“There are just some things you aren’t supposed to talk about,” Zoe said. “Rude topics that make people feel uncomfortable, you know? No one cares about what happens when someone else goes to the bathroom.”
“No shit,” Myrtle’s best friend said to his fingernails, before assuming a serious expression and refocusing on Zoe.
Myrtle burst into laughter. Then she had to take a few quick breaths to settle down. Her stomach harbored a time bomb that could turn Roman’s hilarity into dangerous business.
Zoe glared at Myrtle. “See? That’s what I’m talking about. You and Roman are incapable of having a conversation without bodily functions in it. People don’t like that. They just don’t. Your behavior comes with consequences. Have you thought about how I feel when someone who knows we’re friends laughs at you? It hurts me, Myrtle. It does.”
Roman must’ve felt the heat rising in Myrtle’s temper, because he took a few steps forward and stood between his best friend and Zoe.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Zoe said to Roman, when he suggested that she should leave. “Myrtle hasn’t completely lost her mind. I’m sure an upset stomach doesn’t make anyone crazy.”
“It’s okay, Roman.” Myrtle’s voice came out soft and cool, and she was grateful for that. “Zoe’s right.” She nudged him aside, until she was able to get face to face with the other girl.
Zoe smiled. “I knew you had sense, Myrtle. I knew you would see things the way—”
“Shut up.” Myrtle’s words spread, red and tight, over Zoe’s face. “Stop saying my name. Stop jabbering about things you don’t understand. Stop telling me to be ashamed.”
“I didn’t say that. I just meant that there are other ways.” Zoe crossed her arms. “You used to be normal, Myrtle. And now, now you are always trying to get attention in the wrong way. Other people have stomach troubles. I’m sure yours aren’t…”
Myrtle grinned, showing her teeth until the other girl lost the end of her sentence. Zoe was an insensitive piece of human garbage, but she was neither stupid nor blind. “Walk away.” Her hands were trembling, yearning for the sharp song of a slap.
“You’re crazy,” Zoe said, backing away.
The slap-craving hand grabbed the front of Zoe’s t-shirt. “Not crazy,” Myrtle said. “I’m suffocating in the little box of your expectations. I can’t go another day pretending that being human, that being sick, that being me is a disgusting secret I must keep from your sensibilities. If me being me makes you feel uncomfortable, then you walk away.” Letting go of Zoe’s t-shirt, Myrtle added, “By the way, a healthy dump might un-pinch your face. It always leaves me feeling a deep sense of cleansing.”
Roman began to laugh. Myrtle joined him with a series of controlled giggles.
for she who came bearing a giant pine cone and a twisted stick…
Process Note: Last year, while I was trying to learn about Crohn’s disease and other inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), I came across a blog written by a young woman who lived with a severe form of IBD. I can’t remember the exact name of the blog, but the title included “Poo”. All her entries were about the adventures of a person with a very limited diet, and who had to use the bathroom dozens of times a day. She filled her posts with hilarities… even the sad ones.
A reader, who called herself “Just a Friend”, left a comment suggesting that what the blogger shared was shaming family and friends; that although Just a Friend “felt sorry” for the blogger, the latter had no right to do what she was doing. I read the words over and over, asking myself, Is this self-centered heap of dung serious?
Living with acute stomach and intestinal issues is a fulltime job. In fact, going through life with any illness that reshapes one’s entire lifestyle is hard, hard, hard and harder. Humor helps the brain deal with the terrible things it cannot control… Empathy can be soothing… Pity rots… Acknowledging that illness as a natural thing that happens to people keeps everyone’s guts from getting ripped out.
I found this powerful image here, but believe it might be part of an exposition titled “Experience of Illness”. I have not been able to find the artist. If the piece belongs to you, please let me know and I’ll give you credit (or remove it, if that’s your desire).