My brother calls this morning from Maine. This is a strange time for him to call because usually he spends the weekend with his boyfriend, Todd. I answer and before he starts telling me about his most recent misunderstanding with Todd, he politely asks me what’s up with me. “I’m trying to figure out how to stop my toilet from running,” I say. “I know it’s the flapper.”
“Oh! I have an excellent tip on how to fix that! Turn off the water to the toilet, flush it, then get the inside as bone-dry as you can. When everything is dry, take some Vaseline and smear it on the bottom of the flapper and all around the seal, then press it together. Turn the water back on, flush, and when the tank is full, the toilet shouldn’t run anymore because you’ve created an airtight seal on that flapper.”
“Will personal lubricant work?” I say.
“No, you have to use Vaseline.”
“Okay,” I say. We cackle.
I start draining the toilet while my brother tells me about the Todd thing: “Well, I hadn’t seen him all week, so when I drove over there last night, I was feeling very romantic. I went into his house, walked toward him with my arms stretched out for a hug, and he let out this big fart! I couldn’t believe it! I went to hug him and he farted again!”
“Was he sick?” I say. “Or is this normal behavior?”
“No he wasn’t sick! We fart all the time. This was aggressive.”
“Well, he’s obviously upset about something, because that is definitely an affront to your sensibilities.”
“Well yes! I backed away from him and said, ‘You pig!’”
“Did you fart back?” I ask.
“Well, not right away I didn’t. But later on after dinner I let one rip, and I know he knew what I meant. He knew we weren’t going to have sex that night!”
“Well, that’s a no-brainer,” I say as I wipe out my toilet. “But the question is, why would he fart like that in the first place? What was he upset about?”
“All I can figure is he asked me to move in with him again last week, and I’m still not ready, plus he’s on call this weekend, and he’s always pissy when he’s on call.” Todd is a doctor.
“My best advice is to definitely get to the root of the problem, because if he pulls something like this when you’re living with him, you won’t have anywhere to escape.”
“Exactly. That’s exactly how I feel.”
“So go tell him that. Say, ‘You offended me by farting when I was obviously trying to create an intimate moment.’”
“’And if you do it again,’” my brother adds, “’We’re through.’”
“Well, I’d hold off on the threats,” I say. “I mean, Todd is an intelligent man. He just made a mistake.”
My brother sighs. “I know, and that’s one of the reason I love him. Maybe I’ll just tell him that if he’s going to behave this way every time he’s on call, I’ll come over and have dinner with him, but I will not spend the night. I just won’t stand for it.”
“Sounds good,” I say.
“Okay, I gotta go. I’m in his driveway. I’ll only call you back if something else goes wrong.”
Todd, the normally quiet, sedate, polite medical professional, now the big mean fart monster. This was great: two grown men in a serious relationship communicating with each other via farts. My mother met Todd a couple years back at some family gathering, and she e-mailed me after to say what a lovely man he was, but somewhat of a wallflower. “I think he was trying to blend in and lie low,” she had written, “so as not to cause a scene.” A gay scene, I wondered? Well, now we knew what kind of a scene Todd was really capable of causing.
I guess there are many sides to Todd, as there are to each of us.