An excerpt from EXTERIORS AND INTERIORS by C. McGee
CHAPTER 1 A Shitty Disguise
I'm not a fan of babies. I was a fan of Jonathan Swift, but then I figured out that he was being satirical. The proposal seemed modest enough to me. Adults are slightly better, as most of them can take care of their own basic needs. Babies can't; they shit themselves and require feeding from a nipple. Pathetic. Sometimes I wonder what would happen if we allowed infants to be raised by machines. Rumor has it that the Russians tried this during World War II. It was not by choice, all their adults died so they were left with a disproportionate amount of babies. They should have let those little bastards fend for themselves. What a suck on the war effort. Think about all the resources that were devoted to keeping those kids alive that could have been devoted to taking down the Nazis. If the Allies had lost, I would have blamed those children.
I didn't used to hate them — babies, that is. Indeed, I used to feel nothing more than a mild dislike for them. But that was before, back when they were a peripheral element of my life. Now they are a conspicuous part of my day-to-day, an obnoxious byproduct of my crap job. I did not set out to be the healthcare equivalent of a peon. I set out to be an architect. Unfortunately, the universe had other plans; fuck-you plans. My college graduation coincided with the demise of Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, and the entire U.S. economy. Obviously, this was not the best time to be designing outlandish homes. So, now I am not so much of an architect as I am an orderly. Beggars can't be choosers.
The hospital where I work is fine. The food is fine. The pay is fine. The physicians are fine. Lauren is fine. The only thing that is not fine are the fucking babies. But Lauren, Lauren is really fine. Not in the way that the food is fine, more in the way that a large-breasted, small-waisted woman is fine. That's actually what she is, a large-breasted, small-waisted woman. At work, when infants aren't wailing and geriatrics aren't whining, I dream up ways to ask her out. I also devise ways to "accidentally" touch her breasts. But mainly I think up ways to ask her out. Most of these plans are not feasible, some because I am not a knight, others because I am an orderly.
When I saw Lauren today, I was covered in shit. Literal shit. Although far from ideal, the situation could have been worse. Lauren could have responded to my disgusting appearance with the repulsion that it warranted. Instead, she maintained a professional decorum throughout our entire interaction. Obviously, I would have preferred that she had given me the commiserating look that everyone else did, but given the circumstances I can't complain.
My appearance was repugnant. The fecal matter was everywhere, it covered my scrubs front to back and top to bottom. In some places it was splattered, as though a Pollock-inspired artist had decided to use diarrhea as a breakthrough medium; in others, it was smeared like war paint; and in a few spots, it was blotched and raised, as if someone had ladled a mixture of beef gravy and cottage cheese directly onto my clothing. The smell was more consistent than the visual but infinitely harder to describe. When poop is unfiltered, freed from the tempering effects of water or soil, the odor that it produces transcends description. It does not, however, transcend taste. The gustative quality of the stench was both tangible and terrible. It hit the palate like a hammer and clung like plastic wrap. By comparison, the auditory aspect of my appearance was rather fleeting and subtle. That's not to say that the aural was less vile than the oral, just less noticeable. The squishy sound made by stool-saturated socks was hard to hear.
To put it simply, all of Lauren's senses were attacked by my presence. Correction — all of Lauren's senses save touch. Fortunately, she did not have to touch me. Part of me still wanted her to, perhaps a brush of her breast against my poop arm. A disgusting appearance does nothing to squelch my sexual appetite.
People were nice to me despite my condition because they thought that I was covered in shit due to the hazards of the job. In a way they were right, and in a way they were wrong. My occupation was the cause of my condition, but not in the way one might expect. I was not covered in feces because I was cleaning up after some lady who pushed from her anus while giving birth, or because I had to go to the psych ward where crazies sling their shit like chimps. It was in fact because I eat my feelings. Like a flag girl on the high school marching band, I counteract my shame with snacks; chips usually, cream cheese when things seem really bleak. My lactose intolerance should prevent me from using dairy as a source of solace, but it doesn't; and as a result, I occasionally get myself into trouble. That's what happened today, that's how things went wrong, that's how I ended up with excrement all over my body. Perhaps I should explain further.
Today was a cream cheese day. A message from my college roommate made it so. Although his e-mail contained only good things, it made me feel bad things. It forced me to compare my life to the life of someone that was doing something, and in the process left me severely dejected.
The recent achievements of my former roommate easily trumped my own. My successful disposal of six trash bags filled with amniotic waste just couldn't compete. As a result, I went to the cafeteria and got a container of cream cheese and then one more. Garden veggie balanced out with strawberry. I ate them with two bagels and then with a spoon. While scraping the sides of the second container, I received a call, not on a smartphone like a dignified human being but over the crackly loudspeaker like my fast-food order was up. According to the person on the intercom it was "urgent." It wasn't, but I didn't know that so I ignored the lurching sounds coming from my stomach and hurried off.
