A short story of strong emotions.
"Cabbage!" I think, that's what I fancy. Turning smartly on my heel I head back towards the front of the shop. Cucumbers, courgettes, cauliflower, strawberries.. wait? Strawberries? In the veg aisle?
Eventually I spot the cabbages, reject the wrinkly Savoy options, decline the red cabbage (although if I'd been cooking, maybe) and opt instead for a crisp fresh white cabbage. It's an odd choice for dinner but I've learned to listen when my body made demands.
Of course, cabbage does not a meal in itself make. "Perhaps some cheese would go well," I decide, so I saunter past the milk and the butter, reluctantly past the trifles and cheesecakes and find the cheese. Ah, a nice strong mature cheddar, that should do the trick.
As I reach towards it I realise I'm almost stood in a puddle. My open toe sandals, ideal for the sunny weather, would give me scant protection against that wetness. I carefully lean over and claim a pound of creamy goodness, then escape down the aisle towards the delicatessen counter. This store is usually so good at keeping the floor clean, spillages coned off and cleaned up in no time. Perhaps I should let a member of staff know, this must be a recent issue.
It doesn't take long to secure a few slices of pastrami, to add some texture and a different flavour to the cabbage and cheese, and I ponder whether anything else is needed. I fear the choices so far were going to lead to just too dry a meal, so.. ah, yes! Dinner would be finished nicely with some mayonnaise. I know I could make this from scratch but I'm also partial to a particular commercial brand, which I set about hunting down.
The aisle with the oils and sauces in it didn't have any mayo. It did have a man in it, grey hair, that I nearly trip over, only just seeing him in time. I concede to myself that I maybe wasn't paying full attention, searching for the mayo, but convince myself nonetheless that it was really his fault, crouching down as he is. It was only his bright red t-shirt that saved him, catching my eye at the last moment.
With surprise I realise that the man is crouching over another puddle. He avoids eye contact and leans to look under the shelves. Skirting carefully around him I try to explain this strange behaviour. Aha, the fridges with the cheese are on the other side of the shelving, and he must be Maintenance trying to track down which one was leaking. I smile to myself, I'm in no danger of leaking today.
The next corner reveals Mayo, in light and full evil fat forms, with the larger container on an unexpected sale that makes it the cheapest option. I put a tub into my shopping basket and move through the store to find some ice cream before heading home.
Sat watching a documentary on TV, I take a slice of raw cabbage, dip it into the large pool of mayonnaise on my plate and lift it to my mouth. A delightful crisp snap as I bite into it releases the flavour of the cabbage, mingling with the smooth mayo and leaving me wondering why I don't do this more often. Between the cabbage, the cheese and the mayo I barely even touch the pastrami, starting to work through the plate full of food.
It doesn't take long before my stomach starts to grumble. I've always found cheese filling but I'm caught by surprise at how quickly the cabbage was satisfying my appetite. Tasty as it is though, I don't want to stop, and quaff most of my glass of water to wash down the food I've already eaten. Foolishly at this point I tuck straight back in, and clears my plate.
"That was good," I tell myself, intentionally ignoring that I've just eaten half a cabbage and far too much cheese. I know there's ice cream waiting, if I pretend I'm not too full. Perhaps a few minutes to let the main course settle wont hurt. After those few minutes I pause the documentary and seek out the ice cream. Salted caramel, rich, creamier than the cheese and so good. I greedily finish the whole pot.
With another glass of water I lean back and enjoy the documentary. It's an old one, a mix of black and white footage and a silky voice-over from a famous British actor, since deceased. Aware of my full stomach I relax, my patio door open to allow a gentle breeze, the cats playing in the garden.
Twenty, perhaps thirty minutes later, I shift slightly in my seat. With nobody else at home there would be no harm in relieving some internal pressure and without conscious thought, I gently squeeze out some air.
It isn't air.
Freezing rigidly in disbelief I try to convince myself that I had merely broken wind, and that the horrid sensation I'd just felt was not.. but I knew. There could be no lying about this. Furiously I thought whether my body had warned me, but it had not, and now it was too late. Pausing the TV I gingerly stand, walk upstairs and strip off my now contaminated clothing.
