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In my mid-twenties, a heavy smoker, regular beer drinker, lover of meats in casings and anything overloaded with cheese, I found myself one day sequestered in a tiny one-bedroom apartment, the back quarter of a two-family house, struggling to pass a bowel movement—an obstruction, actually—that had gathered and hardened in the final bend of my colon like a wax plug on the cusp of my rectum proper. My colon in those days was not, as you'd think, simply a waste conduit. It was not, as it should have been, the median leg of a seemingly infinitely long, ductile food-transport structure that began mysteriously with invisible production processes delivering the food to my mouth and terminated just as mysteriously in a more intricate, just as well hidden system of pipes and tubes crowding the undersides of our dwelling places. No, my colon was wired wrong—it functioned, however imperceptibly (for I didn't understand it as such, then, at the beginning), as a kind of signifying apparatus, transporting my undealt-with emotions from the hidden and emotionally turgid spaces of my barrel-like trunk up into a light just south of consciousness. Instead of conveying the idea, for instance, that there was something I needed to say but couldn't, that I was linguistically clogged, that there were arenas of speech that lay in darkness through which I journeyed each day blindfolded with my fingers in my ears, it instead, by physically representing such phenomena, simply alerted me to the fact that there was something wrong with me.
      What was wrong with me, I concluded, was that my ass was all fucked up. That's exactly what I told people. I have a fucked-up ass. That day, home alone, my wife away at work giving enemas and cleaning shit from the puckered asses of the elderly (she was in fact a nurse's aid), I struggled for hours on the toilet, clogged, grunting, groaning red-faced, desperate, dipping my ass into warm wash basins and donning my wife's latex gloves, probing my pursed asshole like an in-seeking rock climber searching the plug's edifice for some kind of hold. As the hours passed and the thing began more and more to settle, exerting an almost intolerable pressure on my prostate, I began thinking of methods for dissolving the clog, ways of getting water up into there, warm, soapy water, but lacking the proper equipment for an enema, soon found myself rummaging through the cabinets for laxatives, prunes, raisins, whatever might make it come. I didn't know, this being my first encounter with an obdurate interior alterity, that it was too far gone to help. So, after half a box of outdated Ex-Lax had pressurized my system, sending a yellowish infantile drizzle of diarrhea against the back side of the clot, spilling out around it only enough to stain my shorts, I resolved by whatever means necessary to get some water on that thing and fast.
     There was simply nothing in the apartment. I looked for tubes and straws and hot-water bottles, even the little Fleet Enemas my wife always talked about, but there was nothing that'd pass reasonably into my rectum and squirt water upward against this rock-hard shit clog. Then, for some reason, I got thinking about drink bottles. You know the kind. The kind you squeeze and squirt into your mouth. Then I got thinking about my mother's enema stories. As I lined up all our drink bottles on the counter, feeling the straws and nozzles to determine which would be most easily accommodated in my rectum, my mind wandered to stories of my Grandmother Launderville giving my mother and her sisters, my aunts, enemas at the first sign of fever. I never liked my Grandmother Launderville all that much. Severe and stooped, humpbacked and low-breasted, I imagined her bending the girls over her apron and inserting a red hose into their tiny bottoms. What's interesting is for disposal she had them carry a black garbage bag. She'd fill them with water until, as my mother said, they felt as though they were saturated, sodden, filled through and through, and then she'd pull free the hose and have them squat luridly over the trash bag, spurting brown water for what seemed to my mother like hours. My mother was never again regular, she said, holding off bowel movements for days, holding back against necessity, enduring into perverse, anguished realms I found myself repeating, now, involuntarily.
     I chose a 32-oz. Big Shhlurp cup with a pliable but somewhat serrated straw that appeared, in preliminary testing, to produce the most virile spray. In the bathroom I greased up the straw, filled the cup with warm, soapy water, and proceeded to squat over the toilet, searching blindly with the straw's greased end for an insertion point in the swollen, hemorroidal mass of my sphincter. Once it was painfully inserted, I squeezed as hard as possible until I felt myself fill with a strange, liquid warmth, not seemingly in any way related to my rectum, but some place more abstract, unmapped on my body. I was accessing, somehow, zones of myself I had had no idea existed, nameless places best relegated to the term "ass" than given over to some other jargon more apt to force some unwanted encounter with some shelved and reasonably distant self. Soon, though, I felt the clog begin to break up, piece after piece breaking away, floating about the yellowish brine constricted to the space I've grown around, the clog defining this space for me as if with only this purpose in mind all along. I was confused, and as my fear grew I pulled out the straw prematurely, before the clog was completely dissolved, and found myself having again to strain to pass the still leaden bulk of it. But once it had passed, with all that pressed behind it pouring out yellow and frenzied, I stood on wobbly knees, holding my shirttail like a skirt, and took a long, backward look at it, the clog, floating there on top. It appeared to have been about the size of a grown person's fist, trailing like seaweed little swaying hairs of mucous and blood.




mark o'neil