Flush and Run

December 7, 2008
Flush and Run

I could hear it behind me as I tried to walk calmly away. It was gushing vile noises, indicating it had finished its cycle. Edging away furtively, I hurried to distance myself. The toilet was out to get me. This bizarre state of affairs began when I was in second grade. Like every eight year old, I was afraid of the suddenly unexpected: the boogie monster, the dark, being left alone, heights, big dogs, and my menacing teacher. I used to go to my mother and friends with these problems because they could relate and comfort me in some way. However, the one thing I could never avoid, the one thing I was deathly afraid of was the toilet. To further complicate the issue, I had to keep this a secret, for how would anyone believe I was scared of toilets? Had I realized that I was not alone in my fears, I would never have had to suffer the excruciating embarrassment I put myself through.

To me, the toilet was the root of all evil, I could not bear its horrible gushing noises and the vortex that sucked in everything and splashed water everywhere. It disgusted me to no end. How could one feel grateful for these machines if they rudely sucked everything down a pipe to Who-Knows-Where? It made me feel unclean. Besides, their loud noises always prompted me to want to dash off before their sudden outbursts scared the hairs off my back. I could not appreciate these devices, but how could I evade these horrendous contraptions? Whenever I had to go at school, I tried my hardest to hold it in, to avoid using the toilet. It would go on for about three minutes, with much squirming and twisting in my seat until the teacher noticed and would ask me, “Erica, are you alright? Do you need to use the bathroom?”

Of course, I would respond, “I’m okay. No Ma’am,” with some difficulty. I would do anything to prolong getting sent to the dreaded toilet.

After giving me a strange look, the teacher would go on and proceed with our lesson for the day. Eventually I would not be able to hold it any longer and I would force my hand up, waving it frantically until the teacher spotted it and sighed, “Yes, Erica?”

“Can I use the bathroom?” I would ask timidly.

She would try not to sound irritated when she said this: “’Yes, you may. But next time, Erica, go to the bathroom during recess so you won’t have to go during class, okay?’” She always thought I tried to skip class time by going to the bathroom.

By that time, I would take the bathroom pass and proceed to run to the nearest restroom as if ants were in my pants. Entering the bathroom was always the hardest. The washroom always seemed like a cave inside of which were even smaller caves. The sinks were slightly moldy and always drippy, leaving a -drip drip- noise which reminded me of water falling off the stalagmites on cave ceilings. The frequently empty towel dispensers always had grimy fingerprints and puddles of water below them. There was almost always some type of graffiti on the walls too, which further added to my discomfort and anxiety towards the environment of the cave.

For weeks, whenever I had to flush the toilet, I would use all my strength, my willpower, to not run from the lurid looks of my insinuating stalkers that followed me whenever I left the restroom. I did not want to look crazy at school and reveal my secret to any of my friends. Who wants to be ridiculed for such a pathetic fear? I felt as if I were utterly alone with these demons.

Finally, one fateful day our family went out to eat dinner; it was a Friday. Our spirits were high and we decided to splurge at a high class restaurant. As the five of us entered the diner, we could see it was going to be a full house. Waiters were running frantically to and from tables. Dishes flew all over the place. I saw a waitress carrying a plate of duck hurrying past me and the aroma engulfed me. My mouth instantaneously watered.

We were informed it would be a forty five minute wait. My parents bickered about this while we all gathered next to a window to sit on the waiting chairs. My sisters and I were captivated by the running waiters and the general atmosphere of the place. The wait actually seemed rather short.

As soon as I sat, I started to feel a gurgling feeling in my stomach and which reminded me of the dreaded need to visit the toilet. My first instinct was to hold it until after dinner, but from the looks of it, we were going to be staying there for a while. My parents were desperately trying to find a free waiter to take our orders. My sisters were excitedly looking at the menu and pointing at the pictures. I tried to ignore the pain and join my sisters in making delectable choices and the anticipation. However the tugging kept pulling me back to the image of the toilet. When my parents finally conjured up a waiter who took our orders, he filled our water glasses and told us he would be back with our food shortly.

I could only look at the water dripping from my glass. The waiter had spilled a little water while filling my glass, causing a tiny flow of water to trickle down its side. I stared at it as if in a trance, and the tugging feeling in my stomach tensed which meant, “GO. NOW.” I knew it was either now or never so I told my parents I was going to the bathroom and got up from my seat quickly. Too quickly, for an unsuspecting waiter carrying a dish of rice tripped over my chair’s leg and the rice dish flew. All eyes followed the dish as it soared through the air and landed -- smack dab in the middle of a table of three. Of course, I could care less, for all I only wanted to run to the bathroom.

As soon as I entered the bathroom, the cave closed in on me. I could already hear one of the monsters roaring as a patron exited the stall and moved over to the sinks to wash her hands. The sound was even more horrifying than the ones at school, for it completely surrounded me and made me think of someone or something being tortured. In fact I could imagine demons flying out of the toilet and devouring me. The decibels of every minuscule nuance of sound were like jet fighter pilots taking off. The various swishes of the water violently sprayed around and around the circular dome, moaning and creaking with unbridled waves hitting the edges of the ring until its echoing cries were sucked down into a dark abyss to a nether world of infinite darkness. I could hear the individual drops of water scattering around the base of the toilet, and I almost screamed. It was deafening. I literally jumped and held my hands to my ears. The woman looked at me curiously and shrugged, dried her hands, and left. I was alone. Alone with my tormentor.

Ignoring the throbbing pull on my stomach and shivering from the noise, I entered one of the stall and avoiding looking directly at the toilet. “Another duel with the mighty monster,” I thought. It was still quietly swirling water around from the woman’s last flush. I could hear the gurgling of the water entering the pipe. Timidly, I lined the toilet with toilet paper and proceeded to do my business. The whole time my goose bumps were spreading with every sound in the cave. Occasional laughs from outside would make me jump and made me even more tense. When I was finished, I looked at the knob and took a deep breath. I pressed down the knob with such strength that the monster came to life, and I ran for my life.

The monster bellowed a brutal, wild, heinous cry, one like I have never heard before. I was actually amazed that I made it out of the stall. Sounds grabbed me viciously; I couldn’t breathe. My heart was racing a mile. I opened my mouth to scream. My horrified screech mixed with the roaring toilet as I ran out of the bathroom with my hands over my ears. I could hear the monster crying as I escaped its grasp once more. And as I entered the Outside, the roaring in my ears stopped and all was quiet.

I looked around. Everyone had stopped eating, talking, moving, walking, and laughing to look over at me. The only sound I could hear were the double doors flapping as a waiter came out to stare at me, too. It was so quiet, a huge contrast to the deafening growl of the cave. The silence seemed interminable. Now, the quiet seemed deafening. I realized that I still had my hands over my ears. I slowly put them down by my side. I took a look around to find my family. They were also gawking at my behavior. I felt so awkward that I debated about whether to go back in the cave and wait for the return of the world I knew.

Finally, someone broke the silence by saying, “I remember when I was scared of the toilet too! It was that one time…” Then, as if a spell had been broken, everyone broke into conversations about how they were once scared of the toilet. I could hear people telling stories of when they were kids and recalling their old fears of the toilet. I felt so relieved to discover that I was not alone. My fears, it seemed, had been shared by over half the people in this restaurant: at that moment, I experienced an epiphany. Communication can help solve many problems, including fears. Many other people had felt exactly what I felt. Now, I know how to handle my fears -- talk to my family or my friends.

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