My skirt goes into the washpile. The black denim will survive well enough, without a stain. My underwear comes into the shower with me; it needs rinsing clean more than I do. Fortunately it's everyday wear, no expensive lace to be ruined.
This isn't the first occasion. It's been many months though, maybe a year. Sure, some foods cause problems and I really should see about a diagnosis of IBS but I do normally at least get 40 seconds warning, all that's needed to avoid humiliation. Even with just the cats around, it's humiliating.
Still, I know I can manage this situation. Indeed, what's about to happen is entirely overkill, but I'm annoyed and scared it'll happen again. I retrieve something entirely misnamed a brief, because briefs don't fasten at the waist with sticky tape, aren't covered in a soft pliable plastic, and the ones I normally wear are nowhere near half an inch thick.
This one is.
Putting it on takes just a few moments. All that practice had to count for something. Yet this time it feels different, there's no thrill, no sense of naughtiness, it just leaves me pensive. Wearing these things for fun and fantasy is one thing; wearing one because of genuine need is new, concerning, somehow weirdly feels like an adult act - perhaps because I'm the one being responsible about this, rather than the wish fulfilment of having it done to me.
A clean skirt, a coordinated top and I'm done. I wear the same bra, it wasn't a matching set anyway and why create more laundry. Strange justification, given the clean top, which itself makes no sense: I'm not going out again today, even if I hadn't had to change my underwear. Maybe I just want something about my attire to look right. Perhaps this isn't the time for logic.
The evening passes slowly. Every internal signal from my body gets scrutinised, and I can't concentrate on television, reading, anything. The cats come and go, they're not bothered.
My new padded underwear stops feeling so new. I know it'll be a while before it nears capacity, and while it's holding just liquids I can pretend this is just another playtime. Unscheduled, I'd intended to be all grown up this week - hence being safe from leaks in the supermarket. So much for that plan. But these things cost money so I take the opportunity to at least get something from the situation.
My ideal outcome is a quiet night, a clear signal from my body when it's ready, a chance to reclaim my adulthood. Fate has other plans. This time I don't assume it's air, almost leap from my seat and dash for salvation. It's not enough, and for the second time in the evening I'm shamed.
I should be mortified. Part of me understands this, wants to embrace it, burst into tears and give up. Instead I almost celebrate: My skirt and other clothing is still clean, and quickly removed. The so-called briefs that protected it come off next, and yet again I find myself in a shower to get clean. The act of showering is efficient but mechanical, I'm doing it because it needs to be done.
It's later, in bed, further protection in place, that the flurry of thoughts hits me, that I relent and let the emotions come. I don't enjoy being in tears but sometimes it's the right response. Incontinence is a frequent fantasy, but stays safely in that realm. Permanent protection can be discreet and is manageable, but there's an impact on activities, social interactions and confidence. I like the idea of having no control but know I'd hate the reality.
But the fantasy is never double incontinence. The age play doesn't go there either; the smell and mess is too unpleasant, too much to handle. I feel doubly betrayed. I don't want to have no control, and if I had to, that's not the control I'd want to lose. This isn't fun, this is purgatory.
Am I doomed to needing constant cover? Absorbency maybe isn't so necessary, something thinner might work. But that's not the issue, the clean garment is irrelevant. It's what happens if it stops being clean. I can't hide that, my friends and colleagues would notice immediately. I'd notice immediately and that's bad enough. My brain racing, I try to think how to manage this issue. Maybe surgery? The classic cork gag? Work from home and abandon my social life? Pre-emptive cleansing? Or just stop eating when I'm not going to spend the next few hours at home. That means eating in the evenings and going to bed in uncertainty.
Like I am now.
Will I wake up soiled? Not a question I want to ask every night, and it's frightening me enough to defer sleep tonight. Surely I'll be fine? This must be a one-off, there must have been a strange pesticide on the cabbage, possibly too much mayonnaise, or it was discounted because it was going off. I've cleared my system, haven't I? It can't happen again, it wont keep going on tomorrow, the day after, next week? The rest of my life?
A cat jumps up, snuggles close, falls asleep. I join her. Tomorrow.. I'll find out.