The girl opposite me has just suffered the death of a beloved goldfish. It was one of those stubborn fuckers that lasts a decade, so she really had a chance to become attached to it. The fish has seen her through her exams, her sexual awakening, and now it is dead.
Suddenly, the towers of photo albums – padded with snapshots of her and the goldfish in front of all the major global landmarks – have become too painful to acknowledge. So they’re left in the spare room: unseen, but for the glowing red dot on the wireframe tactical map of her soul.
She was so moved by the loss, that she couldn’t stomach the endless recitals and eulogising of a full Catholic funeral, and asked her boyfriend to flush the fish down the toilet. This he did, and she sank into an introspective slumber. The sound of urination roused her from internal soliloquy, and she felt stirred to comment.
“Are you pissing on my dead fish?”
Stripped of guile by the grieving process, the reply was stark.
“I needed a piss”
“So you pissed on my goldfish.”
What followed was a debate between conserving nature’s resources and not pissing on a fish. It’s a debate that can never be reconciled, but I know how that boyfriend felt. If he’d flushed, he would have had to wait for the cistern to refill – and staring into a toilet, unable to move, is when most humans have their darkest, most introspective thoughts about futility.
There’s also the fear that your next attempt will be premature – triggering an ineffective splash that cruelly resets your waiting time.
And the attempts to interpret the sounds coming from inside the cistern – did that change of tone mean that the water has stopped, or simply that there’s less room for reverberation inside the pot? Why are you trying to learn the secret language of toilets?
Finally, the desperate lifting of the cistern lid, for some kind of visual clue as to when you might be able to resume your life. You are standing over your own waste, probably with your trousers still around your ankles, and staring at mouldy ballcocks toilet water. You are scum. How you even dare to survive another moment is a fucking brazen liberty.
Early 2008, in the disabled toilet of Future Publishing’s London offices, I perpetrated a stool so fruity in its bombast, that a single flush barely bruised the creature. I soon found that the reflush-refresh on the toilet was incredibly long: after some impatient and irrational pumping on the handle, I removed the slightly diseased looking square of wood that concealed the cistern. I gazed sadly into my immediate future. The flow of water was agonisingly slow.
For two minutes, I paced that oversized room, until the image of Future’s one disabled employee on the horizon, powering towards me with a turtle’s head, became too overpowering. I flushed again. A pint of water landed on my big poo.
Bear in mind I’m trying to flush this turd out of my life, not bring it to from a swoon.
I couldn’t wait another two minutes. Luckily, this toilet was a perfectly equipped puzzle room. I threw the toilet brush to one side, flecking my shins and the wall with sodden paper and old shit, and started using the container to ferry water from the tiny disabled sink to the cistern.
At this point, I began to feel workmanlike, and a kind of shitty can-do contentment settled over me. I used the toilet brush to physically break the turd, maintaining the everything-used-once purity of the puzzle, and went back to my desk to write about some fucking real-time strategy game or other.
I never told people this when it happened, because I was full-time, and didn’t want everyone to assume that the other bodily atrocities committed in the Future disabled toilets were mine. Now, at last, the story can be told.
If there is a moral, I suppose it’s “don’t worry about people pissing on your dead fish, because it could be being sluiced around with a mixture of fresh and diluted weeks-old shit by me”.