I love to lie in bed and squish my fingers deep into my eyes until the black grows tendrils and colors burst. I do it when I think I can't sleep. I do it in church whenever they talk about heaven. I do it when Matt tells me I'm rubber and you're glue times infinity. It's the infinity that's behind the blackness when I rub. I do it when I imagine the darkest it could be.
I'm wearing pink panties with ruffles on the butt. I'm only supposed to wear them under my Sunday dress but I’m wearing them now. Happily, I prance around on the long, olive green, shag carpet of my ten foot by twelve foot bedroom before heading down to play. The people who lived here before us used my tiny room as a sewing room so if you pick around the long carpet pile long enough, sometimes you find a straight pin.
I stand at the top of the stairs, open the door, and inhale deeply through my nose. This is the smell of home, real home. Not the prepared, just-dusted shelves and freshly-vacuumed carpet of the living room. Basement smell. I inhale and hold in the humidity and the old indoor/outdoor, red and black carpet. I’m sure the midwest earth filtered through this carpet and scented it perfectly, fecundly. I’ve lain, face down in this carpet and sniffed and sniffed at that smell until my cheek was scratchy and red.
With full lungs, I race down the stairs (thu, thu, th-th-th-th, THUMP!) I run past the dining room table, behind the brown plaid couch, and across the basement floor to the shelves. I sit down on my blue, plastic booster seat in front of the plywood and brick and survey the low shelves for toys. I settle on the primary-colored, rubber blocks and get to it.
I've been playing for a long time. Long enough to hear the dehumidifier whirring and then clunking off, then shrugging into service again, several times over. I feel need rising up. I pinch and squeeze. Squeeze harder. The feeling passes and I return to my game.
The booster seat gets sweaty and slippery and I wipe it off, sit back down. Even dry it’s too warm, so I sit on the concrete floor instead. The carpet doesn’t go this far into the basement. I smell dryer sheets and humidity coming from the laundry room against the sounds of the news left on in the background.
A wave of the feeling comes again and I squeeze. Again, it passes and I can return to stacking blocks: red, blue, red, blue until I run out or the stack falls. I build a more stable, less color coordinated stack and put other toys on top. The toys are talking to each other. Since the boy has gone to sleep, they have that freedom. They don’t know I’m here. I tell the toys he will love them all, not just the velveteen rabbit. The wave comes again and I cross my legs tighter. It is coming more frequently now. The concentration and squeezing to stop it is harder each time. I should go upstairs and go potty, I think. But I never have this much fun playing by myself. So I squeeze and squeeze and squirm to squeeze harder than I can.
The hollow wood door at the top of the stairs opens. “Karin, you probably need to sit on the potty, peanut!” calls my mom.
“In a minute!”
I squeeze and hold my breath to keep it in check. I keep playing. I promise myself, in just a minute, I'll go. A minute comes and goes and I play it away. More minutes.
Stomp, stomp, STOMP! My mom’s signature rhythm from upstairs.
I’m out of bargaining and need to go now. Finally, I try to stand up. I am as far from the bathroom as I could possibly be. I picture the path back up the stairs, past the kitchen table, straight down the nice-blue-carpeting to the bathroom door. It’s too far. I have to stop and sit back down if I’m going to make it that far. I sit back down so I can rock and hold it in better. I rock and rock, and squeeze. I can't stand up now. I have to go too badly. I hope for a solution. I rock and hope. It comes eventually.
Even as I pee on the floor: shame and relief pooling in my pink ruffles, I think, “I should stop.” I could pinch and stop it, then run up the stairs to the bathroom to finish. I think that would be better. My mom would be less disappointed if I couldn’t hold it but tried. I think this as I let go, give in to the shame, give in to the spreading consequences, and empty the whole thing.