by Sylvia Otmarsh
When Randall did that thing they say all men do, he always tried to hide it. He’d only do it when Susan was safely out of the house for a good spell: at her book club or her mother’s house in Montclair. She assumed this was because he needed a certain amount of time for his endeavors—whatever they were. Then he’d wipe down the toilet, presumably the place where he had his little adventure. He’d clean the seat, around the lip of the bowl, around behind the seat hinges, and even up the back of the reservoir to the handle. Sometimes (and she really couldn’t understand this) he also wiped the floor around the toilet to a radius of three or four feet.
She couldn’t always tell that he’d wiped things down, but he left another sign: two sheets of disinfecting wipes, neatly folded down the middle, in the yellow waste basket next to the toilet. She’d come back from wherever she was and see them there, lying on top of the refuse that had preceded them, and she knew without doubt what had occurred in that bathroom.
He wouldn’t say anything, of course. Maybe he’d be a little more affectionate than usual.
She’d first made the connection between the suspicious cleanliness in the bathroom and Randall’s solitary exertions when they did that couples therapy for a few months. The therapist had asked whether they each masturbated—somehow when he said it, it seemed as rational as a diagnosis. Well, she had a one-word answer to that question. But Randall had to stammer and squeeze out some noncommittal mush. When? the therapist asked. Sometimes when he was alone, Randall answered, and Susan saw it right away. All the pieces fit. He didn’t have to say another word.
Neither of them liked the therapy.
Susan figured Randall tried so hard to conceal what he was doing because he thought she’d be angry about it. But she wasn’t really. Still his skulking was necessary in this respect: She couldn’t know too much about what he did—his contortions and thoughts. If she had to imagine that—well, she couldn’t sit across from him at dinner and watch him eat and talk after that, could she?
She’d rather just have a clean bathroom.