With my bare behind exposed to the tepid Arabian evening air, the Almighty brought me squat down to earth.
Our bus had parked at a rest stop between Medina and Makkah, with bladders that had long shed the desired stoicism.
We had to go, but we couldn’t.
These bathrooms had been imported from a ring in hell. I was certain that the cleaning staff was commissioned from a local mental institute who advocated paint-by-shit therapy.
It was too early on in my pilgrimage and I was yet to amass the required reserves to deal with other people’s business. I’m sorry Allah, but I can’t take this test today.
At the mostly empty field next to the rest stop ablution and toilet blocks, I saw a woman hold up her swathes of ihram to squat. If it was good enough for that sister, it was damn well good enough for me.
Our bladders soon swelled to five. We made our way to the very end of the field. In the mix of uncomfortable laughter and nervous terror that we would be discovered by keffiyeh-sporting custodians shouting ‘hajja, hajja’ as moonlight bounced off of our derrières, we fell into easy camaraderie. The energy stayed with us all the way to the bus, each of us now trying to hold in our frothing secret.
Before we left for Hajj, we were told to prepare ourselves psychologically for some of the bathrooms we would encounter. It was fair warning, but how does one go about conditioning the mind and body into shedding it’s bourgeois notions of sweet-smelling latrines and three-ply toilet paper? It was indicative of our life stations and prejudices, that we couldn’t just relieve ourselves anywhere, as if a lavatory had to be deserving first, before we honoured it with our waste.
All of this changes when there are no alternatives to present themselves. And so scoured away, were our silly sensibilities.
At the time, I felt it a sad indictment that an urge as base as this was proving to be my ultimate test.
But was this not part of the Hajj? Was I not here to do away with this sort of peripheral pettiness. By the time we arrived at Mina the week after, all thoughts of spray-bottle-decanted-dettol and surgical gloves had fled (though it did remain useful to have a belt of elastic to hold up my abaya).
I was here for God, and I refused for my humanness to get in the way.