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January 11, 2018
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Here's a piece I wrote after AWP 2016 in Los Angeles when the Bathroom Bill was a big thing. McSweeney's rejected it, as did a few other publications. I still think it's funny that I wrote this long of a piece about what mexican food does to me.

The line for the bathroom was long, but the enchilada from Rosa’s kept me invested. I couldn’t risk the eight block march back to my hotel without straddling the porcelain throne to, hopefully briefly, rule over my subjects.

As the line dwindled, I thought of my waiter. As soon I ordered Rosa’s Special Spicy Enchiladas, he leaned down to me and whispered, “Sir, those are very spicy.” Very spicy indeed, I thought. That is the plan. I waived him away with such gusto. Did I look like this was my first mariachi procession?

How foolish I had been.

Each bite was spicier than the last. I corroded layers of my throat and stomach my high school bio teacher, Mr. Montross, didn’t tell me I had. I’d have stopped after bite three if it hadn’t been so damn good. My waiter glanced at me from across the room. He saw my inner turmoil, saw the horrors my body would go through, saw a bit of himself in me.

It was finally my turn to enter. Rounding a tiled corner, I was faced with the ultimate bummer: having to wait inside the bathroom for one of the two stall to open. This bathroom was cramped enough without my awkward looming presence, but now not only did I have to just stand near the urinals like some sort of supervisor/lifeguard, but I also had to see the face of the man who would have ordered the Spicy Special or an equally effective dish when he opened the stall door.

Both stalls flushed simultaneously and as the doors swung open, I was momentarily sandwiched between the two men, both significantly older than me in age, but just as mature in meal choice. Sweat pooled on the brow of the man to the left while the man on the right had a slightly quivering lip. We mumbled excuse me’s as they went to the water and I went for the slaughter.

As I shut the stall door, I was thankfully greeted by a small metal coat hook. I knew, even then, that a light jacket would just hold me back. I gingerly set it on the hook and turned to face by opponent.

My belt was old and the holes were worn. I had to suck in to get it off. There was a red imprint at the top of my gut that was then joined by a longer imprint around my waist as i unbuttoned my pants. These pants were tight, but they were also Calvin Klein. I had mistakenly chosen them over the Levi brand and didn’t realize until I was at the register being charged $68, but damn, did they make my ass look good.

I peeled the designer fabric down below my kneecaps to give myself ample room. The first leaks of the dam had sprung just as the stall door next to me opened and shut. As the latch turned, I heard the running water of the sinks stop and the previous tenants of these small rooms exit. As far as I could tell, there was no one at the urinal. There was no noise barrier standing in the way between this innocent patron and my crowning glory.

I used every cough, throat clear, and sniffle to my advantage. Coughs were the easiest because they were loud and opened my sphincter, but they also echoed throughout the now lonely bathroom. But as if the divine hand of Rosa herself had stroked my cheek, the man in the stall next to me began to cough. It was a wet cough, full of phlegm and purpose. He kept coughing as the hot sewage poured out of me. We were connected in that moment; his mucus sprayed the back of his throat while my… well, you get it.

The bowl of the toilet was scorched. I needed disposable wet wipes; what I got was basically construction paper. The cheap one-ply toilet tissue was a cloth band-aid on a third degree burn. I pulled up my pants, redid my belt, and unlocked my stall.

In my whimpered wipings, I didn’t hear the man exit his stall. He was already at the sink. I thought about avoiding any contact, but after what my hands had been through, the sink was a necessity. I already opened my stall door; stalling wasn’t an option. I walked slowly to avoid excessive caboose friction.

He was already drying his hands when I turned the faucet. The hot air blared throughout the empty restroom. As I applied soap, I head one last cough from the man before he exited. I was alone. The battle was over, but the war had just begun. I had bought myself enough time to buy some wipes and walk back to my hotel. The night would be spent in my cramped bathroom expelling Rosa’s Super Spicy Demon from my bowels. But for now, I took solace in the fact that I wouldn’t eat Mexican food for at least three days.

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