On false confidence, old friends and the best pee of my life
I have always been terrible at holding it. Maybe I was born with a bladder the size of a pea, or maybe its because my attention span could give a goldfish a run for its money. The fact of the matter is that I, a 22 year old almost-adult, can be no further than two hundred metres from a bathroom at all times. Just in case.
Don’t worry, I’m not looking for pity. In fact, day to day I’ve got this locked down. I know where every bathroom on campus is, and which ones are the best for avoiding queues. Pre-emptive toilet visits are a part of my routine leaving the house, and before a soccer match or strapping into a climbing harness. To say I was all over it like a rash would be an understatement. But pride always comes before the fall.
It goes without saying that I am far too awkward to put weight into other people’s opinions of me (if my toilet schedule didn’t already make that abundantly clear). However, it’s another matter entirely when it comes to reunions. 2019 marks four years since I was having the time of my life on gap and around three years since I’ve had anything other than Facebook contact with most of the people I spent that year with. Not for long. The much-anticipated reunion of ten of my mates was as simple as clicking ‘going’ on the Facebook event, but inspired a kind of ungodly anxiety in me. A whole weekend in an Airbnb on the coast with people I hadn’t spoken to, let alone seen, in years sounded like someone had downloaded my idea of hell and made it a reality.
That being said, I had changed. I was an almost-adult now: I paid my own rent and I even ate salad sometimes. I was going to be the bigger person and go, for old time’s sake. All too soon, I’d quashed the vague panicky feeling in the pit of my stomach and made plans to hitch a ride up on Friday night with four of the guys. As it happens, there was really nothing to worry about. We spent the first hour stocking up on road trip snacks and booze for the weekend and crammed back in the car squeezed up against slabs of beer and sleeping bags.
I was cool. I was calm. I was confident. As a natural introvert, I have a pretty limited stock of social energy and I was turning it on. About half an hour up the road, someone suggested we crack open a roadie and, eager to be part of the boys, I was all too ready to join in.
I’m not sure when it started to hit me. Sometime between the first and second cider. just as we’d slowed to a halt in Friday night traffic, a familiar sensation set in. Shifting uncomfortably in my seat, I finished my cider and checked the time. Shit. Three hours to go and with my bladder’s track record I wasn’t going to last a third of that time. Swallowing my pride, I leaned over and timidly asked if we could stop at the next bathroom. Sam, the driver, waved away my request. We’d find one when we hit the highway. It wouldn’t be long. Have another drink.
An hour later, the red taillights had blurred into two lines ahead of us. I had burned two crescent moons into my thighs with my fingernails in an effort to distract myself from the pain in my abdomen. We had barely moved and I was getting desperate. Bushes on the side of the road started to look pretty accommodating. All efforts at acting cool had gone out of the window, and the four boys who had been laughing at my jokes barely an hour before were now visibly concerned. Sam gripped the wheel, eyes burning through the windscreen as though his willpower alone could summon a gas station up ahead. I felt like crying.
Suddenly, by some miracle, the string of taillights started moving. We crawled up along the road around the corner and there it was, illuminated in neon red and green. I’m not a religious person, but I’m pretty sure seeing that 7-Eleven was the closest I’ve come to a spiritual experience. Five more minutes and I would have scrapped my dignity all together and squatted on the side of the road, illuminated like some obscene rabbit in the headlights of the rows upon rows of cars behind us.
None of that mattered any more. Sam hadn’t even turned off the engine before I leapt out of the back seat and ran across the parking lot to the single, dingy bathroom. What followed was the most satisfying pee of my entire life. Relief doesn’t even begin to cover it. I walked out of the cubicle floating on air.
Somehow, when I got back in the car, being cool just didn’t matter any more. Turns out the moment I’d left, two of the other boys had bolted behind the gas station itself, neither of them wanting to admit that they’d been just as desperate for a bathroom. Go figure.
As we set off on the road again, it dawned on me that none of the other people squeezed into that car with me cared about my bad haircut, or that I’d put on mascara (a rare occasion). In fact, my hasty attempts at seeming put together or impressive now paled in comparison to the genuine laughter filling the car that can only be shared after an embarrassing moment.
That moment set the tone for the rest of the weekend. I spent two days laughing, drinking, skinny dipping and eating my weight in homemade cookies. The ice now well and truly broken, I was able to have honest, genuine conversations and rekindle friendships that I was afraid had been lost altogether. I left on Sunday with my heart fuller and my head clearer.
I guess having a tiny bladder isn’t so bad after all.