The Last Days
For years now I have been urinating into flower pots, spraying the shiny leaves, the fissured russet soil.
Typically, as time passes, the plant I pee on blackens. It is an odd and ominous hue, a mesh of bronze and mustard arteries, like poisoning.
Still, it keeps on growing in degenerate defiance against me and its nature.
I often contemplate this toxic quirk of mine.
Does it amount to a behavior pattern, a set of familiar, oft-repeated acts that verge on psychological automatism?
And if it does - is it peculiar? Who is to judge, by whose authority? What are the moral, or other, standards used to determine my eccentricity or idiosyncrasy?
I am not even sure the quirk is mine.
Admittedly, the urine thus expelled, a cloudy saffron, or a flaxen shade, emerges from the pallid, limp appendage to which I'm indisputably attached. But this, as far as I am concerned, does not transform my waste disposal into a pattern of behavior, nor does it make this habitual discharge mine.
My observations of the routines of my evacuation onto horticultural containers are detached (I am almost tempted to label them "objective"). I ferret out the common denominators of all these incidents.
I never abuse a potted plant when given access to a restroom less than three minutes walk away. I judiciously use "three minutes". There have been cases of houseplant mutilation when the nearest WC was three minutes and ten seconds far.
Also I never purge myself merely for pleasure or convenience. I can conscientiously say that the opposite is true: I resort to my vegetables only in times of acute distress, beyond endurance. Undeniably, the physical release I feel entails emotional relief and the faint traces of the exudative orgasm one experiences with a whorish, feral woman, who is not one's spouse.
The longer I persevere, the fiercer the cascade, sculpting the loam to form lakes of mud and rustling froth.
Another matter that greatly occupies me is the in-depth perusal of the circumstances in which my preferences of elimination shift.
A prime condition, of course, is the availability of a planter. I find these in offices and other public places. I cherish the risk of being found excreting in these urns - the potential social condemnation, the forced commitment to a madhouse.
But why? What causes this fluidal exhibitionism?
The exposure of my member is important. The wafting chill upon my foreskin. It is primordially erotic, a relic of my childhood. We pee like that when we are toddlers: the organ bare, observed by all and sundry, the source of foaming falls.
It's an important point, this nippy air of infancy.
Equally, there is the delicious hazard of being spotted by a beautiful woman or by the authorities (a policeman, a warden, when I was in jail).
Yet, the wished for outcomes of this recklessness are by no means ascertained.
Consider the authorities.
This act is so in breach of my much-cultivated image as European intellectual - that I anticipate being thoroughly ignored, in an attempt to avoid the realization that they've been cheated (or were they simply too obtuse to notice my blatant preference for herbal floods?)
Even more inauspicious:
They may be coerced into conceding that not everyone can safely be defined or subjected to immutable classification. This forced admission would undermine the pillars of their social order. It's better to pretend that they do believe my story - as I hurriedly button my open fly - that I was merely sorting out my clothes. They hasten to avert their eyes from the dark stain that encompasses my squirting manhood.
A beautiful woman is another matter altogether.
If she happens to detect me, it has the makings of pornography. Being the right type, this can be the beginning of a great, blue passion.
I am not sure what is the legal status of my actions. Unobserved, in the absence of a gasping public - my exposure is not indecent. So what is it? An obscenity? Damage to public property? A corruption of the morals? Is there an offense in the codex thus described: "Exposing one's penis to the breeze while standing over a black and brown and yellow plant"?
I bet there isn't - though one can never be too sure. We are, therefore, left with the phenomenology of my exploits. Put less genteelly: we can describe the act but are very far from comprehending it.
I also notice that I resort to flowerpots before I browse a book, or while I do it, or after. I use my lower culvert to expunge my upper sewer of all manner of read cerebral effluence.
My learned piss, my highbrow vinegar.
