I sat thinking about all the big decisions I had been entrusted with throughout the years.
Oftentimes the delta between my own self-perception and those who counted on me to lend credence to whether they should quit their job, or their spouse. Did having their kids were right, about his wife’s constant meddling? Hell if I knew.
My anointings as a sage were bestowed upon me at an early age. “You just look like you know what you’re doing,” I often heard from friends and the occasional fellow shopper who flagged me to ask if I worked in the store (in a coat, hat, and gloves).
But today I sat, paralyzed with fear.
COVID had snuck up on me and my family as we cared for my dying uncle. The virus played out in the background as something that was happening, but to other people. Cancer was happening to us. The patriarch of our family lay dying in the hospital, and I just did not have the emotional capacity to loan headspace to a pandemic, much less to basic needs like groceries, or the precipitant of my current dilemma, toilet paper!
I stared at the almost-empty roll. It stared back. Defiantly, it taunted me.
A flimsy section of white paper barely covered the brown cardboard cylinder. What would those friends and strangers say if they saw me now? Would they still laud me with accolades for always having the right solution to any problem? I could not think about others at this moment. Right here and right now I was shit out of luck. Literally.
Peeking past the open bathroom door into the kitchen, I saw the toilet paper’s bigger, older cousin in the form of a paper towel role sitting on the kitchen counter. From the throne on which I sat; I could see that the paper towel roll had also seen fatter days. Realizing I had no choice but to entrust my baby soft bottom to the abrasiveness of a paper product billed as the “quicker picker upper,” I swallowed my pride, stood up, and walked into the kitchen. My ankles constrained by my boxers, jeans, and belt.
Afterwards, I decided to go outside to see if I could find toilet paper (which proved to be fruitless).
I am sure it was all in my mind, but as I walked towards the lobby exit of my building, as though everyone was staring at me. Did they all know that I had forgotten to buy toilet paper and was now wiping my butt with Brawny? Was I walking like a guy with a chafed bottom? Was I alone in my shame?
I reached the CVS at the end of my street and hurriedly walked to the paper product aisle. A guy was staring at the last two four-roll packs of no-frills toilet tissue. As he saw me, he did a Hunger Games lunge and grabbed one of the packets as if it were gold. I startled and he looked at me sheepishly and apologized.
“Sorry man. I did not mean to do that. But you do not know what it is like right now!”
“Oh, I’m sure I do.” I grabbed the other packet and smiled knowingly. “I’m sure I do.”