I never, for the life of me, thought that I’d ever be so inclined to write a story about poop, let alone my very own poop, yet, here I am.
You read the title so I’m assuming you’re on board with the topic and that you’re ready to come along on this short jaunt with me.
Even as a child I was not interested in stories of bodily functions. I didn’t find farting and the like all that amusing and I didn’t like sharing stories of mine, or anyone’s body happenings (outside of sex.) When movies insist on having characters vomit (by the way, this happens so often in movies that my husband and I insist that we’re not watching a REAL movie unless someone upchucks). I avert my eyes when gross things are afoot. I can’t help it. I’m wired that way.
Until this very moment, apparently.
It all began in the beginning of August when Peter, my husband, our little dog, Shanti, and I, set sail with Peter’s zia and zio.We left the Rimini, Italy, harbor at 5:00am headed for a week of sailing, snorkeling and sun bathing on the islands of Croatia. Sooooo, you know how when you travel and switch time zones how your movements can become a little… askew? Being a life long high fiber eating, lots of water drinking, vegan, then vegetarian, then raw foodist, then pescatarian, (I’m a Cali native, this health-crazed food exploration hopping is required) travel is pretty much the only time this particular bodily function of mine disappoints with irregular behavior.
The natural laxative, Swiss Kriss, (not a paid endorsement. also please consult a doctor before you, etc. etc.) gets me through the first few time zone shifting days. At this point in time we had already been in Italy for more than a month so I long ago packed away the Swiss Kriss. When I held the bottle in my hands while packing for Croatia, I was feeling well and good at the time, but I did have the thought, maybe I should bring this. Then another thought quickly rebuked that thought with a, no, no you don’t need that. And off we went. The first 10 hours of our stretch on the Adriatic Sea.
Then, that FULL feeling hit. That, I need to go, feeling. But when I attempted the go… I didn’t. No biggie, right? I guess it wouldn’t have been, if not for the fact that… “the train began to leave the station and then inexplicably got stuck in a tunnel.” Its little train head began to emerge and then it STOPPED! I mean, WT actual F is that about? This is a thing? I mean, no amount of pushing (very bad for you, I know) could make this train budge. I gave the A-okay to the conductor to go back from whence it came. “Emergenza! il treno torna in stazione!” But it couldn’t turn around. It couldn’t back up! This neither here nor there sensation was not yet painful but it was definitely not pleasant. I had no choice in the moment but to try throughout the day to release il treno.
I ate prunes! I ate peaches! Plums! Drank my weight in water. Jumped up and down. What yoga poses are good for this? Normally I’d ask Google but my WiFi wasn’t connecting. I had to rely on memory (never all that reliable.) Was it child’s pose? Happy baby? Leg up the wall? No, that makes no sense. No inversions, the opposite. Yoga squat! That makes total sense! I do this pose all the time! It’s part of my daily morning practice. I closed the door of our tiny cabin where there’s just enough space for a squat. I squatted, and I squatted and I squatted. Nothing was reversing that train, that I will now jump metaphors and refer to it as a brick, because that’s what it felt like, a brick that was partly in and partly out of my now aching buttocks.
That night, for reasons that escape me now, I ate more cheese at dinner than I have throughout the year. My cheese consumption rule is, no cheese in the States where it often makes me feel not so good. But, yes cheese in Italy where they have stricter rules about preservatives and hormones and it just tastes so damn good. Did I have a momentary lapse of good judgement? Yes. Did I forget about the brick? I blame it on the vino and maybe the vodka aperitivo too. But, yes. I forgot. So I ate the cheese and bread with childlike abandon. Which of course, did nothing to alleviate my awkward situation but undoubtedly made things worse.
One day I will laugh at this, I tell myself. But will I?
I remember when I was about six years old my dad came with me to a school meeting bake sale and got me a chocolate, vanilla cupcake with rainbow sprinkles on top. It was soft and sugary and heavenly for six year old me. On the walk home I was blissfully enjoying my decadent cupcake when out of nowhere came a speeding teenager on a bicycle which prompted my father to swiftly pull me out of the way. The sudden jolt of my little body caused the cupcake to go flying out of my little hand and SPLAT on the pavement. Ruined! The bicycle long gone, I turn to my loving father and screamed, that was the most delicious cupcake I ever had in my entire life! He laughed because, I guess that was a cute thing for a six year old to say but I was not feeling the cute. I was furious! It took six whole years for me to experience a cupcake like that and now there it is dead on the ground! Will I have to wait another six years for such a divine treat? When we arrived home I recounted the story to my mom, basically ratting out my dad, unbeknownst to me, she was tape recording us. I don’t know when she pushed the record button but I do know that for years I was able to hear my quirky, angry tiny voice crying, But that was the most delicious cupcake I ever had in my entire life! My dad said, One day you will look back at this and laugh. I insisted, No, I won’t. I will never ever laugh at this.
Back to now.
So now a day has passed without a passing and discomfort has turned to pain.