While immersed in reading, sometimes I forget to drink for many hours. It does not affect the frequency of my eliminations. I, therefore, feel compelled to establish no connection between fluids consumed and urine produced when intellectually engaged. My higher functions offer splendid regulation of my aqueous economy.
My manner of urinating in plant containers is different to the way I pee in the gleaming bowls of regular loos. Confined among the tiles, I discharge meticulously, in a thin and measured trickle, free to ruminate on theoretical matters or to consider the last woman to have abandoned me and why she has.
I judge her reasons flimsy.
Out in nature - as reified by shriveling potted shrubs - I experience a breakdown in communication with my wand. I find myself cajoling it both verbally and by straining the muscles of my bladder and my lower abdomen. I wag it with a mildness that masks suppressed hostility and pent aggression. I begrudge it the spontaneity and variegation of its inner and outer lives.
Following a period of obsequious supplication, it acquiesces and emancipates my floral urine: a stern and furious jet erupts in all directions, a sprinkler out of control, a hose without a nozzle.
There is the loneliness, of course.
Opposing a flourishing jardinière, or an ivy covered fire hydrant - I am alone, the kind of privacy that comes with windswept nudity and public intimate acts. This is the solitude of a rebel about to be caught, an act of utter self-destruction as meaningful as farting or ejaculating in a whore who's bored to the point of distraction. In short: the angst.
I pee in existential window boxes.
Regarding the pots themselves - I am indifferent.
I am pretty certain that I expel not on the containers but on the life that they contain. I urinate on growth itself and not on the confines of its development. I am capable of peeing on houseplants wherever they may be. I did it in elevators and on standpipes, around hedges, and in our pristine rooms - my former wife's and mine.
Long ago, I passed urine in an empty classroom in my school where they wasted mornings grooming dimwitted girls to be ineffectual secretaries. That was my first exposure and aberrant liquefaction. I used a desiccated little pot. Truth be told, I was not to blame. The janitor locked me in without allowing for my incontinent bladder, the consequence of chronic prostatitis from early adolescence.
Thus incarcerated among the minacious rows of electric typewriters, I did what I had to do on the turf of the schoolroom's only flowerpot. I spent two blissful months of cooped up afternoons there, typing my finals thesis about the last days of Adolf Hitler.
As my book-length paper progressed, the classroom reeked of stale excretions. The plant first shriveled, changing its color from dusty khaki to limpid yellow and then to screaming orange. It was only a short way from there to the familiar brown-spotted murk that accompanied the grounded shrub's desperate contortions, attempting to evade the daily acidic chastisement I meted out.
At last, it twisted around itself, in a herbal agonizing whirl, and froze. It became a stump, a remnant, the arid memory of an erstwhile plant. It formed a tiny cavity that whistled with the breeze. It assumed the air of parchment, increasingly translucent as I further drenched it.
It was the first time I witnessed the intricacies of death in action. Being at hand, I was its main or only agent, the first and sole determinant of its triumph over life. I meticulously documented each convolution of the inferior organism. I realized that few can reliably recount the withering of a plant in such conditions. Its wilting is bound to elude the finest of detectives if he refuses to acknowledge my sodden contribution.
This was, indeed, the point: an opportunity to murder, replete with the attendant pleasures of a protracted torturing to death - and still to be absolved.
Are you upset?
Then ask yourselves: what shocks you in the passing of a flower in a classroom thirty years ago?
You have no ready answer.
Lately, I adopted this novel habit of peeing in foreign toilets, around the bowls, creating fizzing ponds on shimmering floors. I half expect the tiles to yellow and to bronze and then to rarefy into limpidity. But porcelain is more resilient than certain forms of life. It keenly feeds on urine. It's not the way to go. Must find another venue to explore that wet frisson.
I exit lavatories engrossed in mourning, dejected, nostalgia-inundated.
I heave myself onto a leathery love seat and crumble, am embryo ensconced. I must completely reconsider I know not what, till when, what purpose to this contemplation. At least the rabid dousing of flower pots is meaningful - I pee, therefore I kill.
