waiting for the happy ending
It used to annoy the hell out of me when my toilet would run late at night. I would hear it and I couldn’t get back to sleep until I finally dragged myself from my bed and shook the little handle until it stopped. Invariably this climbing in and out of bed would wake my girlfriend which would annoy the hell out of her. With hell out of both of us at the same time it never ended well.
Eventually it ended.
Not the toilet running, the waking the girlfriend up in the middle of the night … because getting out of bed in the middle of the night only wakes a girl up who is in bed with you.
Lost among the newfound acres of pillows and blankets I would actually listen for the toilet and when it began running I would take some solace in the sound.
I would let it run all night.
This went on for awhile, until the drought.
I live next to a large lake surrounded by wetlands and I spent a lot of time just wandering on the trails and poking underneath the rocks looking for damp and wiggly things. Always have, ever since I was a kid I’ve loved stuff like that. So when the drought took hold I started to feel guilty about the water I was wasting. I felt selfish and self-absorbed. Eventually the drought got so bad that the lake started to shrink and the creeks that crisscrossed the wetlands started to dry up. Feeling partly responsible I would head out in the morning and spend the days rescuing fish and frogs that were caught in shallow spots that were drying up. Sometimes I would come upon a fish lying on its side, the water gone, gasping and flopping. That’s how I felt some nights alone in my bed. During the day it was fine, I didn’t miss her, but at night I felt like I was waiting for someone with a bucket to come scoop me up and take me somewhere I could get a breath.
Things got harder. The drought got worse and so did the nights alone. I tried my best to save all the frogs and salamanders. I tried my best to make it through the long nights that were getting longer.
I would lie on my bed and watch the clock and by midnight I would count to at least a hundred before a minute would pass. By 2 a.m. I could count to five hundred and the clock would sit frozen. I would get up and go downstairs and get a glass of milk and come back up and it would still be showing the same time. The only thing that would help is if I kept flushing the toilet until it kept running. Then the clock would start up again.
I never bothered to look inside a toilet bowl and see how it worked. What made it flush and what made it run. I imagine some little lever was stuck somehow. Whatever the reason made my clock start running again so I could return to bed and get some sleep.
Of course, the fact that I was back to letting to the toilet run during the worst drought the area had seen in a hundred years made me feel guilty on top of all the other things I was feeling about sleeping alone. So I spent more time in the woods that use to be a wetland saving all the poor creatures that didn’t have the sense to save themselves. Sometimes I would be too late and instead I would mourn their little dried-up bodies.
The rain was too late for them. They were all crunchy in my hand and their legs or fins would snap off or crumble if I held them too long. Nobody would ever know what good things they were capable of.
It began to get harder and harder to get my toilet to run. I must have had the only self-repairing toilet in the tri-state area. I almost had to call a plumber to come and break it for me. That would have been an odd phone call to make. But each night, after seemingly a million flushes and a million wasted gallons of precious water, whatever little thing that needed to get caught up finally got stuck and the toilet began to run and the clock began to move again and I could stop gasping and flopping on my bed and feel the welcoming companionship of that little wet droning noise in my ear that allowed me to get a few hours of sleep.
Then I met this girl at the food court at the mall. She was cute and seemed nice and that same night it began to rain and I didn’t need my toilet to run for the clock to move. I wonder if she’ll ever know just how many fish and wiggly things she saved by being at the food court at precisely the right time.