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Wendy Crumpler

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The Existential Pee

I believe we humans are actually spirit and don’t require bodies to exist. Yet, here we are in physical form, ensconced in flesh. There must be a reason, something to be learned or gained from carrying around this hunk of meat everywhere we go. My view is the body connects us to nature, giving us information about the third dimension we inhabit. When we check in with our bodies, they also serve to inform us of our emotions and how our thoughts affect those emotions. The body is a better barometer of what is actually going on with us than the mind. The mind can justify all sorts of atrocities, but only a closed heart will fail to report the truth.

Being squarely in the body is of paramount importance to me, and yet I still sometimes have difficulty listening to my own body/heart instead of my intellect/conditioning.

This is where the pee comes in.

I decided one day to walk from the apartment I was subletting in the Kitsilano neighborhood of Vancouver to the Museum of Anthropology. I checked the Google Map; it was a long walk, about one hour 45 minutes, but that’s a good walk. I’ve walked farther many times. I could take the bus back and there was a great exhibit at the Museum at the end of the walk.

I started out later than expected but took time to pee once more before I left the house. Being in my 60s, I find I usually have to go twice in quick succession to get out the door and this day was no different.

After that, I was ready. I had a pretty good notion of the map in my head. It’s a simple walk, straight out West 4th to Chancellor Boulevard takes you directly to the museum. No turns to make, just keep walking.

After 30 minutes, I have to pee. “Not possible,” I tell my body, “you peed twice before you left.” I keep walking but at Jericho Beach park the urge is not going away. I know I have at least another hour left to walk. It’s okay, I tell myself. After the park we’re back in civilization again. There’ll be a Starbucks or 7-11 or something, so no problem, I can keep walking.

Those of you more familiar with Vancouver than I will realize immediately after Jericho Beach park on West 4th there is nothing even remotely resembling a Starbucks or 7-11. It is the most unmerciful stretch of quiet residential neighborhood that ever existed. There’s not even a sidewalk. Clearly NO ONE ever walks this stretch of highway. Ever.

By now the situation is beginning to be a little desperate. Perhaps it would be better to wait for the bus to UBC which takes this route. All I have to do is find a bus stop. It feels like miles to the next bus stop and after I stand there waiting for five minutes, I realize standing still is even worse than walking. And, with little faith in the Vancouver transit system, I know I could be there holding my pelvic floor tightly for another 20 minutes.

I continue walking.

The bus passes me.

I really, really have to pee.

Then, suddenly, like manna to the Israelites, a park appears. And it’s not a small park. It stretches on and on as far as I can see. There will be a place to pee. Maybe I’ll be lucky and there’ll be some sort of cafe or boathouse. If not, it’s a park for heaven’s sake. There’ll be trees.

Only there’s no cafe and the trails, even the one with trees are very open and public. And there are people. What the hell are all these people doing in this gigantic park on the water’s edge? They are walking their dogs is what they’re doing, walking them down every single secluded spot I can find.

I walk deeper and deeper into the park and I begin to wonder, “What would Diane do?” I know the answer. She’d drop trow and pee behind a tree, any old tree, because she doesn’t have a thing about taking a pee when she needs to. This is one of the functions of a great friend, giving us courage to do what must be done, being a role model. Only I don’t heed her call to liberation.

I know I’m being weird and not taking care of myself but my brain keeps telling me it’s inappropriate to pee where people might see my bum. That’s ridiculous, I tell myself but each time I muster the courage to pull down my pants (and of course I’m wearing pants, long underwear, gloves, scarf, a bulky coat, and a backpack, so it’s going to take a while to do that) a dog walker saunters past and waves at me. Usually in Vancouver, no one looks at me, even when I’m tossing a chipper good morning or how’re you doing in their direction. But here in the park when I desperately need a bit of anonymity, they couldn’t be friendlier.

I ask the next owner of a canine whether I can get to the Museum of Anthropology if I continue through the park—my bursting bladder has erased the image of the Google map from my brain—and she takes out her cell phone and shows me I need to get back up to the road or add an additional 20 minutes to the journey. I thank her and hike back up to the road.

Another ten minutes of wondering how this is going to work out and suddenly there are trees again. There are some semi-private areas at their bases. However, these trees are up against the wooden fences of a very lovely condo development. I’m at risk of a ruptured bladder and peritonitis but still find the idea of peeing on someone’s nice fence abhorrent.

Now, I know I’ve gone crazy. What would Diane do has been truncated into a mere WD—would Diane? Of course, Diane would, she would have gone by the edge of the road or in the wooded park or on the neighbor’s fence. I should take courage from her example, be bold.

It’s gone further than that, though. Now I feel God has been giving me opportunity after opportunity to pee and I’ve been rejecting each one. I feel I’m caught in the old joke about the man who’s drowning but keeps turning down the assistance saying, “God will save me.” Like him, I’m spurning all of God’s advances toward me and now, not only do I have to pee, but I feel very, very guilty and ungrateful as well. Tears well up and I’m sure I’ll either die or have to take the bus home in wet, smelly pants.

Then, as if to assure me that God’s love is never ending, never fading, a path appears. Yes, it’s between two incredibly ritzy mansions, but it is shaded from the road and partially private from the three car garages and formal gardens. There’s even a downed tree blocking it, so I know it hasn’t been used much lately. In hasty gratitude I pull off my backpack and pull down my pants and sense the exquisite joy of release.

By then, I’ve used up so much time, going off track and out of my mind, there’s little time left to see the exhibit. But dammit, I went through a lot to get there and I was determined.

It was worth it.

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