It was 2AM. I had to pee. I’d been holding it since we boarded mid-afternoon. I heard my mother’s voice echoing almost 10,000 miles away: “Rebecca, don’t hold it, it’s terrible for your bladder! You could get an infection!”
I contemplated peeing my pants, changing in my bunk and throwing them away when we reached our destination. If I were going to pee in the designated ‘bathroom,’ I’d have to padlock my backpack to the rail, or find someone to guard it, and I didn’t think anyone else from my group was awake. There was the man with the walrus mustache and bulbous eyes, who peeked in my bunk twenty minutes before and scared the shit out of me, but I didn’t know if I could trust him. At that point, I’d rather wet myself and stay in the company of my bunkmates: the bevy of cockroaches hiking across my legs. It wasn’t worth swatting at them; more would appear just to spite me. I think I saw a rat scurry behind my bag at one point, too.
I fought drowsiness and disgust, but it was one night, I could do one night of this: an overnight train to Varkala, in the southern state of Kerala, India. In less than 8 hours, I’d be walking on the velvet shores of the Indian Riviera.
I realized I was in my favorite pair of stretchy pants; they weren’t the ‘throw away’ kind and I couldn’t hold it any longer. If there was ever a time to get use out of the useless travel paraphernalia the gal at REI convinced me to buy, this was it. When I told her where I was travelling, she told me I had to have it: “this is a necessity,” she said. So, I stuffed it at the bottom of my bag (just in case).
I dug it out and locked my bag to the rail. The aisle was empty, except for clusters of calloused bare feet poking out from the curtained sleeper cabins.
I braced myself from rail to rail as I lunged my way to the back of the car, opened the rusted sliding partition, and stumbled across the accordion divider of passenger cars, into the restroom. The only thing that classified it as a bathroom was the assaulting stench of four decades of urine and feces that missed the hole in the floor from sudden lurches on the tracks.
I thought about turning around, going back, but I’d come this far…
Thank G-d for my guardian angel at REI; with my poor squatting aim, there was no way I would have made it in the hole, hell, I probably would have fallen through.
The SHEWEE: a plastic pink funnel, shaped to fit around the labia of the vagina to the anus, allowing women, the male gift of urination: to pee, standing up.
I’m a tragic squatter. I mean I’m good at squatting, just not peeing and squatting. I’ve never been a productive multi-tasker. I always wet my shoes and the back of my pants that I attempt to bunch up and stretch forward to my knees. Let’s just say, it’d been a rough week thus far. I was probably starting to smell like the train’s potty, however, I was too embarrassed to whip out the portable penis every time I had to go. But, this was an emergency.
I extended the plastic hose from the base of the funnel and pulled the front of my pants down far enough to suction the opening to my vagina. I stood over the hole, with my knees slightly bent, and I peed.
I peed the best pee of my life. It was revelatory.
What the fuck?!? This is what I’ve been missing my whole life! This is so easy! No wiping! Just a flick of the hose and I snap my stretch pants back into place. I didn’t have to hover, or sit in someone else’s pee, or G-d forbid, fall in! Fuck, this is so unfair.
Most Americans visit India in search of enlightenment, and most, if not all, return with nothing more than an extra duffel or two of souvenirs and an undiagnosable rash.
I checked my expectations at the airport in Phoenix. I didn’t know what I was going for, and I certainly didn’t expect to find enlightenment in a filthy, cockroach infested metal box on wheels, careening down the southern coastline at 2AM. Yet, here I was, on a foreign train, in a foreign country, peeing in a foreign way, with an all too familiar question, answered:
Are men and women created equal?
No. We are not.
We are different.
We have different needs, different qualities and abilities, and different hardships.
Equality is wo/man made: when we come together and unite our differences, then we find balance, then we manifest equality.
I can stand to pee once in a while, but I can’t take the SHEWEE everywhere I go; it’s not practical.
I have a vagina; it needs a seat.
For five days every month, it needs a tampon in it.
A couple of times in my lifetime, it’s looked like a mutilated purple octopus as it delivers 7 pounds of flesh and bone into this world.
I wasn’t made to stand and pee. I was made to squat, even if I miss the mark every time.
Men may have it easier in the restroom, but I wouldn’t trade the tediousness of womanhood for that ease. I’m ok with the inequality, because, I love being a woman.
On my way back to my bunk, I passed by a mother and her groggy, young daughter; they were on the way to the bathroom. Her sari brushed my leg. “It could always be more difficult,” I thought. “I wonder if she keeps it dry every time?” ~Rebecca