The bathroom smells like old lady poop. Like a bouquet of potpourri with a brittle, shriveled stool placed gingerly on top. There’s a difference. Old man poop is the worst, but sometimes middle-aged man, depending on their health. Old man poop smells like decades of decay, it smells like the closest life can get to death. Middle-aged man poop comes closest to the conventional, prototypical smell of shit, but if a middle aged man is in a bad way, say divorced and depressed, or has been a functional alcoholic since he’s had his first kid, then those can be some of the worst smells on earth. Soft and spongy, corn and meat and beans, those poops smell like disease and lethargy, dissatisfaction and wretchedness.
There’s a difference between young man and young woman poops. Young men’s are worse, but young women’s smell cruel in their sickly sweetness. It’s those female poops, between the ages of 20 and 30 that haunt me. That stay in my nostrils, that can make me catatonic and bring fits of inconsolable grief.
Baby poop isn’t great, neither is kid poop. But we can deal with them, we tolerate them for what they are, guiltless and in need of our guiding hand to wipe for them. But it’s not until poop begins to affirm itself as gendered, around the age of puberty, that the nuances and finer points of our furtive, fetid inner lives begin to reveal themselves through the olfactory system. The putrid odors declaring the darkness in all of us, the things we can’t hide from each other and from ourselves.
I hate going to the bathroom for fear of the truths I might encounter. I’m constipated, in gastric distress; every moment of every day is agony since you left. We probably could have made it if I could appreciate your poop. I screamed at you to spray air freshener, light a match. I chased away even your broken wind. I made you feel dirty, I made you feel foul. If only I could have loved all of you.
And so, now, as I clench and squeeze and push past hemorrhoids and holocausts and penitence, I can think only of you. You’re the only person who I let look at me like this. Your ghost strokes my cheek, wipes my brow, tells me it’s fine, I’m not unclean, I am whole. Things I could never say to you. And when that amazing grace finally comes, that sound of earth meeting water, that great, grand kerplunk; I feel for the most fleeting of moments a dream-whisper of forgiveness, and the noxious odor of acceptance.
Levi Andrew Noe was born and raised in Denver, CO. He is a writer, wanderer, yogi, entrepreneur, and amateur oneironaut. His flash fiction collection Rain Check was published in August 2016 from Truth Serum Press. His works are in Connotation Press, Boston Literary Magazine, LitroNY, and Eunoia Review,among many others. Levi is the editor in chief and founder of the podcast Rocky Mountain Revival Audio Art Journal.
Twitter: @LeviAndrewNoe, @RockyMtnRevival
–Art by Felix Lu