I still haven’t eaten a starfish on a stick; the way its star-tipped pointer fingers, toes and elbows shrivel around a wooden spear leaves my mouth with an anticipatory dry guilt.
For a reason unknown to me the little baby ducks—brown-sweetened, squished on a stick in threes —still allow the buds of my taste to whisper a weak “yum?”.
I get overcharged without a fight, feeling unworthy of a fair price without the Chinese language to barter. “Just take the price they give you and divide it in half, argue, threaten to walk away and then go back to claim your food justice.” But I am cursed with a face of a Glee character, the skin takes the exaggerated from of every human emotion, incapable of disguised sentiment. They know I will divide it in half, argue, threaten to walk away, feel bad, and then go back to claim my food, price unwavered.
The two-inch, yet-to-be baby duckies fill me. But the pressure of my newly satisfied stomach awakens a new internal organ. Oh shit gotta pee, gotta pee so bad.
While wandering old Beijing streets (hutongs) I had grown comfortable with the process of confusing people. However, the hand motions that gave me such confidence and success in locating a nearby metro station became useless in the desperate search for a potty. Pointing crotch, pointing painful face, bottom sitting motion, splaying hands near crotch, repeating English phrases bathroom, bathroom, bathroom, toilet, must pee, uhhh pee…. Just as I try to psych my body into reingesting its inconvenient bladder-triggered request I see the shining blue light of a public toilet.
To greet my squeaking sneakers is the gaze of a hutong bathroom granny guru, perched on a single raised toilet. The three two-feet-no-seat ground toilets were the only objects that separated our worlds.
Identifying my frantic battle, her hands begin floating upward gesturing to three wall hooks. She speaks. I obey her supposed demand by hanging my touristy 6-pocketed jumbo bag on the wall.
My new nervousness was not in the use of the ground toilets. I had been able to find peace in the naturalness of a womanly squat. It was a simple solution for the Western plague of disrespectful pee-ers; where the egg-shaped seat never seemed to act as a resting spot, but a source of resentment and sticky fear.
However, to attack this action publicly (like a man, in the gaze another) was daunting.
My new grandmother, pants around her ankles, presented the middle toilet as if she was unveiling the secrets of a magic trick.
It is there where I would sit and release my great burden. Struggling, frantic unzipping, white backside revealed to my statuesque co-pilot. I squat nervously, new to a broadcasted view of my urinary clumsiness.
I meet eyes with the bathroom granny guru seeking approval. An exchange of giggles and nods lessened the contrast between my bare white ass and my bright red face.
My stream, held back by the clenching of dignity, rushed powerfully from my body hitting all angles of my target, splashing and misbehaving. My witness’s giggles turn into electric shocks. Uncontrolled bouncing hands splaying outward from her crotch, her eyes wide with excitement. She was amused how my pee took the form of a powerwasher, vivacious and unrelenting. Had I failed? Had I mis-peed?
I grew hot and red, laughing nervously as I waddled backwards and forwards, left to right trying to find the bulls-eye: the puddle of water which would catch my embarrassment.
The stream continued, strong and hard, then calmed, calmed, dripped, stopped… I shake like a baby deer, awkward with my weak, undeveloped thighs. I abruptly pull up my jeans aware that the wise and smiling eyes had noted the lingering droplets in my underwear.
I look up and the perched granny was stretching the top half of her body toward the wall, her little wrinkled butt at the tip of her seat, sneakers secured at the toilet’s stem, fingers spread and full of energy. Reaching, reaching, she grabs the handle of my waterproofed dork-bag with two fingers and presents me with my prize. I rise from my lowered stance to claim my baggage with unwashed hands. We exchange genuine laughter and, with a relieved body, I was her perfect spectacle.
In light of the new two-fly rule, which requires all public toilets in Beijing to adhere to revised standards of upkeep, we would like to hear your China bathroom stories. Do you think two-fly is going to help Beijing’s squatters and seats stay clean? We certainly hope so, (but who’s counting when you gotta go?) Send your tales to firstname.lastname@example.org.