You wouldn’t think toilets could cause so much grief in a relationship.
When Sal and I first began dating, he lied to me a lot. Not about big things, like other women on the side, but about small things in an effort to hide his background of extreme poverty. When we watched telenovelas and a grand hacienda was shown on the tv, he would tell me his house was like that (actually a two room concrete shack), or that he lived on a farm and ranch (actually about an acre of farmland with lambs, no cattle), and that he would travel around town in his fancy car (actually this fancy car was a bike).
Not that I ever fully believed his little lies; it was hard to imagine why someone with such a successful life would risk all he did to come and toil in American kitchens. However, he slowly revealed his lies as we went on, sometimes through purposeful revisions to his stories and other times through cracks in the facade. By the time we were getting engaged, he had dropped the hacienda lie, but he still fibbed about the condition of his home in ways that were actually more believable. Small things, such as an indoor kitchen and a functioning toilet facility of some sort (like an outhouse).
I took his word on these things because an indoor kitchen and some type of a toilet seemed pretty reasonable to me. If I were to be forced to choose between the two, I would take the toilet over the indoor kitchen; since he was determined that we would be vacationing there in the near future, I was pretty set on the whole toilet thing.
Around the same time that the lies were lessening, Sal had moved in. The cliche argument about putting down the seat came into play pretty quickly. I tried to stay calm about it, and did so for about the first month. However, when I fell into the toilet in the middle of the night, I decided it was time to pick this battle.
I marched into the bedroom, wet rear and all, and woke Sal up. I explained what had happened; he laughed.
“No, no! This is not funny!” I said through tears, likely tears of shock at my sudden soak more than anything else.
“Yeah, ok. It is no funny,” he agreed, still smiling at me. I wanted to punch him, really I did.
I then tore into him about basic manners, the logistics of seeing that the seat is up in the middle of the night, and ended by asking him, “Didn’t your mother bother to teach you to put the seat down?”
Now, keep in mind this was before I knew that there aren’t a lot of toilet seats in Mexico. Not that this actually effects the outcome of our “fight”.
“No,” he told me. “We have no toilet.”
I paused and thought about this. I pictured an outhouse without the seat. “You mean you had no seat and lid.”
“No, no I mean we have no toilet,” he corrected.
I was dumbfounded. “Where do you go to the bathroom?” I asked.
He explained, “No one in my town has a toilet. We just go pop everywhere.”
“Poop, you go poop everywhere,” I corrected. “Wait,” I paused. “Everywhere?”
“Yes, you need to do, you do, you know?”
No, I did not know. “What do you do with the toilet paper?”
“We throw it in the trees.”
WHAT?! “The trees?”
“Yes,” he said. “Then the rain will come and wash it away.”
This was a nightmare, though I was quite awake at this point. I pictured a farm surrounded by trees decorated with steamers of dirty toilet paper. An outhouse I could do, but I was not a camper; there was no way I could do my business outdoors.
Some time passed and he still wanted me to come and vacation at his home. I told him there was no way this would happen until they built an outhouse. He pleaded with me, told me that if I would not stay there I would be wasting money on hotels to visit him once he had to return. I did not back down. I suggested that he take a couple hundred from the money we were saving for lawyer and immigration fees and send it home to have an outhouse built. So we did.
We explained exactly what we were looking for: a large box around a platform with a hole in it for sitting on and taking care of business situated over a hole in the ground. His mother said that she and the family could take care of this.
When we made the next phone call (we called every two-weeks to once every month) his mother said she needed more money to finish it. I was confused; there was no way that the supplies to make this outhouse cost more than $200. All that was needed was some wood, nails, a shovel and a can of weatherproofing. Some of which they already had.
Well, it ends up that mami decided not to make the outhouse we asked for. Instead, she decided to build a fully plumbed bathroom suite attached to their little home. Since $200 does not buy one a fully plumbed bathroom suite, she needed more money. I was livid. No more money was going home, I swore to it. If she took our money and did what she wanted, she would no longer be getting our money.
And she didn’t. This all began close to two years ago now and the thing still doesn’t work. For one, there is no plumbing system to help this thing operate. For another, there is no sewage or septic system on the property. So now it is simply a concrete room decorated by pipes and a toilet. I am doubtful it will ever be anything more than that.