I have started reading books in the toilet again.
The Soft Machine (William Burroughs), Trimalchio (F Scott Fitzgerald) and My Name is Red (Orhan Pamuk) hold my hands to make sure I don’t fall into the bowl, just like in the old days when my bottom was too little for the bog standard. In the old days, we devoured the new lands with gusto like voracious ants, and we never strolled or sighed.
Perhaps the first and last titles serve the aesthetic best out of the three. To understand this notion (conconcted where else but in the smallest room of the house), it is necessary to appreciate Burroughs’ unerring gravitation of thought towards effluvient enterprises in this book, and that pamuk is Turkish for cotton. I am missing the element of running water so I apologise about that – effusively.
Toilet talk is strikingly absent from polite conversation. I do not live in polite conversation thanks to two choices I have made in my life: I have lived with a houseful of young men, and I have lived in a houseful of toddlers. Such situations tend to force a person to question their prudishness concerning certain taboo subjects, with the rest of the world endowing this individual with the rather sticky moniker of ‘faecally obsessed’. Nowadays, I wipe not only my own behind but those of my two children (well, only one now, she types with a solemn tear). Indeed, with a newborn baby in hand, one is actively interested in their little one’s leavings, because it tends to tell you a lot about their health, and you tend to care about that sort of thing. This sort of talk amongst adults primes children to be unashamed about some things, to find other things funny, at least in the comfort of the young home.
What is interesting is that I spend no more time thinking about the colour of my shits than anyone else in the world, and I can probably speak for those whose work it is to care for folk in that way (carers and nurses, for example). And, by extension, this led me to an interesting idea about other taboos, some bound in illegality, that are shrouded in folklore (did I ever mention how much I’m a fan of empirical evidence?) regarding the many and unsavoury ways in which society would collapse by more liberal attitudes. Let us extend our corporeal meditations and think about the following:
(d) farts, which emerge from (a) and sometimes (c).
What is happening to you? I had a smile on my face as I wrote that list (it’s probably the best list I’ve ever made actually), because these things are funny. People look funny naked, farts are funny, a person sitting on a toilet looks absurd, sex looks silly. I can’t think of any other reason why doing these things in public, with the obvious exception, are illegal. The idea that as mature adults we would all be too distracted by our sexual arousal for one another to build a stable society if we were all naked is refuted by those that came before us and that live among us now. This argument is far more amusing than it is convincing. In short, aside from Facebook chain letters about random acts of kindness, such as the donkey that gave that feller CPR, or the lion that taught Paris Hilton how to wash behind her ears on the African savannah (if you haven’t heard of that one, you probably should spend more time on the facebook), there is nothing more irritating to me than prudishness.
In any case, that I am reading books in the toilet has less to do with an engineered confluence of minds than a paucity of it on my part. I unwisely decided to run a marathon this October, and much to my dismay I have discovered that I cannot simply run a marathon by reading about it. Moreover, I find myself in a braindead state while I attempt to build physical endurance in a rather short space of time. I remember once at a party telling the story of the man who tried to learn how to swim solely by reading about it and then, feeling his knowledge satisfied, throwing himself into a deep pool to test his knowledge. The tale did not end well, much to the dismay of the unfortunate person I was labouring under the delusion of entertaining, as I couldn’t remember whether the man succeeded or failed.
This fear came over me about three days into my training. Thankfully it passed, and I decided not to dwell on it, but to “perform”, in addition to my prescribed routine, some ad-hoc cross training: the jazzercise provencale – or gardening, as most people call it. I call it gardening too, I’m not a dick. For six hours I hacked at wizened acacia roots and frantically decapitated knolls with axe and spade, an unhinged botanist (no metaphor required). I ended up head to toe in a cocoa coloured mud dust undercoat topped with a sprinkling of short grains of straw, through which sweat had forged miniscule flesh coloured veins. I drank two litres of coca cola. It took me a long time to extract my foot from the mud casts that had solidified inside my boots.
I folded the week’s laundry. I drank a pint of water. I laid down to sleep. An unfamiliar feeling smothered me as black velvet hooded my eyes and caressed me in lullabies. My mind was blank. My heart fluttered: this is my life for the next four and a half months. No more nightcap fantasia, no more wondering why bla-dee-bla, no more self congratulatory toying with words to interrupt the falling curtain of night. No more stumbling out of bed to grab pen and paper.
Perhaps this means the death of my better thought-out posts. Welcome to a lesser age where thoughts are muffled by physical exertion. An age where something something… it’s actually quite hard to write this stuff when I’m this tired. There’s a route I take, involving
a humourous observation, perhaps three examples of a thing, followed by an often delicately tenuous association that is more sweeping, childishly simplistic, possibly involving some sentiment about our beloved political institutions, and ending in something that makes me laugh or lends me credibility. Its meandering should indicate only one thing: I need to work on writing my thoughts out in a more succinct fashion.
Oh yes. An age where I am not bored. I’ve effectively turned myself into a running vegetable. The night birds won’t come to me any more. All I hear as I fall asleep is a garbled conversation as if I’m already dreaming. Perhaps it is like hearing a conversation through the walls of a cheap hotel (if you are lucky that’s what you’ll hear), which goes something like: retrograde…
I’ll let Burroughs take the fall for that one.