If it hadn't been a quiet Sunday evening, I might have missed it: a subdued exclamation mark breaking the silence. And it came from none other than my wife.
"Surprised to hear ducks this time of year," I said from across the room.
And we left it at that, choosing to pretend that it didn't happen. Though it amounted to only one of the many bricks that had been laid in the wall that had been growing between us, it was significant enough that I was tempted to say something, to the effect that not even the greatest of love could overcome a woman's flatulence.
But then, who was I to condemn? Did Jesus not say, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone?" I could not justify even looking upon the rocks when you considered what often percolated from me, releasing a cornucopia of foul odors. Moreover, I had no qualms in the least about putting the physical and emotional health of friends and family in harm's way. No, there was nothing I could say, or even hint at; my sins were serious, my stench incorrigible. Compared to the juvenile delinquent sitting across the room with her ducks, I was a hardened criminal, an unrepentant recidivist.
But then, I was a man, and flatulence with indemnity was a prerogative of my gender. As difficult as it had been for men to warm to the idea of women's suffrage in the early twentieth century or to accept equal rights in the latter half of that century, I could not reconcile my ideal of femininity with cutting the cheese. No, I was adamant in my belief that a line should be drawn for if we men were to give in, to allow women to encroach upon those things which once made men the men they were, or worse to usurp from us any more than they already had, why what would be the use of genders at all? Man and woman, alike, pissing into urinals, spitting, and scratching their arses. Why, even the most heterosexual of us men would have no choice but to give into homosexuality if only to get a taste of that increasingly scarce femininity.
The next day as I was in the kitchen making tea and Hiromi was in the bedroom at the extreme opposite side of our moderately spacious apartment, I could not ignore the unmistakable sound of a large volume of warm air rushing through a narrow, relaxed orifice.
"It was a duck," came the reply. I needn't have to see her face to know that she was tickled by her own wit. She, however, could not have known that the mortar had just dried around yet another layer of bricks.
The following day, the morning calm was once again disturbed. A small pack of angry dogs was let loose and there was nothing I could do but stand there in disbelief, mouth agape, not quite sure where I was in the world or what I was doing in it. I felt like a child who presented with the most damning piece of evidence has no choice but to accept the truth. There is no Santa, there is no god, little girls are not made of sugar, spice and everything nice. Worse, my wife was no longer capable of doing it for me as a woman.
After a moment of awkward silence, I said: “It's heartening for me to know that you're able to feel so relaxed around me,"
"You probably don't want to know this,” Hiromi said, “but I haven't pooped in over a week."
That my wife was prone to constipation was nothing new; that she could go so long without taking a nice big one, exceeded the limits of the imagination of a man who enjoyed a double visit to the WC each day, more if he had been drinking. Two days, three days was still within his faculty to imagine, but a week? Seven days without crap bordered on the miraculous. Saints had been canonized with lesser deeds.
"I tried to go this morning," she began.
"Ah, Hiromi . . . "
"And only this much . . . "
"For the love of Christ . . . "
" . . . came out."
Two masons in soiled work clothes passed through the kitchen where Hiromi and I were talking, nodded goodbye to me, and continued out of the apartment. The wall was complete.
Throughout our four years of marriage I'd been abused with this kind of talk, and had often asked her if it was her intention to repulse me. I was not being my usual sarcastic self. I was dead serious.
"You know, you were right."
"About my not wanting to know."
"Right, I'm going to take a shower."
Seven days. It was a distractingly huge stone to have in the mind's eye. Seven days was a long time to go without, er, going.
For as long as I could remember I'd been having two healthy craps a day, one in the morning, and one in the afternoon. Whereas Hiromi had trouble squeezing the buggers out, I often had trouble keeping the fuckers in. And, quite a few pairs of skivvies have been lost in the line of duty, protecting my trousers from the raw contents of my being.
She'd said that the best she could do was lay a small robin's egg of a turd. And it's not as if she hadn't been eating during those seven days. She had. Far more than me, mind you, which got me to thinking about what she was hauling around and how she managed to keep from exploding right then and there. We all have our crosses to bear. I had Hiromi. She had her constipation.