The Plumbing Incident – Part 1: I’ve Lost That Fresh Feeling

The Plumbing Incident

As the experts say, in order to fully emotionally heal from a trauma, you have to put some distance between yourself and the events of the offending ordeal. I assumed this to be sound advice. It seems logical that things always appear to be worse than they really are while you are in the midst of the trauma. The passing of time will eventually reveal and brighten the sunshine. Butterflies will fill the golden air. Someone will sing.

And now that a few days have gone by, I have decided to look back on my personal hell to see if the pain has eased. To determine if perhaps I just got a bit more emotional than the script really required. To reflect and ponder if I might even want to sing about it now, even if it’s just a trite rap song with only four words in the lyrics, featuring a guest vocalist that you’ve never heard of before, because that’s what passes for Top 40 these days. And I have discovered this:

The experts are liars. The pain is still excruciating. I have not moved on. I am not singing, and I will happily throttle anyone who dares to do so within a five-mile radius because it was not a happy time and I’m still bitter. I don’t think I will ever get over The Devastating Plumbing Incident of 2009. (Cue the violent string music from “Psycho”, zoom in on tight shot of Brian standing in an overflowing bathtub, head thrown back in a primal howl of fury and impending dementia…. fade to black…)

It all started rather innocently enough.

I was lying on the bed in the guest room, playing XBOX 360 with the curtains drawn. (Not out of shame, hiding my activities from the neighbors and such. I just like playing in total darkness, makes the imagery onscreen even more vivid and helps bolster the sensation that I am indeed somewhere else, anywhere, where you don’t have to pay taxes or look at ugly people.) I was just about to receive the Golden Rod of Power from one of the lesser overlords (THAT certainly looks interesting once you type it out) when I heard this strange gurgling in the wall.

Gurgling. In the wall.

With irritation, and only a minimal amount of concern at that point, I paused the XBOX and approached the wall. Granted, there is indeed a bathroom on the other side of this gurgling wall. But the sound wasn’t coming from down there, floor-level and such, where you might expect to hear this type of noise. Besides, no one was using the facilities. And the sound was coming from up there. High. Like where you would point when asking something like “Do you think this is where we should put the Malawi print we got off the Madonna website?”

I wasn’t sure what might be causing the noise, and this troubled me slightly. Not enough to make me actually do anything about it but, for the official record, I did stand there and contemplate how odd, elevated noises might impact my life. Then the noise stopped, abruptly, without any dramatic fanfare on the movie soundtrack. Like any of the idiot minor characters at the beginning of a trashy slasher flick, I assumed nothing more would come of it and went back to the XBOX to accept my rod.

A few days later, while Terry is in the shower and I’m in the office doing something meaningless like re-organizing my CD’s or pretending to think about paying my bills, I think that I might be hearing the gurgling again. I initially head toward the guest bedroom, the original scene of what I thought had been a one-night-only engagement, then I realize that not only is there gurgling, but this time we have the bonus feature of what sounds like a catfish flopping around in the guest toilet. An angry catfish.

I alter the flight plan slightly and head to the guest bathroom. Approaching, I can see one of our cats, Scotch, who has an odd, un-catlike obsession with water, sitting on the toilet seat in a near state of rapture. Even before I am physically in the bathroom, I can see little geysers of water spurting above the rim of the toilet bowl. Geysers. Shooting upwards and falling back. In Disney’s “Fantasia”, this scene would have been set to music. There is NO music here. There is no Disney. Only toilet water defying the laws of gravity, and a drooling cat about to hit the Big O.

Old Faithful finally gives it up, and the waters calm. It’s almost serene. Zen-like. Except this isn’t a pristine lake nestled in the mountains of Utah. Or a buddhist temple. This is a toilet in a ranch house in southern Dallas, in a part of town that used to be really swanky until someone invented suburbs and all the decent-income people decided to run off and try those things out for a while. Luckily, the gays have rediscovered the area and property values are now on the rise, which is just how it works, ask anybody in real estate.

I pry Scotch off the toilet, his claws frantically scrambling to retain any type of purchase on the porcelain pool of wonder. (I briefly ponder the realization that if they ever invent Viagra for cats, the world as we know it will end. But I let the thought go. Bigger catfish to fry, so to speak, must move on.) I close the toilet lid, fully aware that this is now a situation and not just a distraction, and I wait for Terry to finish his shower.

“What do you mean, with the gurgling. And the geysers,” asks Terry, poised in front of the steamed-up mirror in our own non-volcanic bathroom, doing something with his hair that actually looked rather painful but would eventually result in a stunning display of follicular architecture, like it always does. “Are you sure it wasn’t a weird fluke thing?”

Well, maybe. He could have a point, it might never happen again, even though it had already happened twice, which would give any good statistician pause. Still, I was the only non-feline witness to said events, and I do have a history of latching onto something insignificant and then worrying about it so much that I turn it into a psychological Tower of Doom. (This is probably the result of growing up as a little fledgling gay in Oklahoma, without the financial resources that would allow me to rediscover abandoned urban areas and turn them into trendy neighborhoods with clever names, and thusly I had a lot of time to practice worrying about stuff.) So I buy into the delusion, and choose to not think about it.

A few days later, and déja vu kicks in with reinforcements. We have Terry in the shower (Why does he need to clean himself so much? He’s not Catholic.), we have gurgling, we have geysers, and we have an incredibly aroused cat. For some inane reason, I completely lose my mind and approach the demon guest bathroom toilet and actually flush the damn thing, like a Republican trying to hide the INS papers for his nanny. And of course the toilet water spirals upwards, spilling over the rim. And does not go back down. Great.

Then I realize I can hear gurgling in stereo. Something else is whacked. I trace the noise to a hall closet, where the inside air-conditioning unit used to be before we paid people to move it to the attic. There’s a drain in the floor of this room. Apparently AC units back in the day would regularly gush out gallons of water that required a drain the size of a manhole cover. Don’t really know the story. Anyway, liquid of some kind is quickly rising out of this drain and flooding the floor, causing many of the random items we had tossed into this stepchild closet to begin floating about in a twisted regatta of old magazines and broken Christmas ornaments. Joy to the world.

I race to our bathroom and inform Terry that he must turn off the shower NOW, no matter how unclean he may feel about his un-Catholic-ness. I can tell that he’s not certain if this is some kind of intriguing sex game or if something more important is afoot. I do my best to remain calm and explain the situation, shouting over the noise of water gushing throughout the house and a certain aroused pet calling 900 numbers in search of sexual release.

Clearly, The Devil has entered our house.

There is no turning back.

I muster up all the courage I have and state what has been crystal clear to the viewing audience since Scene 2.

“We have to call a plumber.”

Cue the soundtrack of “The Exorcist”, zoom in on famous shot of Max von Sydow standing on a foggy corner in Georgetown. There is a feline screech-howl and a horny cat races across the screen and into the darkness.

To be continued…

(Originally posted in “The Sound and the Fury” on 05/04/09. Revised and edited with extra flair for this post.)

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