We arrive at the steps of the Oaxacan B&B after 7 hours on the road from Cuernavaca, not with a bang but with the whimper of a wet fart?
We open the trunk.
Manly’s brown eyes kowtow as low as they can go. “Oh, Manly!!!”
Biela looks visibly annoyed, small brown specks on the left side of her white coat.
There must have been some some last plea and stares from Biela before the final explosion.
“Why don’t you ever, ever go when we go on walks, man? This morning around the hotel, at the gas station….NO! Oh hell no! You did not…no you did not just explode on my fur!”
But Biela still looks white. Manly’s bed resembles a craft project gone gonzo, smelly brown blotches stamped all over his green bed. We automatically scan for the mound of decomposing stilton, fearful to inch our feet forward.
The good news is we’ve seen the worse.
We plan to visit 4 hotels in Oaxaca. A carefully crafted list zaps to zilch. It’s now a matter of stealth efficiency. Operation cleanup.
We painfully pick the dank B&B over the pristine executive hotel. All the factors line up optimizing its favor 1.) garden 2.) parking space 3.) room next to garden and parking space 4.) large jacuzzi tub inside room.
Both Biela and Manly are by my side as we watch Cedric drive through the gate and park. I stand next to a lone tree waiting for the coast to be clear.
It’s almost 2 days that he’s held it in. The last visit to the commode was inside the herb garden at the house in San Miguel. We opt for walks and quick stops at the hotel in Cuernavaca. And on the road, a small patch of grass next to the cactus at the gas station. It just doesn’t do for Manly. He needs his own private space; too much noise distracts, kills the mood. He needs to be unleashed. The place needs to be in a hidden area, preferably a bush tucked away in a corner. He needs you to look away.
Manly’s eyes lose their lustre. His backside and tail are completely covered in brown mud, tiny flies kamikaze close. The shame droops heavy on his face. He hides seeking refuge behind human knees.
I’m 3, too young to be in school. It’s the early of days of ecole maternelle…nursery school, pre-school in Paris. Pre words, pre sentences. I don’t know how to tell the scary French lady with bad breath that I need to go to the bathroom badly. Hours tick tock with the unbearable weight against a small bottom. Something gigantic is ready to burst from red corduroy seams. The uncontrollable muscles…the spasms...time to let her rip!
[insert the unabashedly fierce and loud fart noise]
I hop surprised, checking my shoes. I look down and around Manly. Did he just?..But where?? “Oh, Manly!” He’s still holding it in!
Thou must get me to a bush! His eyes blink urgently.
The woman at the B&B is waiting for me to cross the street. I walk awkwardly, Biela’s leash tugs ahead, Manly walks low from behind; I’m praying she doesn’t suspect.
By now, Cedric has cleared the back of the car, vigorous mechanical motions pump the carpet clean, as handfuls of detergent are tossed back like flour mowed down by a wet broom.
I unleash the dogs on the garden. Biela immediately drops her load...Manly, explodes on a bush that was once green. I pick up after them. There isn’t enough plastic for Manly. I uproot half of the bush and carefully tie the blue plastic baggie…but what’s the use, some of Manly gets on my shoes, pants and hands. Biela and I look onward in solidarity.
In the bathroom, we run for the jacuzzi. Cedric assumes the heimlich position, feet apart, hoists Manly’s body in one go, paws plop on water. Removing my pants, I jump in as well. I use an entire travel sized bottle of shampoo from the basket of complementary soaps. I lift Manly’s tail and start making friends with his bottom, cleaning, massaging...rinsing.
I’m taken to a secret part of the school where no other kids are allowed; it has a private bathroom. A woman, excavates and removes clothes until I stand completely naked in front of her. My eyes are red where tears aught to be. My green apple necklace hangs treasured, a part of me that is still unsoiled. With harsh hands, she scrubs and wipes efficiently until there’s nothing left but soft raw skin. I’m dressed in clothes that were once lost, now found on my 3 year old body. She coats me in old perfume to mask the smell. I walk away from the room, carrying my red corduroys like a bad memory sealed inside sanitized plastic.
Cedric kisses a soft spot on Manly’s head. I clean him gently. Anger finally dissipates into compassion. Did he realize that 3 years ago, at the Oakland shelter, as he lay on his cot, motionless, as the other dogs barked, vied for our attention…that he would be on this journey with us, 3 thousand miles away? This dog, who taught himself NOT to bark to survive. Only several weeks ago in Sayulita I hear his deep booming bark, for the first time, when a poor soul tries to deliver water to the house. My heart leaps at the sound of Manly’s voice, deep from his jowls, his ancestral belly. An old promise that finally comes undone.
Manly sleeps at the side of my bed. His paws tucked under his head. His fur smells of chemical jasmine, shampoo d'oriente, the name on the bottle. He drifts into sleep putting the day behind him, as I would have done, going back to join the classroom, going back to finally play.
By Mai Brehaut
(Psst: for Cedric's perspective, please read Stubborness and a shitty job)