If ever there was a day to shit on the side of the road, this is it. Let me tell you a little something about myself. I have never been one to shit in the woods, yet alone on an open highway. But on January 21, 2017, while millions of people marched across the globe, I was squatting at the side of Arizona Highway 186 shitting out over a year of political poison. We live in dire times which require extreme acts. I found myself in an unstoppable situation performing an act of rebellion by exorcising the demons which have possessed my body through my bowels. I shit you not.
It was on that very day that I took this photo. Across the globe, people were marching in protest against the incoming regime of Donald Trump and his billionaire buddies. Not me. I was on my One Woman March. I took myself out. Off the grid. Unplugged the radio, the TV, the phone, the wi-fi, and all sources of communication. I headed into the empty land of Southern Arizona where you can go hundreds of miles without picking up a single cell phone signal. This was my act of resistance.
I was on Day 2 of my Inauguration Getaway during which I spent two days in a freak winter storm. This was my way of resisting a government which is not mine. My way of claiming the things that give me peace, like empty fields and clouds and mountains. My way of saying Fuck You and your regime. So I rumbled through the desert on roads that aren’t even on maps. Temperatures were freezing, and winds blew so hard they could take whole cities down. I kept a list of places that could benefit from a hurricane.
I’m straddling the double yellow lines of AZ Highway 186 facing the onslaught of 38 mph winds when I take this photo. I’m just north of the Mexican border, about 20 miles south of Wilcox, 35 miles east of the Chiricahua Mountains, and about a million miles from nowhere. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration. The wind’s blowing so hard I can barely stay on my feet, but the road stands still for me, and that’s good enough for now.
It feels damn good to be in this empty land bracing my legs to steady myself long enough to take this photo. A truck speeding north at 70 mph catches up with me and nearly turns me to roadkill. For a minute, I watch my body blow across the playa like a flesh tumbleweed. That doesn’t happen. I get back in the car. The truck passes me and rattles my chassis with its speed.
I spent hours winding my way through mountains and playa. I rolled down my window and let the wind beat my body with its angry cold howls. As it stung me to life with the chill of its breath, I thought maybe this freak storm was the collective breath of all of those betrayed and outraged, of all those who have lost the ability to breathe. I wished for the wind to blow so hard it would wipe the slate clean.
For now, I was wiping my slate clean by taking in the glorious eerie landscape where hundreds of ducks floated in ponds glowing white with deep frost. They were celebrating rain even if it meant paddling through sheets of ice with their webbed feet.
It’s been a hard time lately. I’m not going to deny that. It’s been ugly times behind and ugly times ahead. So I rumbled off road and down lost highways just to try to breathe a little.
My own life circumstances have been a little out of control. My eight month old kitten died of cancer two weeks ago. Shortly after, my niece was in a near fatal car accident and spent her 32nd birthday getting pieced back together in the hospital where she remains broken and in pain. Yes, I have been fearing for her future. Being my blood relative, even if she does step out those hospital doors, she will be an addict pumped to the gills with the opiates that killed my brother, nearly killed me, and have turned my mother into a lifetime junkie. I wonder what Trump and his buddies have in mind for the opiate industry.
My friend Mark Fisher, you may know him as the author of Capitalist Realism, killed himself a week before I left on my Inauguration Getaway and a week after my kitten died on my chest listening to my heart beat and my heavy breath as he left this world. Mark was a gentle and visionary soul, and we live in a world where gentle and visionary souls have about as much of a chance as a kitten with lung cancer. Unless we give ourselves room to breathe.
I was driving across a mountain where Freeport McMoran houses both a cattle ranch and a copper mine when I remembered that Mark Fisher was a Cancer just like me. He was born under the sign of the moon on July 11, seven days after I was born, just like he died seven days after my kitten breathed his last breath. Cancers are the signs of the Zodiac that feel too much. We empathize to the point of self-destruction because we feel all pain, not just our own, but every inch of suffering in the world. It’s like the powers of destruction and what it does to innocent people and animals is the cancer that consumes us. So we need to breathe. Everyone needs to breathe. Can you breathe with me?
As I leave Wilcox heading toward 186, a homeless couple stands on a corner in the sleet. They hold up a soggy cardboard sign that reads “Please help. God bless.” I roll down my window and say, “I don’t have any cash, but I have chocolate. Maybe it will help keep you warm.” The couple holds open their hands, and I fill them with Hershey Kisses. The man says, “And Kisses too!” Like it’s the biggest surprise of his life. As I drive off, he and his woman begin unwrapping the foil and putting the chocolates in their mouths to melt.
I briefly wondered if Donald Trump ever gave a homeless man a Hershey Kiss. Given his track record in cruelty, I seriously doubted it. Then I shut myself up and whispered, “Don’t think about that, Kim. That’s not your world right now.”
Then there’s the fact, that I have spent weeks battling bacteria growing in my lungs. I attributed my condition to a kind of political contagion. I kept it to myself, even at moments when my head was so hot you could burn your finger tips on it. I didn’t tell anyone. Doctors called it pneumonia. I called it fed up. I went to work. Took care of my kid. Did what I had to do. I spent my nights violently coughing. I spent my days smiling and working. I didn’t want to be one of “those people,” because we live in a time when weakness could kill us in so many ways. So I’ve been living with bacterial pneumonia since I learned my kitten Marlowe was dying. It’s like his lymphoma grew out of a general political suffocation and infiltrated my lungs. Yet I smiled. Moved through days convincing myself that eventually it will get better.
