Sometimes Your Pants are Full of Shit

The day was hot, but I was cool, still damp from my last swim in the river.  I’d been jumping in every half an hour, fully clothed, letting the desert heat dissipate in the current.  Then I’d ran on, enjoying a temporary immunity from the sun as I took in the view.  Near the river the country was sparse: rocky soil with flecks of shrub, dotted with isolated huts.  Above, the hills were the dry, dark green of desert forest, and on the horizon, limestone cliffs pierced into a cloudless blue. 

I had run among the beauty for an hour, and now I was heading back, returning to the village I’d adopted as a writing retreat.  It was in a part of Mexico time forgot, hidden in a canyon a mile deep and sheltered from modernity by a hundred kilometers of arid forest and rugged rock.  The town itself was little more than gardens and ranches and spare wooden homes, embellished with a handful of restaurants and stores.  When I walked its single street, the only foreigner in sight, there was a feeling of sinking a century into the past. 

I was staying in a campground hostel, officially, but the place felt more like a country estate, a group of wood and stone buildings separated from town by a thin, sunlit forest.  The site was nestled among airy trees and equipped with a garden that guests were allowed to plunder at will.   When I’d sat in the kitchen, alone, taking in the strength of the sunlight and the scent of old, dry wood, I knew I’d found my place to write.

I would start my mornings with meditation, and then eat carrots straight out of the ground, washing them in the unchlorinated water of the pool before eating them raw.  Now, as I jogged back toward town, I found myself anticipating more.  Carrots would be a welcome replenishment of the energy spent running, and a wholesome way to procrastinate before writing. 

I began to smile when an ache hit my gut. The feeling exploded from my stomach and raced down, building into a sick, loosening weakness just over my anus.  There was a sense of something soft and slippery wanting to escape, a feeling I hadn’t had that intensely since Nepal, 11 years before.  I’d spent my first days there in squat toilets, sweltering saunas the size of a closet where brown puddles fermented in the heat and clouds of flies buzzed over my balls.  A few long, groaning sessions had been enough to make me careful with food, and I’d gone on to have an amazing trip.  But 11 years after Nepal I’d forgotten the lesson, and now I’d broken a cardinal rule of travel.  Never eat raw veggies unless you know where they’ve been washed.  Worse, I’d contaminated the carrots myself, cleaning them in standing water that was barely cold.

My gut stirred harder at the thought, and I stopped running and walked for a minute until the tension eased.  I nodded.  I’d been here before.  I’d raced diarrhea, and I’d always held out.  I went on—and then the looseness hit again, so hard I had to stop and clench.  The pressure gathered like a wave, looming higher as it neared shore—and then it crested and passed, leaving my torso sagging in relief.  Damn.  This was going to be harder than I’d thought.  I gave up running and resumed at a walk, stride marred by the need to keep my butt in a constant clench.  Hym.  Maybe there was somewhere to shit…I scanned the landscape and frowned.  There was a beauty in the simplicity of the desert, the sparseness of the trees and the openness of the country—but now it meant there was nowhere for cover, nothing to block the dozens of houses already in view. 


I sized up the homes, considering my options.  I could knock on a door, and offer some pesos to use the toilet…no; I wouldn’t bother someone like that; I could make it.  I nodded grimly and pressed on—but the situation grew worse as town drew close.  Just before the first row of buildings, I had to lean against a stone wall and tense, muscles seizing as they countered the pressure building like a wall of water behind a dam.  My stomach expanded into a hot, bulging mass, bloated and gassy, the muscles thin and stretched as a plastic bag.

I panted as the battle balanced—and after a few long seconds, the pressure relented.  A little.  I stood up and marched on—and then the contractions slammed, like a shit-fetus fighting for birth.  I doubled over, hands on my knees, trying to stop the liquid slithering into my anus, and then a treacherous doubt invaded my mind.  What if I can’t hold it?  What if I’m actually not strong enough?  In an instant, there was a mind-body surrender: my muscles had been questioned, and that was enough make them fail. 

Shit surged in liquid torrents, hot and fast and unstoppable as the ejaculate of a giant.  The geyser pulsed relentlessly, escaping the prison of my gut until finally, after a long, rippling spasm, it eased.  There was a moment of relief as I relaxed, spent—and then I recognized the gravity of the situation.  I’d lost.  I’d lost the battle.  I’d shit myself, for the first time since wearing diapers.  And now my shorts were full of shit.  Full of shit.  There was probably a litter of hot, slimy weight, and soon it would start to drip.

I gripped the bottom of my boxers and shorts, the point where clothing ended and thighs began, and cinched them into a makeshift diaper.  Maybe that would hold it in.  My eye leapt to the river—no, I couldn’t wash off there; it was the village water supply.  Which meant…the only option was walking through town, past the last buildings to the hostel in the woods beyond. 

I winced, imagining all the friendly people I’d met in the last days, the unemployed men loitering in the middle of the day and eager to talk.  If I ran into someone now…I’ll always be the gringo who shit his pants.  Well—there was nothing to do but get it over with. Things would just get worse if I waited.  I cinched my clothes tighter and marched into town, each hand gripping the bottom of my shorts and making my stride an awkward waddle.

A breeze stirred from behind, pressing the heat into an enveloping blanket—and then the smell came in a putrid cloud, wet and greasy and strong, already sharpening in the sun.  My stomach tensed, a contraction that rippled downward so my crotch shifted, and suddenly I was aware of my balls soaking in slime, my dick marinating in diarrhea.  Jesus Christ, this was even grosser than I’d thought it would be,   I know why babies cry when you don’t change their diaper

I grimaced and walked faster, nose wrinkling as the smell ripened and my crotch grew slimier.  Halfway through town, a wetness slithered down the back of my leg.  I looked back and saw a viscous brown streak, trickling over my hamstring like a serpent of mud.  Fuck.  I cinched my shorts tighter, but the sludge flowed on, reaching the gap in my sock and starting to pool around my heel.  Behind, on the pavement, brown droplets glistened in the sun.  Anyone looking would know exactly what was happening—


A face smiled out of a second story window, and then a hand waved in greeting.  I gripped my shorts in a vice and managed a smile.


I replied, fighting to keep my voice light.  Then I wrenched my body on in mounting anxiety.  Any minute now I’d run into someone outside, on the actual street…I walked on, and by some miracle made it past the last buildings without meeting a person.  The pavement eased into a dirt road again, and couple minutes later, I reached the hostel.  I entered the bathroom and my whole body relaxed, softening for the first time since the ache had hit my gut.  It took half an hour in the shower to literally wash the shit out of my clothes, and then I threw away the boxers and socks.  I changed and then bought some bleach in town and scrubbed the shower for many minutes.  It wasn’t the care-taker’s job to clean up that kind of mess.

And then I reflected.  Sometimes your pants are full of shit.  Sometimes life throws you a curveball, and you just have to make the best of it.  Sometimes you have to waddle through the main street of a town in Mexico, holding the diarrhea in your shorts and hoping no one runs into you.  And if that’s the hand you’ve been dealt, you just have to play it as fast as you can and get it over with.  I did—and now it’s my favorite travel story, and I’m kind of glad it happened.  They say that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade, but I can do better: when your shorts are full of shit, deal with it and then laugh about it for the rest of your life.

One Reply to “Sometimes Your Pants are Full of Shit”

  1. Hi Sam!
    Shit happens!
    As a reply I have a joke for you:
    What do the Inuits tell their kids?

    Do not eat yellow snow!

Comments are closed.