When I arrived on the scene, it took me a few moments to figure out what my eyes were seeing. It was a woman but didn't look like one, more like an enormous ball of dough that had been left to rise on the linoleum floor. Her blubbery body was everywhere, and her clothing was nowhere, or so it seemed. Further inspection revealed that she was wearing an oversized hospital gown; it was hard to tell because the gown was so outmatched by her mass.
Understanding that I had been summoned to help this woman, I turned to leave. The hoisting of an overexposed blob monster was a daunting endeavor that I wanted nothing to do with. Regrettably, as I went to step away, one of the nurses called my name and pulled me back in.
After strategically maneuvering into an optimal lifting location with the nurse and another orderly, we leaned over and began to raise the dough ball. It was then that I realized things were about to go badly. The woman was too big and the stool that was waiting to come out of my asshole was too watery. As I strained to lift her, my brown starfish loosened. It did not do so for long, but it does not take long to shit your pants and that's exactly what happened. As I strained to lift the woman, my asshole opened up a bit, and some liquid gurgled out. Acting on impulse, I dropped my portion of the blob monster and headed toward the bathroom. On the way, more lactose-fueled stool made its way out of my anus and began its descent of my leg. When the runny shit came into contact with my calf, I picked up the pace from a walk to a jog. I would have run but that always makes shitting your pants worse.
Fortunately, the full-fledged anal release didn't come until after the restroom door closed. Unfortunately, it did come before the stall door opened. My asshole relaxed, and my stomach lurched, and my bowels emptied. My underwear filled, and my pants stained. I felt better and worse all at the same time.
As the realities of the situation settled in, my calculations began. I was far from the closet that had the extra scrubs, too far to make it there unnoticed. It was not an option. Neither was removing the stains in the bathroom sink, as they were too entrenched for the likes of hand soap. As for taking off my bottoms and running to the scrubs closet bare-assed, well that might have resulted in jail time; also there was telltale shit dried to my legs and butt crack hairs. Also, when I run fast my penis goes into athletic mode — that is, it gets real small and hides away, like a bald man nose-deep in a beige turtleneck. Humiliating. Needless to say, none of these initial ideas seemed like viable options, and for a moment, it appeared that I was stuck. Then genius struck. I was in a predicament because my backside was covered in shit, but I could get out of the predicament if the rest of me was covered in shit.
I had crapped my pants. That was the problem. The fecal matter that riddled my clothes was obviously my own, and that was embarrassing. However, it would be less embarrassing if it looked like the excrement was produced elsewhere and then imported onto me by force. If an orderly has crap on the seat of his pants, he draws attention and ridicule. If an orderly has crap everywhere, he draws attention and pity. I proceeded accordingly.
After checking the stalls to ensure their vacancy, I locked the main door, took a deep breath, and relaxed. As expected, the diarrhea that was left seized the opportunity to erupt out of my asshole. With empty bowels, I looked up at the mirror, gave myself a reassuring nod, and then began the process of disguising my accident. Reaching back, I grabbed a handful of the liquid stool residing in the seat of my pants and brought it forward. En route the aroma caught my nostrils resulting in a minor dry heave. I thought about stopping, but I didn't; I went all out, I threw the handful of shit at my chest. It didn't work very well. It's hard to throw things at your own chest; you can't wind up and you look stupid, like a territorial ape slapping its pecs. Attempting to do better the second time around, I threw the next handful in the air. I let it rain down on me, chin up, eyes closed, arms spread, like it was washing away my sins. This method proved more effective. When I reached back the third time it became apparent that there was not enough to grab so I smeared it around instead, mashing it into the fabric around my hips and toward the front of my thighs.
Having rubbed the crap in thoroughly, I looked up in the mirror to examine my progress. My initial thought was that it looked good. Then the ridiculousness of the situation struck me and I laughed. I laughed hard, the way a grown man that is standing in front of a bathroom mirror analyzing how well he is covered in his own shit should laugh.
After a minute or two, I composed myself and returned to the mirror. With a determinedly straight face, I attempted an honest assessment of my appearance. It looked good, authentic, save for the fact that there was no splatter. There needed to be splatter. Unsure of how I was going to achieve this aim, I scanned the room for an answer. It came in the form of a toilet brush stored under the sink.
I removed it from its box and ran it under hot water. It was new, but I wanted to make sure that it was hygienic. The absurdity of this action was not lost on me. Having sanitized the brush, I reached around and began to scrub my crack, back and forth with a slow and deliberate motion. Twenty or thirty strokes later, satisfied with the thoroughness of my scrubbing, I brought the brush around. Holding it firmly in one hand, I pulled the bristles back with the thumb of my other and then released them slowly, a couple at a time. As each bristle released it flicked a little speck of brown onto my clothing. Gradually, my scrubs began to accumulate the authentic-looking spray that I sought. The effect was perfectly random. Pleased with the finished product, I walked out of the bathroom a bit proud. I doubted anyone had ever worn shit so well.
