The Opposite of Human
My seventeen-year-old daughter left her underwear on the bathroom floor. I am sitting down to take a crap and there they are. These red lacy thong panties, all balled up but blossoming open.
The fact that they are there, on the floor, doesn’t really bother me. I mean, it does a little bit. I’ve definitely become more fastidious in my cleaning.
And it was certainly awkward when Jared, my boyfriend, came back from the bathroom laughing. He joked about how I should clean up after having other lovers over. I looked at him like I had no idea what he was talking about. He said, “The dirty panties on the floor. It’s no big deal, Juan, but it is kinda nasty, if you know what I mean.” I knew what he meant, but the awkwardness got worse when I then explained that the dirty panties on the floor were my daughter’s.
But actually what’s really the issue for me is the kind of underwear they are. Fuck me panties. Stripper panties. Panties you put on for lovers. I sit perplexed on the toilet. I consider leaving them there till she returns from her mother’s. Four days of staring at them.
I ponder my options. Call her mother and ask about whether or not Stella does the same thing over there, but knowing Betsy, she’ll take the question as an attack on her parenting choices. Which might lead to an argument about why we split and how I’m such an asshole.
I could put the red lacy thong panties on my daughter’s bed, but knowing the state of her room, she wouldn’t even see that I placed them on her pillow or her desk or her lampshade for that matter because there’s so much clothes and stuff in various mounds strikingly assembled throughout her room.
I realize that if I just wait for her to return to pick them up herself, I could pile on a little bit of shaming. I could say things like: Please don’t leave your dirty underwear on the floor so that anyone who uses the bathroom will see them. Aren’t you embarrassed? Did your boyfriend buy them for you? Do you know what they say? What they mean?
I smile and think, shame, that sounds just right.
Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday all pass as I recreate a client’s website, which they are calling an inauguration, as if it were presidential. I get emails from them with words like prognosis, functionality, usership, interactivity, even the word luminosity. Words disconnected from the real world bother me as much as politics. I respond repeatedly with terse, curt emails.
Every time I go to the bathroom, I see the red lacy thong panties. It kills me not to just reach down and pick them up, to just deal with it.
But I remind myself every time not to.
This is what they call a teaching opportunity. There is a lesson to be taught. There’s principle, manners. It’s like not peeing on the toilet seat. You just can’t go around leaving your undies in people’s bathrooms.
Today’s Friday and I’m grumpy. I drank a bit too much Thursday night with Jason the Punker and Mr. Delbert, the old man who lives up the street. Jason and I argued about the merits of a university education and if my daughter should just go to the local community college for the first couple years.
Mr. Delbert, who rarely says more than a few words, interrupted by saying, “Neither one of you get it. It’s really not about where to go. It’s the going that’s the point.“
With that he sipped his Bud Light.
All day I read stories and listen to music and play my online Scrabble game. I struggle with every group of letters I get. I seem to only be able to play three letter words: pet, jog, saw. I think of my daughter moving away.
I watch the clock all afternoon. My daughter returns from school earlier than normal and I can tell she’s upset. Normally she says, Hi, gives me a hug and a peck on the cheek, and then runs to her room, putting on music so loud I feel like I’m part of a sitcom.
Instead, she walks into the kitchen while I stir my afternoon coffee.
She says, “You’re always just standing there when I come home. What do you do while I’m gone?”
“I work,” I say.
She waits for more.
I ask, “Is that really what you want to talk about? Is everything all right?”
She switches her purse from one shoulder to the other shoulder.
She asks, “Why are guys such assholes?”
I shrug. I’m not sure how to respond.
I say, “I really hope you’re using protection if you’re at all sexually active.”
I scrunch up my face, meaning what does that mean.
She says, “You’re not answering the fucking question.”
She puts her hands to her face and cries for a second. Then drops her purse on the ground and storms to the bathroom.
Her purse spills out; lined notebook papers and her make up bag spread across the floor.
I want to answer her question. I want to tell her why guys are assholes, but how to explain? Because we weren’t held enough as children. Because when the people we love leave, it hurts. Because our fathers and brothers and friends ridiculed us when we were anything but what they expected us to be. Because we were taught to be strong rather than kind. Because feelings are as useless as a flaccid cock. Because no one ever says be a human. They say be a man, meaning the exact opposite of human.
But I say nothing. Instead, I yell to her to come back to the kitchen.
When she does, I say, “Please pick up your purse. It spilled.”
She goes to the purse and bends over and I see her panties black and lacy.
She gathers her stuff and walks to her room.
I watch her leave. I sip my coffee until I feel the familiar rumble of my bowels.
I walk to the bathroom. I sit down and I see the underwear. Still there. Just where she left them four days ago.
I stare at them. When I’m finished, I finally reach down and pick them up and walk to the laundry basket by the washer. I shuffle the clothes around and bury the panties in with the other dirty laundry as if they were always there.
Tomas Moniz is the editor of Rad Dad and the author of Bellies and Buffalos, a tender story about friendship, family and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. “The Opposite of Human” is part of collection called What You’re Up Against. His most current ‘zine, The Body is a Wild Wild Thing is available, but you have to write a postcard: P.O. Box 3555, Berkeley, C.A. 94703. tomasmoniz.weebly.com