Sorry for the delay. I contemplated holding off until I had a chance to see Avatar, but I ultimately decided I didn’t need to wait in order to write the chapter.
Part VI: The End of the Revolt
Andy had been friends with Shane since they were in the second grade. Back then, Shane’s mother drove a wood-paneled station wagon that was older than he was. Andy liked that car. It was easy to recognize and, every time he saw it, he knew there was the possibility he and his friends would go somewhere interesting. Shane’s mother had since replaced the station wagon with a minivan. It was newer, more practical and not nearly as fun. Andy had begun to feel the same way about his friendship with Shane lately. They were no longer sitting around playing with action figures; they were going to the movies, largely unsupervised, with a girl no less. And yet he couldn’t help but feel like he was on shaky ground, like Shane saw him as a burden he lugged around for old time’s sake or that he was going to wake up one day and realize he and Shane didn’t have that much in common anymore.
Andy was the last to be picked up Friday night. Shane and Audrey were already sitting in the van’s middle row and Andy slid in next to them.
“Happy Hanukah, Andy,” Shane’s mother greeted. “Is that still going on?”
“Yeah, tonight’s the last night,” Andy replied.
For the rest of the drive to the theatre, they talked about the movie, about how awesome it looked and about the director, James Cameron, in general. Shane made retching sounds when his mother brought up Titanic.
“Oh, stop,” his mother chastised. “You’re too young to appreciate it. You were still in diapers when it came out.”
Shane blushed and cringed and Andy tried not to and Audrey said she liked it, even though it was too long, and that was the end of that.
“You kids have money?” Shane’s mother asked as she pulled up in front of the theatre entrance. It was a Loews Cineplex, a huge gray fortress of filmdom.
“Yes, Mom,” Shane answered.
“Have fun then,” she said. “I’ll be back for you at 10. Anything happens, you give me a call.”
“Yes, Mom,” Shane repeated, his tone fraught with annoyance. Andy knew better than to talk to his own mother like that.
They waited in line, bought their tickets and moved quickly to claim their seats. Their haste afforded them some prime real estate: center row, near the front, but not too close. Andy filed in first, followed by Shane, then Audrey. They had just sat down when Shane got back on his feet to get snacks.
“You guys want anything?” he asked.
“No thanks,” Andy replied.
“Coke, please,” Audrey said.
As he headed back to the lobby, Andy noticed that he seemed eager to fetch it for her. It was funny, he thought. There was a time not all that long ago when Shane would have told someone to get their own stupid Coke. His departure left an empty seat and an awkward silence between Andy and Audrey.
“So you’re Jewish, huh?” she said at last.
Andy nodded. He could sense another question coming on about the apocryphal Hanukah Bush.
“You don’t look it,” she said instead.
“Uh, thanks,” Andy replied, not sure whether she meant it as a compliment or an insult. He also didn’t know what it meant to “look Jewish.” He’d heard some people say that Jews had big noses, even though he didn’t. He thought maybe his father, who has a moustache and dark wavy hair (the latter of which he passed on to Jake) looked Jewish, but Uncle Marty was Jewish too and didn’t look anything like his dad. He wanted desperately to be Audrey at that moment, to see what she saw when she looked at him.
“I’m Lutheran,” Audrey said. Andy nodded. That sounded about right. He didn’t know what Lutherans were supposed to look like either, but Audrey had short blond hair and blue eyes and that just seemed to fit. Shane was some kind of Protestant too, but Andy couldn’t remember which denomination.
“So are you and Shane going together?” he asked, a little too quickly because he was nervous and still wasn’t sure exactly what he was asking about. “That’s what everyone says.”
“I guess,” she said, blushing and giggling and sounding equally uncomfortable. “I don’t know.”
Andy began to wonder if this was what it was going to be like from now on, all awkwardness and never knowing what to say. He hoped not. He didn’t know if he’d be able to take it. And then he chuckled, because the biggest reason he had for feeling awkward – his diaper – hadn’t bothered him at all. In fact, he had half a mind to tell Audrey about it. He would make a joke about not wanting to miss any of the movie and she would laugh and say something like “I wish I thought of that” and it wouldn’t matter if she believed him or not, because at least it would break the ice. He never got the chance though. Shane came back carrying two drinks and a big tub of popcorn and the theater darkened as the previews began to roll.
For the next two and a half hours, Andy didn’t think too much about the growing isolation or his diaper or much of anything at all. He tried to lose himself in the CGI-fueled artistry, but watching the alien natives fight the invading humans, reminded him, oddly enough, of Hanukah, of the Maccabees. They’d fought off the Greeks and preserved Judaism and that was ostensibly what was being celebrated. But it seemed to Andy like it was a short-lived victory. After the Greeks were gone, there were the Romans and the Turks and the British. Even nowadays, Andy could hear his father complaining about “those damn terrorists” who were trying to destroy Israel. It seemed to him like someone was always causing trouble for the Jews and someone always would.
This newfound pessimism got him off-track, but it wasn’t enough to ruin the movie for him. He eventually got back into it — so into it, in fact, that he started wetting his diaper about 2/3rds of the way through. He caught himself doing it and could have stopped, should have stopped, but he didn’t want to. It made no noise in the crowded theatre and there was only a smell if he looked for one.