But this incomprehensible trot from john to armchair and back appears to be the wrong trajectory. On the other hand, I found no other path and an internal voice keeps warning me to delve no deeper.
I gather that my wife has left a while back. She used to wonder why the plants in our apartment expire soon and many. She changed the fading vegetation, never the dying earth. Not having heard her questions (and the plants being untouched), I conclude, with a fair amount of certainty, that she is gone.
No point in peeing into pots whose plants are dead. My wife would have enjoyed the metaphor. She says that what you see with me is never what you get. I find it difficult to imagine what she would have said had she known about my disposal habits. It would have fit her theory about me, for sure.
At any rate, I am not inclined to water urns whose flowers withered. Unholy urine, such as mine, is most unlikely to effect a resurrection.
I religiously wash my hands after the act. This might be considered out of character as I owned up to peeing whichever way, on plants and other objects. Sometimes the wind messes up the stream and sprays me teasingly. I cannot always shower and scouring my palms is kind of a ritual: "see you, after all, I am purged."
I miss my wife, the malleable folds of creamy skin I used to nibble.
Now there is no one I can peck and the flat is constantly in dusk. I am unable - really, unwilling - to get off the lounger I dragged to the entrance of the toilet. I wish I had someone I could gnaw at. Coming to think of it, my wife would have been interested in the details of my soggy deviance. But I am pretty certain that she would have been the only one. And, even so, her curiosity would have been mild at best. Or non-existent, now that she has vanished.
I cleanse my hands again. It's safer. One never knows the mischief of the winds. Why should I risk the inadvertent introduction of my waste into my mouth while eating?
When my wife informed me she is bailing out of our depressing life, she insisted that I was the first to abandon her. She accused me of emotional absenteeism. I was in the throes of a particularly gratifying leak on the undergrowth around a crimson fireplug. The oxblood soil, now frothy laced, aflame, the setting sun.
I placed the call to her naively. She bid farewell, her voice was steel, and she was gone.
I instantly grasped the stark futility of any war I'd wage to bring her back. I also knew it'll never be the same, peeing on plants. I am bound to remember her and what and how she said, the frightful burn, that swoon. I must have turned yellow-pale, then brown-orange, and putrefactive arteries have sprung throughout me. I couldn't do a thing but writhe under her sentence.
The muffled sounds of cars from outside. Some people tell the make by distant rumbles: deep bass, stentorian busses, the wheezing buzz of compacts. I play this guessing game no longer. I understand now that the phone won't ring, that the house if empty, that there is nothing to revive a shriveled shrub, immersed in urine, implanted in ammoniac soil.
I think about the last days of Hitler: how he roamed his underground bunker with imagined ulcers, poisoning his beloved canines, his birthday party, and how he wed his mistress the day before the twain committed suicide.
How they were both consumed by fire.
This was the topic of my dissertation when I urinated for the first time in a flowerpot, in my childhood high school, in my forlorn birth town, so long ago. I had no choice. The school's caretaker locked me in.
And this is what I wrote:
How two get married knowing they will soon be dead and how it matters not to them. They exterminate the dogs and chew on cyanide, having instructed everyone beforehand regarding the disposal of their bodies. And then the shot.
Their last few days I studied in those early days of mine. Their last few days.
QUESTIONS TO PONDER
This part is meant only to provoke thoughts. It is not a substitute to independent thinking, criticism, and analysis.
The narrator in the story is clearly disintegrating. But what tells us that he is a narcissist?
Do you think - from your experience - that delusions and psychotic breaks are an integral part of narcissism, especially when narcissistic supply is running low?
Do you find that narcissists change in the wake of life crises such as the one experienced by the narrator?
Does the narrator love his wife - or is the nature of his attachment to her different to love? If it is not love - what is it?
The narrator mentions Hitler. Is it a natural association for narcissists who are bound to admire power and notoriety?
The act of urination (which does take place in reality) is also symbolic. What do you think it symbolizes?