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To you, it’s just a bathroom. It’s utilitarian and cold. Maybe you notice the monogrammed towels or how the mauve soap dish compliments the pink accents on the sconces, but you don’t think twice about it. It’s just a bathroom. You are not a writer.

To us writers, it’s a borrowed domain. It’s a place we mark as our own, temporarily, while we give a part of ourselves away. It’s where we let go, and it’s where we know the darkest parts of ourselves. It’s where we say goodbye to the things inside of us that we thought we wouldn’t miss, but inevitably, even flushing away our waste serves as a reminder of the atrophic nature of life and love. When we poop, we can’t help but think of lost romances defined by the painfully mundane moments in a relationship – the little spats, the tense silences, and the discourteous, dismissive texts that chipped away at our union in infinitesimal increments that collectively lead to its demise. Every flushed shit reminds a writer of the things we thought we wouldn’t miss. We don’t see a bathroom. We see a porcelain and Formica mausoleum, entombing our heartbreaks thus far, through unintentional semaphores of splats and stinks. We see a story.

So we get up, and we retain a little bit of the mess as a keepsake. As writers, we never wipe. We tuck the little flecks of poo betwixt our cheeks and wait for a day where it won’t be too painful to look at them again. Where the smell of a long gone shit evokes hope through nostalgia, rather than an immediate, crushing sense of loss. We yearn for the day when we can reach into our asses, pull out a petrified sheet of poo, delicate like a dried rose pressed in an old novel, and remind ourselves that we are still full of shit, and have plenty of shit to give to the world. We know that a broken heart, however many times over, is just an ass that is waiting to be wiped. We know that an unwiped ass, is the only ass with character.

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by Nicole Mullen for Thought Catalogue

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

2 Responses to “To You, It’s A Toilet. To A Writer, It’s…” Subscribe

  1. stefan March 6, 2014 at 11:54 am #

    But of course, isn’t the trick, not to see the story as opposed to the utility, but rather to see the utility as the story? What if the use of the toilet is precisely to give us a little private space in the public sphere, a place where the individual can go to repair itself while pooping and be proud that it doesn’t wipe? The use of the modern toilet stall is clearly not to dispose of feces: any patch of dirt would do that just as well. It’s particular way of enclosing exposure helps code our experience of individuality, such that we can then imagine ourselves as beings singular enough to be writers. It’s no coincidence that the toilet stall and the voting booth have the same basic architecture.

  2. Ainehi Edoro March 6, 2014 at 12:29 pm #

    So brilliantly put Stefan!

    Toilets and voting booths? Never would’ve thought of that. But you’re right.

    I’m also wondering whether shame plays a role here.

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