When the movie was over, Andy got up, half fearful and half thankful for the crinkle that would give him away. It was lost though amid the chatter and the rush of bodies to the exits and he didn’t have the nerve to call more attention to himself.
“Man,” Shane exclaimed, rising and stretching and laying a light hand on Audrey’s arm – a gesture unthinkable in their “girls have cooties” heyday. “That was great.”
“I thought Titanic was better,” Audrey opined as she stepped slightly away.
“No way,” Shane said. He turned and looked to Andy for the tie-breaker. “What’d you think Andy?”
“I liked it a lot,” Andy said. He was not sure if he meant it or not, not sure of much of anything anymore.
The next day’s weather was equally uncertain. Temperatures had been creeping back up since last Saturday’s snow, but they fell again Friday night. The Saturday morning sky was sunless and white and Jake clamored prematurely for the opportunity to build a snowman.
“I don’t even think it’ll snow,” Andy told him.
“Nu-uh,” Jake whined. “Mom, tell him it will!”
“If it doesn’t this weekend, I’m sure it will eventually,” their mother said. “It’s not even officially winter yet.”
That seemed to pacify Jake, at least partially. He’d been sore that he hadn’t been able to see Avatar, even though he was too young for it and it never would have held his attention. In retaliation, he hogged the TV and put on some cartoon movie and told Andy he wasn’t allowed to watch, even though they both knew Andy didn’t want to. Sometimes, Andy realized, it was good to let his brother think he’d won something even though he hadn’t.
Jake was off his back and Andy didn’t have any more tests or big assignments coming up before Christmas break. That left Andy with only one thing left to worry about: his diapers. Several still remained in the package and he knew he would never use them up before the end of the day. His parents wouldn’t let him keep any. That was the agreement. He thought about hoarding a few, but the thought of sneaking around and likely getting caught put an end to that idea.
He sighed. Maybe he’d get a chance to try diapers again in a couple of years, if he still wanted to. He couldn’t see himself giving them up for good, but the past week taught him that they got old pretty quickly. He thought about those stories where kids his age wore diapers 24/7 and shook his head. Who would want that? There would be too much hiding, too much awkwardness, too much to feel bad about and his life had enough of that already.
Andy checked the time on his alarm clock. It was only the early afternoon and he still had several hours to go before sundown. He thought of some more things he could do with his diapers, but it seemed like he’d exhausted most possibilities. He’d wet numerous times, he’d been changed, he tried cloth, he wore in public. About the only thing that remained was to mess, and Andy wasn’t sure he wanted to do that. It seemed like it would be a pain to clean up.
In the end, his body made the decision for him. He felt the need to move his bowels and headed for the bathroom only to find the door closed. An urgent knock brought about a “just a moment” in his mother’s voice and left Andy standing outside the door, clenching himself and biting his lower lip. He had no reason to think he wouldn’t be able to hold it. He’d held it in school dozens of times. But when his mother opened the bathroom door a moment later, she found him with a messy diaper and tears streaming down his face.
“Oh, Andy,” she said, keenly aware of what had happened. She hugged him until he calmed down, then told him to clean up. Andy marched himself into the bathroom and stood in the tub. He let his poopy diaper fall to the bottom with a loud thud and turned the water on as hot as it would go. He hoped it would wash his shame as well as his skin.
When he finished showering, he diapered himself again. He put three on at once, seeing as how it would likely be the last time, then sought out his mother. She was sitting at the kitchen table, hard at work on a crossword puzzle.
“Feeling better?” she asked when she saw him.
Andy nodded, then stopped. He took a deep breath and told his mother no, he wasn’t feeling well at all.
“Everything’s been really weird lately,” he explained. “I feel like I’m too weird for my friends and they’re too weird for me. I like diapers and I don’t know why. Sometimes, I don’t even like them. Sometimes, I think I know what it means to be Jewish and sometimes I don’t. Nothing makes any sense. Mom, what’s all that mean?”
Andy’s mother smiled benignly. “That means you’re getting older.”
“You get older and everything changes. Your body changes. Your mind changes. It happens to everyone. If you want to know more, talk to your father.”
“Does it get any easier?” Andy asked.
“No,” his mother said. “At least not at first. You just need to do the best you can.”
He took little comfort in the meaning of her words, but was calmed by the certainty with which she delivered them.
Andy slept that night in underpants that felt as thin as paper with the sheets pulled snug around him. He’d surrendered his remaining disposables to his parents after dinner. They asked him if he’d gotten his fill of diapers for awhile and he told them that he did. They never made mention of the cloth diaper from his grandparents house, which Andy kept tucked away safely in the back of a drawer. It could be years before he laid his hands on another package of disposables. He had to have something to sustain him.
He fell asleep thinking of the Maccabees that night, about the way they came down from the mountains to reclaim the Temple. Sure, they’d won – they’d beaten the mighty Greeks, in fact – but they were probably tired from fighting and all kinds of scared. Who knew what kind of shape the Temple was in? Who knew what remained of their civilization, their customs, their people? They had to be worried about stuff like that, but they didn’t let it stop them. They came down from the mountains to confront the desecration and the change and if they could do that, these scrappy forbearers of his, then Andy could do it too.