You Need to Pee
You wake up at 2:38 in the morning with the overpowering need to pee. Of course, you do not. It is fourteen steps from your twin-sized bed in the cluttered corner of your mother’s scrapbooking office to the guest bathroom with a framed picture of you, circa those ill-advised bangs, smiling toothlessly in front of the Grand Canyon. These steps are conducted across soft, spongy, worn carpeting kneaded into submission by the cat your mother adopted when you moved across the country to follow the girlfriend who later left you for an exotic bird caretaker named Mona Lisa, but not like the painting. Your path is brightly illuminated in its entirety by the dollar store nightlights given to you on your birthday by your second favorite Aunt; her name is Lydia and she is fun but not too fun. And yet still you will not embark on this journey.
You have not answered the hero’s quest, no epic works of literature will be written about you, in all likelihood, you will end this experience exactly the same as you began: needing to pee. But now you have a new battle to fight: the vivid, colorless recurring stress dream in which you feel the warm rushing river flowing between your legs while you publicly urinate at your ex-girlfriend’s wedding to her new girlfriend Mona Lisa, but not like the painting. Coincidentally, in this dream, everyone at the wedding is the Mona Lisa, like the painting, and they have terribly rude opinions.
But despite your tossing and turning you stubbornly stay in bed until the pressure in your lower abdomen rouses you from the image of thirteen sentient artistic masterpieces judging you for your poor bladder control and J.C. Penny brand platform sandals. At this point, you become aware of your mother clanging in the kitchen and the aforementioned cat yowling outside the door. The smell of baking waffles floats to your nose and you dread how much you will enjoy them because they are, of course, pity waffles. You consider the day ahead; you wonder if you will put on pants; you know you will obsessively Google Mona Lisa and find it difficult to locate the exotic bird caretaker and not the painting.
Congratulations. Your will is stronger than your bladder, but your dreams are stronger than both.
You are sitting in the rickety foldout chair at your first brother’s second wedding with the intense need to pee. But of course, you do not. The sun glints menacingly into your eyes, you uncross and re-cross your legs, and you fidget with the slipping bra strap under the shimmering gold dress you have chosen for its ostentatiousness. Your second favorite Aunt Lydia suggests that you are peacocking, but you resist any comparisons that involve exotic birds for obvious reasons. Your brother softly cries while reciting his vows, but you can think of nothing else except the distance between you and the bathroom, and also, of course, the haughty bridesmaid with that astute buzz cut and the tanned, muscled arms of an outdoors enthusiast. You lock eyes and smile before you remember you are not dating until you can spend an entire day without thinking of your ex-girlfriend and Mona Lisa, but not like the painting.
Today you have failed, this morning you spent seven full minutes staring at the picture of the two of them holding a baby golden eagle, smiling the smug smile of two feminine lesbians who garner too much social media attention for being conventionally attractive. When your brother pauses to blow his nose, he does not have a tissue and so your second favorite Aunt jumps up with a tattered, heavily used handkerchief. The bridesmaid capitalizes on this chaos to wink at you if you can believe that people under eighty-five wink. This is a wildly uncouth move that makes your insides burn with months of suppressed and likely misplaced desire. The ceremony stretches on for forty-three more minutes and you manage to sit still without publicly urinating on yourself while you entertain the newfound conviction that you and this bridesmaid whose name you do not know will grow old together while communicating primarily through winks and strong-armed handshakes.
Congratulations. Your will is stronger than your bladder, but your desire is stronger than both. For the record, your J.C. Penny brand platform sandals are what seal the deal when you ask for her number—she tells you this on your fourth date when you uncover your shared affinity for wolves.
You are hunched against the metal-framed headboard in the room that cost more because of the exposed brick while she confesses in quiet whispers everything that you have feared, and yes, you desperately need to pee. But of course, you do not. Pictures of you two splatter the shabby yet chic walls: you smile broadly in the glistening sun on top of some mountain, and then near a grand body of water; your ill-advised shaved head matches hers in the way that attracts backhanded compliments from your least favorite relatives applauding you for your resistance to universally adopted beauty standards. You hug the soft wolf stuffed animal to your chest and stare at the wrinkles in the corner of her eyes mutely.
She sputters through a mouthful of snot and tears her lurid tale: it happened at that one gay bar where you threw up last New Year’s after your first brother’s second wife probed you for gritty details about this new relationship. But now it is just a relationship. She tells you with shifty eyes that she met a woman named Kai who works at a large cat sanctuary. They got roaringly drunk and talked about you but did not fuck, and here she pauses, looks at the tiny spider weaving a web on the inside of the windowpane and says that maybe she wanted to. You ask wanted to what, not because you don’t know but because you need her to say it. You avoid her drained, tear-stained eyes because you are trying, and failing to remember what it felt like when she used to wink. All you can see are the tapestry of wrinkles that tell you one thing for certain: your children would not age well.
She whispers that this is moving too quickly, that your first brother’s second wife keeps hinting that you are going to propose. You are not planning on it but you are not planning against it either. She says that she does not know what she wants but she fears that it is not this. You try to calm her down but instead you begin to cry. You hope that this leakage will relieve some of the pressure on your bladder but instead you clutch your abdomen while the pain boils and curls inside you. She reaches out a tanned, muscled arm but stops short. You both notice this. You bet Kai has stronger and tanner arms than yours. But before she can say the words that will end it all, you rise to your feet and leave the room while muttering about the need to pee.
Congratulations. You have peed. Your bladder is stronger than your will, but your flight response is stronger than both.
When you return to that musky room she will end it, but while you are washing your hands under fluorescent lighting you can still cling to the belief that this is the one who will stay. You rub your face with the snowman-adorned hand towels given to you for Christmas by your second favorite Aunt. It is rough and worn against your cheek; you relish the abrasion. You look at your sunken, reddened eyes in the mirror, and you dully wink.
Laura McGehee is a human usually found doing most of the human things: eating, sleeping, and sometimes even writing. She currently lives and works at a remote wolf sanctuary in Colorado where she teaches visitors about the importance of keeping wild creatures wild. She, however, is thoroughly domesticated due to a strong affinity for ice cream.