This excerpt is from Candy and Blood. Available for purchase on Amazon now.
I have spent time in a foreign country that in some areas literally had Third World toilet facilities. Those far-off “lavatories” often consisted of little more than a hole in the ground. For the more sophisticated and fanciful ones, a slab of concrete had been poured and a hole punched through it, or, more accurately, a crack had been made and then widened enough to allow various human waste products to pass into the tiny trench. There were no sinks or running water of any kind to speak of. Despite these appallingly archaic crappers, they were generally immaculate—not a smear or drop of anything to mark the presence of the previous user. The same could not be said for what awaited me one morning in the officers’ bathroom.
At the time, I was a sanitation specialist, a designation used in some prisons for a glorified janitor. Cleaning the filthiest areas, like showers and communal toilets, is the biggest part of the job. In this instance, the prison had just come off of lockdown, and I was running around like a maniac trying to do a dozen things to get the cell house back into some semblance of reasonable and organized shape. Bags of dirty laundry were piled up, garbage was strewn through the dayroom and hallways, and scum had accumulated in the showers. Trash that had been collected by the C/Os on the lockdown, mostly consisting of the Styrofoam trays that our meals had been served on, was piled just outside the front door of the house—fifteen ginormous sour-smelling bags, all waiting to be carried one hundred yards to the dumpster. We had been on lockdown for two days. Two days!
Several hours sped by as I leapt from one duty to the next until I felt I had things under control. Once I could take a breath, I gathered supplies to clean the private bathroom for correctional officers. In general, this commode only accommodates the needs of the floor officer and bubble officer, but any other members of security staff who may feel nature’s call are welcome to use it. This room is always locked, so Officer Brody approached with his keys and a pair of latex gloves. I knew something was off immediately; Brody usually had a laid-back demeanor and was quick with a smile and joke. Now, he wouldn’t even look me in the eyes.
C/O Brody spoke to my chest as he handed me the gloves. “I’m gonna warn you: it’s bad,” he sheepishly reported. “I don’t know how long it’s been, but…”
“Well,” I interrupted, “a couple days. I cleaned it before the lockdown.”
“Yeah, well…” That’s all Brody had to say on the subject. He keyed open the door and retreated with more haste than was usual or necessary. What did he know that I didn’t?
“Oh, dear Lord!”
While it may seem comical or even contrived, that was my actual response upon witnessing the horror of the toilet and surrounding area. It was my singular and solemn job to cleanse and sanitize the region in question. I briefly entertained the notion that wild animals had found their way into the private bathroom and had their nefarious and feculent ways with it, but that was pure fantasy. Human beings, of a sort, had done this. The thought (and sight) baffled me to no end.
It looked like someone had taken a balloon, but rather than filling it with water, had instead opted for liquid feces and then popped it, splattering the contents against the inside of the toilet bowl, the outside of the toilet bowl, the toilet seat, as well as the wall and floor. It was atrociously disgusting. If I had made that mess, I would’ve been too ashamed and too well mannered to simply leave it behind. Apparently, not everyone was raised with sensibilities such as mine.
The bathroom was warmed by a dry heat that usually provided it with a certain pleasant coziness, but with two days of accumulated fecal funk wafting through the air it had become, essentially, a shite sauna. Squelching my gag reflex that was ignited by the superbly awful aroma, I set to the tedious task before me.
As I began, I was further disheartened to find that much of the fecal matter had hardened and crustified, while some was still fresh enough to wipe away like gummy brown Jell-O. From this, I could only conclude that the toilet had been abused at multiple and various times over the course of the two-day lockdown. (Two days!) My mind reeled at, and rebelled against, the notion that a grown adult human being would just drop trou and defecate in an already abysmally filthy toilet. Unfortunately, the proof was in the poop.
Perhaps I am overreacting, but it felt like there was something bestial and abhorrent about the entire predicament. Civilized individuals do NOT behave this way, and I shudder to think what the bathroom would’ve looked like if the lockdown had lasted a week. Or, God forbid, a month. Jackson Pollock couldn’t conjure worse. I tried to take some slim, twisted comfort in the fact that it wasn’t only prison inmates who had the capacity to be nasty in their hygiene habits; C/Os could behave in equally deplorable fashion. But this didn’t change the fact that I still had to swab up another man’s shit.