Within a couple of seconds of departing the lavatory, everyone's eyes were on me. Their faces conveyed messages of deep sympathy, each one attempting to outdo the empathetic look of the person before them. I responded with the appropriate face, that of a distressed and tired blue-collar worker. An expression that said, "I'm upset, but I'm not going to complain. I'm just a hardworking guy trying to fulfill his meager lot in life." No one questioned it. As the bulk of the staff at the hospital were upper-middle-class armchair liberals, they dared not laugh at the plight of the workingman. While fighting back a smile, I inwardly reveled. Each and every one of those people was being duped, and I felt superior because of it. I had known I had the capacity to fool, but not with such flair. Arriving at the locker room, I was tempted to turn and take a bow. Mastering the impulse, I pushed open the door and allowed a grin to spread across my face. It was a clean exit, a glorious exit ... for a moment anyway.
As the locker room door swung shut, my name came over the PA system. Evidently, it was another "urgent" matter. My glorious exit was spoiled. Begrudgingly, I jogged off toward the room number given, cursing each squishy step of the way.
When I arrived, I found Lauren leaning over some geriatric shining a light in his eyes. I wondered if the old man could see down her shirt, and if he could, whether or not he could tell if her bra was the type with extra padding that pushes the breasts up and together. Those bras are the best. Rather than passively envying the old man's visual, I attempted to move myself into a location that afforded a similar line of sight. Sadly, it is difficult to be sneaky when you are covered in shit, and as such, it quickly became clear that Lauren's cleavage would remain hidden from my view.
Surrendering to the limitations of the moment, I shifted my gaze from Lauren's tits to her face. I was bewildered, but not surprised, to find her sporting an expression of earnest concern. This patient, this ancient fuck, was about to die, and it genuinely bothered her. She spoke to him softly, as if direct speech would hurt and wiped spittle from the side of his mouth with a tissue. It was a futile effort to give the old man a dignified look as he inched nearer to the grave. She did it anyway. She even held his limp hand in hers for mere words could not convey her emotions. As always, this amazed me.
Lauren had dealt with numerous dying patients. I had personally seen her care for at least a dozen, which means that she had cared for dozens more. But the casual observer would never have been able to guess this fact. They would have thought that this patient was her very own grandpa that lay dying in her arms. That she was embracing the last new memory of the man that taught her to fish for muskie or drive a golf cart or cut a grapefruit or some other thing that grandfathers teach granddaughters. But it was not her grandpa. It was some anonymous old man; some ass that was probably on the business end of a fire hose in early 1960s Birmingham. How could she feel that much for a stranger? Why would she want to?
I was unaware when Lauren first looked up at me. Lost in thought, I was caught without my face on. I did not wear the expression of a blue-collar worker bearing his difficulties with quiet dignity. I am not sure how I looked. Probably like a grown man covered in shit. As a result, Lauren returned an expression that was different from everyone else's. She didn't look angry or disgusted, just less empathetic, more professional. She told me to clean up the old man's vomit, take out his bedpan, and then take a shower. I did as instructed, she thanked me, and I left.
I put my face back on for the walk to the locker room. People gave me the same sympathetic eyes that they had before, but the feeling of satisfaction was gone. I washed the shit off in the staff shower and left for the day.
CHAPTER 2 Unjustified Ennui
"Welcome home, you sexy fuck."
This is how my roommate greets me on a daily basis. It's not an exception. It's a rule. Sometimes he mixes it up and says things like, "Goddamn you're a handsome son of a bitch," or "Hey beautiful, those pants make your crotch look good." He is not homosexual so the lines are not genuine, and he is not homophobic so the lines are not mean-spirited. The lines are what they are, although I suppose they reveal something about him. Perhaps they reveal that as an upper-middle-class white male from suburbia, he is comfortable. He is comfortable with his life, he is comfortable with his friends, he is comfortable with his sexuality, he is comfortable with society, and, most of all, they reveal that he is comfortable with having a good time. His name is Brad and he is fun to drink with. I'm like Brad in many ways and unlike him in a few. I too am an upper-middleclass white male. I also went to a good college and used to be a reasonably talented athlete. Like him, I have slept around a bit but still have standards. We are both decently good looking and we both get along fairly well with our families. Both of us are also somewhat dependent upon our parents for financial help. Not in a pathetic way, more in a slightly spoiled way. Mine pay my cell phone bill and send me gift cards for gas; Brad's pay his car insurance and allow him to charge seventy-five bucks a month on their credit card.