It’s the middle of the night and I’m in the tiny boat bathroom trying, trying, trying, crying, crying, crying. This full on hurts now. I begin praying to God, Buddha, Jesus. As a Jew I wonder why Moses slipped my mind. Although we don’t pray to him, do we? I don’t know, but if I had thought of it, i would have because I was calling on all the holy beings to help relieve me from this holy hell.
If I want to find a solution outside of the boat I’m going to have to tell everyone that I can’t poop. The prospect of this embarrassing share hurts almost as much as the train/brick. I can’t get WiFi so Google can’t save me. Peter has only 11 percent left on his phone but he does have a WiFi signal. I search YouTube and find a video of a lovely Indian lady who calmly explains all the things that can happen to one’s colon and how her colon massage technique can help. She’s sitting on a cream colored bed and she’s dressed in a t-shirt with a big rainbow on it. I don’t know why, but this makes me trust her.
I like to go in tiny circles all around, she demonstrates. And once you get to know your colon, you can linger on an area that needs it most. I copy her moves, again feeling hopeful. Maybe I can massage this away. I lie awake in our cabin bed, knees bent as instructed, massaging my belly.
I return to the tiny bathroom, elevating my feet on a stack of toilet papers for optimal pooping position (thank you, Shark Tank, for teaching me about this with Squatty Potty.) I massage, tiny circles all around. Nothing. I put on the audible story, Tinaca Jones (BTW, it’s awesome, check it out) to distract me. I massage some more. Still nothing. I’m sweating now. It’s hot and humid or maybe it’s just me and
I go back to bed. Peter wants to help but isn’t sure how. I stay awake massaging my colon. I name her Carla. I was really getting to know Carla.
Come morning, I’m beyond frustrated and uncomfortable. Peter makes me three cups of coffee that I quickly down. Still, nope, nada, zilch. Peter tries to convince me that we can motor and anchor to a small town and try to search for a pharmacy. I’m considering staying in pain because I hate the idea of beyond the embarrassment, the idea that I will force everyone to change plans and go searching for something as fun and sexy as a laxative. I really did not want to be a party pooper. (if you’re still reading after this line, you are a champ and I think I love you.)
We anchor the boat in the small Croatian city of ISI.
The three of us, Peter, the dog and myself, hop into the dingy, me barely sitting because sitting is not an option right now. We climb up on the dock and ask two men if they speak Italian or English.
Un po Italiano.
Va bene, dove possiamo trovara un farmacia?
non c’è. (Oh dear god, noooooooo)
Dove possiamo trovare un lassativo?
Amubluanta. viciono posta. c’e un dottore.
Okay, good, there’s a doctor in the tiny town and we’re going to find him.
We walk past a road side Mother Mary and I telepathically ask her for help (me-jewish). We pass a stray cat (me-dog person) and I telepathically ask her for help in case Mary’s too busy. We ask a couple of Italians walking by if they know where the amubluantato is and they point towards what looks like a small apartment building. We walk up the stairs and an English speaking man greets us. He asks for my European ID which I do not have. He tells us he’s from Croatia but lived in America for a long time. He says something about not having a license so he returned to Croatia. I think of the doctor in Northern Exposure and how much I miss that show. And I still haven’t been to Alaska. Anyway, this doctor, Doctor Hud, says he can help and in the 10 minutes we were there he had several patients arrive. He greets each one kindly. Dr. Hud enjoys his job. This calms the same way the rainbow shirt on the YouTube lady did. He’s afraid of my little dog. I tell him that she has no teeth, but he’s still afraid so I hold her and he sweetly says, okay, no problem. I can find you some products. For an infrequent crier, I feel the tears are bubbling up. He explains the suppository, the pills, the tea that the locals swear by. I want all of them but settle on two suppositories and four pills. He says, if you want you can just give me some Krupa? We give him some. Twenty. He gives us some change and I tell him that he’s a life saver. This makes him happy. We make our way back to the boat, slowly, because walking is painful. On the way we pass another cat. I say, Look! There’s more! Then realize it’s the same one, she just switched sides. I think I’m delirious with anticipation. Everything begins to look a little better on the way back but I remind myself to stay in the moment because, I mean, what if they don’t work? What if this situation lasts for longer? Days, weeks, months, permanent? I’d have to only wear skirts and dresses and I really don’t like skirt and dresses. I tell Peter that one day we will laugh at this. He says, Maybe today.
I don’t know about today.
We reach the dingy where I carefully sit on my hip as we make our way back on board. I yell, Successo! to zio. But not full success, not yet.
I take everything the nice English speaking doctor gave me and within twenty minutes my tushy birthed a clone of Carla, my colon. I decide to give it some sort of spiritual significance and when I flush it down the toilet, I also flush away all my fears, worries and doubts,
Va Via! Good riddance to it all!
Later in the day, I may not have been slapping my knee over the comedy of it all but I did write this story, so, there’s that.
And here’s the thing about that cupcake. I would tell my six year old self that there will be more best tasting delicious cupcakes in her life. And they too, will pass.
I would tell my now year old self that there will be more discomfort, pain and embarrassment in my life.
And they too, will pass.
Because eventually, all trains leave the station and not all metaphors make it to the end of a story.
First published in Be Yourself on Medium