But that contemplation ended the moment I felt a certain lever in my body being pulled again. And then I felt razors being dragged across my stomach and through my brain. And then I couldn’t think anymore. I simply ran. I jumped up and ran right out of the library, I ran in search of a place where a monster would be welcomed, or at least, ignored.