Jenny Ireland: The River

It’s probably not something people want to talk about, shitting yourself as an adult. But for me, it happened in such a spectacularly dramatic and disgusting fashion it would be unfair to keep it to myself.

I was twenty, in my second year at university, and had just started going out with the man I’d later marry. The night in question was some time between the end of the first term and Christmas. We’d been out. I can’t remember where and I wasn’t even drinking, which I still regret, it may have made the whole thing more tolerable. Then we decided that we should get some Chinese food.

I’m not actually a huge fan of Chinese food. No sorry, that’s not true, I’m not a huge fan of the food that purports to be Chinese food in ‘restaurants’ that seem to pop up in every town and village in Northern Ireland. I don’t want anything from these places now, and I didn’t then. Except, for some unknown reason, that night I ordered a burger. A grave mistake. Who orders a burger from a Chinese takeaway? The only reason I can think of is that I was still in the trying-to-pretend-I’m-not- human stage of the relationship and didn’t want to risk ordering something like noodles that might end up half way down my face. So I ate the burger. And not even all of it.

Then my boyfriend and I parted ways. He was going to meet his friends at the most dingy bar I’ve ever had the misfortune of frequenting. I really didn’t want to go, so instead I asked him to come back to my parents’ house at the end of the night. A request he later ignored.

I went to sleep in his jumper that night, one that stank of smoke and came complete with a cigarette burn hole that I thought was cool.

Just after midnight, I woke up drenched in sweat, checking my phone to see if I had any messages. I didn’t. Normally, I would have phoned him, demanding to know why he wasn’t there after he’d said he was coming. But there was something else coming. The vomit.

My bedroom was at the end of a long hall, at the bottom of which was the bathroom. I started to run. Did I make it to the bathroom? No I did not. I passed out on the way. But like the trooper I am, I managed to drag myself to the toilet where I began being violently ill. But something else was happening. A river is the best description I can think of. A river of shit that covered about two-thirds of the bathroom floor. At this stage my parents had woken up, and in my state of disrepair, I hadn’t even thought of closing the door, so I turned round to see them staring at me in horror. I stood up before promptly passing out onto the mess I’d just created.

Needless to say, the hoody was ruined. I vaguely remember my mum bringing up the mop bucket and my dad looking like he was going to throw up, like this was the most disgusting thing he’d ever seen. Which is ridiculous because at that stage he hadn’t even retired from his GP practice and must have been in the habit of looking at disgusting things every day. My mum, however, mopped up the river like an absolute soldier. One of her best moments, I think.

I spent the rest of the night vomiting every half an hour with the dulcet tones of my brother shouting ‘shut up’ from his bedroom due to my unnaturally loud vomiting voice. Thankfully, there was only vomit.

I wanted to be annoyed that my boyfriend would rather spend his time with friends getting drunk in a dire pub than watch his future wife shit all over his clothes. But I couldn’t. I even felt slightly bad about the jumper, so I told myself he wouldn’t care. ( He did care, he still talks about it.)

With two kids I’ve cleaned up my fair share of bodily fluids and now that they’re six and five I assume those days have come to an end. But what if they haven’t? What if one of them grows up and is so blinded by the thrill of a new relationship that they too avoid noodles and order a burger from a Chinese takeaway. There is no kind of parenting handbook that covers the ramifications of that kind of mistake.

I hereby swear that when my children are old enough to go out at night by themselves, it won’t be the safe sex, don’t take drugs talk I’ll be having, it’ll be the don’t-ever-order-a-burger-from-a-chinese-takeaway (with a less than perfect hygiene rating) lecture that will be on the cards. Because, as much as I love them, there’s no way I’m cleaning up their adult liquid shit in the middle of the night.

Jenny Ireland lives just outside Belfast with her husband, two children and cat Batman. She has completed a Middle Grade novel called Demon(ish) featuring a 12 year old girl who makes a deal with a demon to bring her mother back from the dead. She spends her time procrastinating on twitter @IdreamofNarnia, staring at the sea from her window and answering to the five and six year old dictators who inhabit her house.