Four years or so later, I’m apologizing to that unlucky soul
who stumbled into the aftermath: an unobserved crime scene
within the bowels of LaGuardia, in a scandalous bathroom stall.
It was, as they say, strictly business. Number ones can wait,
but the other kind can cause us to envy all those animals,
with no concern or even awareness of etiquette, or emergencies
that make being socialized—and evolved—so occasionally arduous.
These sorts of indiscretions have grounded flights, gotten folks fired,
and even ruined relationships, since personal space is sacred, something
inviolable requiring regulations, intentions not part of the equation,
and Nature’s call an inadequate alibi for such a hostile upheaval.
So I’m sorry, yet if you knew me at all, you’d entirely understand:
I’d already crossed the intersection of resolve and despair, obliged
to ad-lib this most intimate act in such precarious surroundings.
If we research the source, it probably wasn’t my fault—to be fair,
we ought to scrutinize the chef in charge of that oyster bar,
or the mollusks themselves, sacrificing their tongue-tied lives
to become pearls of unwitting wisdom: proceed with caution!
And what about my generous host, who refused to take no
for an answer; one for the road, for old time’s sake, or whatever
overserved friends slur when they don’t want an evening to end.
In truth: I could also point the incriminating finger at my family,
having inherited their frailty, our constitutions unable to combat
these sour stomachs, the congenital cycles of awkward catastrophe.
On the other hand, we seldom feel more alive than finding ourselves
alone, in an incommodious situation, not a single alternative at
our disposal, and neither options nor excuses to overthink the thing,
you understand, is evidence of an operating system, however unbecoming
This act of bearing witness might be, for all involved; in actuality it should
be considered an unforeseen gift of remembrance: this is what happened
and what will happen again, as you take your turn, cagily if not
a little contritely leaving behind your own offering, a piece of yourself:
Enduring a ritual that reminds us all precisely what we’re full of.
Sean Murphy has appeared on NPR’s “All Things Considered” and been quoted in USA Today, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, and AdAge. His work has also appeared in Salon, The Village Voice, The New York Post, The Good Men Project, Memoir Magazine, and others. He has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and served as writer-in-residence of the Noepe Center at Martha’s Vineyard. He’s Founding Director of 1455 (www.1455litarts.org). To learn more, please visit seanmurphy.net/ and @bullmurph.