In addition to our wedding anniversary in May, Jared and I celebrate a weekend in late October, just passed, which marks both when we starting dating (9 years ago) and got engaged (6 years ago). This post is in honor of the occasion.
Disclaimer: Don’t read this if you are unnerved by blood, guts, and glory, and way TMI about scatological concerns and the realities of being a woman in the jungle. It’s pretty gross.
Oh, this is a good one.
So, as I mentioned in my last post, the facilities at the farm where we’re staying in rural Peru are rustic but completely adequate. The toilets are squat toilets, meaning you go in a hole in a metal pan secured in a concrete floor. Line up your feet and you’re in business. Well. Once again, my Freshette has come in enormously handy, as, if you’re a woman, it can be a little challenging to pee into a hole. Something in my mechanism makes the stream go askew, and the first few times I tried going to the bathroom, I just ended up peeing on my sandaled feet (one of the many reasons that you don’t walk into the house with your shoes on). Of course, I had a solution in the Freshette, and for the first few days the only issues were with my creaking knees.
Then my period started. For these times I use something called a menstrual cup, which reduces waste and additional cost to zero, and is really, in my opinion, much more convenient and pleasant than the standard alternatives. Menstrual cups were invented around the same time as modern tampons, but manufacturers realized that there was more money to be made selling disposable products. Another victory for the planned obsolescence racket.
One Sunday morning I woke up, ready to accomplish many things. I was going to change my menstrual cup and go to the bathroom during the same trip to the squat toilet. I had all the hygienic implements, plus my Freshette, ready to go. To free my hands, and avoid placing the Freshette on the concrete floor before using it (keep in mind that this was to keep it clean – the irony of this will come into play very soon), I tucked it into the shelf bra of the dress I was wearing. I finished step one of my agenda, and prepared to move on to step two: peeing. Somehow, though, I bent over too far while standing up to change position and watched, in indescribable horror, as my Freshette tumbled from my dress and disappeared into the pit of poopy hell.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that I burst into tears. When I go to these farms, there is a brief transition period. Days 1-2: I’m a little distressed by the changes and challenges of the location, but I suck it up. No big deal. Days 3-5: at some point the frustrations and changes boil up and I let it out in a good cry. After that I’m fine – it’s just how I release some of the emotional tension. The disappearance of the Freshette into the squat toilet triggered this emotional release and I melted down. Big time. It was one of the worst things I could imagine happening in a squat toilet. Unfortunately, Jared was in the squat toilet next door, and was subjected to hearing his darling wailing in distress. If I’d been alone, I may have had the same outburst, but would have had time to collect myself before going in and reporting the tragedy that had just taken place. But no.
Jared came over, took one look at me, and immediately went into action. I tried to protest between sobs, but he wasn’t having it. He went inside to get a flashlight and found some long pieces of thin rebar in the shed. Then this man got down on his knees and started fishing. Fortunately, the level of muck wasn’t impossibly far away, but certainly too far to just reach in and grab the Freshette. I watched, half in adoration, half in horror, as Jared proceeded to get shit, literally, all over himself. When I saw that his efforts would not be instantaneously successful, I tried to tell him to stop, that I would figure something else out. This, understandably, was mildly irritating, as he was already in the middle of this ordeal, and he told me calmly (though possibly through gritted teeth) to chill out. I tried instead to be helpful by holding the flashlight, cringing because the flashlight now had poop on it.
It took a while. Like, half an hour. Jared had to keep manipulating the rebar, bending it in different ways to try to hook the Freshette. Unhelpfully, I was shaking during this ordeal, which made the flashlight beam shake, which compounded the difficulty of Jared’s task. At one point, the Freshette was on its way up, only to slip away and plop down again in the muck. At another time, as Jared recalled afterward, it started sinking, and he feared briefly losing sight of it forever. Then, all at once, his face locked in concentration, sweat running down his face, his left hand slowly raising the rebar, his right hand darted into the hole and pulled out the Freshette, raising it on high. Sunlight dappled its green matte finish, glinting playfully off the white maggots wriggling in its plastic curves. Tears of gratitude, tinged with embarrassment and total gross-out, came to my eyes. I heard triumphant blasts from angelic trumpets, and somewhere a choir burst into the Hallelujah Chorus. Chivalry was not dead – it was very much alive in a squat toilet somewhere in the high Amazonian jungle.
The Freshette soaked in bleach for the rest of the day. Jared showered off, and went about his day as if nothing had happened. He said afterward that it wasn’t a big deal, that growing up on a farm meant he had his hands in poop all the time, that he would have rescued the Freshette even if I hadn’t been weeping as if someone had just strangled a puppy in front of me. And, well, it’s probably true. That’s just the kind of human that I was fortunate enough to marry.