I live life one breath at a time. Believing there will be a next breath because I have to, right?
But because my lungs have been failing, I’ve been chugging expectorant like I’m guzzling whisky just to keep breathing. On the very day that I took this photo, I was driving down the highway holding my chest. My lungs hurt, I cried. I can’t breathe, I sighed. I can’t catch my breath, I said as if breath is something you can actually catch.
The whole while I convinced myself all this shit was a metaphor for the general suffocating sickness of the political environment infecting my body even as I was hurtling away from it on my One Woman March. Maybe I just needed more medicine. So I took another swig of expectorant that tasted nastier than nasty.
This is when my bowels go into a riot.
I can’t breathe, and now I have to shit. This isn’t a good combination when I’m out in the middle of nowhere with hurricane level winds blowing at freezing temperature and not a single bathroom for miles and miles. I dig deeper into the metaphors of my circumstance as I grip one hand on the steering wheel and hold my stomach with the other. This situation means so much more than its basic reality. The needing to shit. The inability to breathe. Like the life is being choked out of me, and if I don’t shit out the poison, I’ll never be able to breathe again.
The medicine does help me breathe but apparently also makes me shit in the most inopportune places, like a highway in Southern Arizona in a landscape surrounded by barbed-wire cordoned off ranch land where a rancher would just as soon shoot me as let me use his bathroom. The political world has become so full of shit that my body has somatized it, especially on this post-inauguration day when the giant orange turd has taken over with his army of shits in the country’s capital. No wonder my bowels rebel.
So I was heading back home with my lower abdomen roiling. I thought maybe that’s because I knew that soon I would be flooded by the radio, the internet and the TV. Maybe I didn’t want to stop to use a public bathroom after all. I mean if there was one, I’d probably be confronted with Fox News, and then be induced to vomit and shit at the same time. I thought that if I did have to see the news, please let it be that the whole System blew the fuck up while I was off the grid.
I’m doubled over now, my head barely peeking over the dashboard. My stomach is in knots tangling themselves into more knots. I’m an hour from a bathroom, but I drive and try to hold it. It hurts like a motherfucker. I look at the outside temperature gauge. 40 degrees and blowing snow flurries because the wind is kicking ass so hard entire trees are uprooted in ditches.
In a flash, I have to stop. I swerve to the side of the road. Park my car half-assed, leaning, tilting, keening to the left in mud ruts. I open my door to get out, but the wind slams it back in my face. Motherfuck, I scream. I have to shit!
At this point I don’t care that trucks are rumbling past with their rebel flags beating in the wind. I don’t care that semis are carrying cattle north to be turned into hamburger. I don’t care that the old birdwatchers have a set of binoculars aimed at my flailing body as I fight with my car door just to get out. I root around for toilet paper and come up with two strips.
Ice cold wind stings my face. I stomp through mud. Make my way into a trough by the side of the road. Try to hide inside the bare and thorny branches of a tree I can’t name. I drop my drawers right there, aim my ass away from the road, and shit my brains out as if the entire past year and a half have culminated in a violent rebellion pushing fast and furious through my intestines. I’m not kidding. It’s like the entire 2016 and the first three weeks of this year are exiting my body through my butt.
While I was taking care of my business, and cars and trucks passed by, I had a momentary bodily revelation that never in my life have I felt the sting of freezing wind blowing up my butt. Today seemed like a good a day for that experience as any other.
And yes, I heard that truck rumbling as I unbuckled my belt and squatted so fast that I forgot aforementioned tree. I sat right down on its thorny branches which stabbed my right ass cheek with its razor sharp needles. At this very moment while I type this story, that very butt cheek looks and feels like it’s been clawed by a bear.
When was done. I rooted around on the ground for something to cover up this bodily ejection, or maybe I should call it a bodily rejection. I found clumps of tore-up asphalt and decided to build a cairn of broken road over my violent dump. I stacked the chunks with care to geometry and stability to mark the place where I stopped giving a shit. I grabbed huge chunks of asphalt and piled them on top of each other on top of my pile. I unearthed pieces with my bare hands, leaving wet damp holes full of worms scurrying for cover.
I could not stop building this tower on the side of the road. When I was done, I admired my work of art. I stood back, looked at it, and yelled TAKE THAT to no one in particular. The wind swallowed my words anyway.
I got back in the car. I started the engine, smiled, pushed my foot on the accelerator, and headed south down the highway. I felt victorious. I imagined the men in trucks who saw me fighting with that tree and aiming my bare ass into the wind. They’re probably sitting in a bar right now laughing and telling the story of the crazy woman shitting by the side of the road. Maybe it’s good for them to know that women shit too, and that women can have balls big enough to stop in the middle of the highway to let it rip.
After I dumped my load, I could breathe lighter. My lungs opened up a little more. I made some room inside myself by unloading the world of shit that has been suffocating me.
This was my act of protest. My one woman march. My Trump Dump. I got rid of a bunch of shit that is not mine to carry. Time to open some free space inside myself and mark the place on the highway where I broke the rules and said enough of this crap.
If you find yourself driving down Arizona 186, maybe you’ll find a cairn made of broken asphalt. It’s on the west side of the road in a ditch by a thorny tree. That’s where I left the shit behind, so I can get on with life and breathe. No shit. There is more than one way to stage a rebellion.