Leah Mueller

Seven Ways of Looking at Toilet Paper

1. Bleached white and insubstantial as the word of an ex-lover. Rip it in squares, swab your private parts, examine the paper’s surface, toss it into the swirl. Repeat as often as necessary. The bathroom is your laboratory. Sometimes two or three squares will do, other times it takes 10 or even 12. Much depends on your solid food intake. Do the math.

2. If you go to Morocco, don’t expect toilet paper as a matter of course. You stupid fucking tourist. Next you’ll be wanting a throne for your pampered American ass. Purchase a roll at the market and carry it around in your backpack or purse. It won’t be Charmin, you pompous WASP. Moroccan tp is grey and scratchy as an elderly wino’s three-day-old beard. Shut up and be sure to buy several rugs before you fly home.

3. The 2004 Portland Rose Festival had a Charmin trailer with posh bathrooms. People stood in line, waiting for the chance to excrete waste. They looked bored. At the doorway, uniformed attendants handed rolls of toilet paper to everyone. “Welcome to the Charmin building!” they sang. “Enjoy yourself!” Inside the bathrooms, happy music played while cartoon videos of dancing animals flickered onscreen. A devious and effective ploy to win over potential customers to the wonders of quilted Charmin.

4. Your goddamned roommate didn’t position the new roll properly. Everyone knows the end is supposed to go over, not under. Defection from this rule is grounds for homicide in some states. “Your honor, I tried to warn him, but he wouldn’t listen.” You hated your roommate—his taste in music, the disgusting way he got food all over his teeth while chewing. Good riddance.

5. Coffee filters work in a pinch. A friend of mine taught me this back in the 90s. A few weeks later, she became homeless. I always wondered whether there was a connection.

6. There’s a toilet paper shortage. Folks fear they’ll reach into their cupboards and find them barren of tissue, so they’re buying entire pallets of toilet paper. Housewives laugh maniacally as they drive away from Walmart, fresh rolls secured with bungee cords into their overflowing SUV trunks. How could we have let this happen? Is this who we are as a nation?

7. I go to bed and dream of toilet paper. The dream is like the Charmin trailer, only with better music. At first, the rolls are soft and soothing as clouds. Then they begin to multiply like the brooms in “Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” As soon as I grab one and put it in my cabinet, six more appear. The music speeds up and becomes increasingly sinister. Everything is out of control. I wake up in a cold sweat. Thank God it was just a dream. But morning is months away.

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