When I finished university my friend Mark and I started working for his uncle who bought and flipped foreclosed houses in Connecticut and Rhode Island. Mark and I were responsible for interior and exterior painting once the major repairs were completed. The pay was great as was the autonomy we had. As long as we finished at a set time we could make our own schedule and had no supervision. Not that we needed any.
Last September while we were painting a big white Victorian I noticed that Mark was acting weird. It seemed like he was avoiding me. Wherever I was painting, he’d be on the opposite side of the house. Usually we’d listen to music and talk while we worked. At lunch time he disappeared so I ate my sandwich alone in the shade, wondering if he was mad at me.
Later that afternoon I intercepted him while he was walking to our van. I was planning on asking if he was okay but I stopped abruptly. The air around him was like a force field that instantly repelled me. He stank. I knew immediately what had happened.
I couldn’t help but look as he leaned into the van, rummaging around for a new brush. He’d gone to the bathroom in his pants. The seat of his jeans was damp and misshapen. He didn’t say a word and I didn’t either.
We continued painting on separate sides of the house. I was too shocked to think about anything else besides the fact that he was working away with all that filth in his pants.
At around 4:30 Mark walked into the back of the van and closed the door. He emerged fifteen minutes later wearing light green swim shorts carrying a used plastic shopping bag that his lunch had been in. He tossed it into the open dumpster at the bottom of the driveway.
“Way too hot for jeans,” he said as he walked by. It was only seventy degrees that day.
Even with all the windows open the ride home was unbearable. His neatly folded jeans looked harmless, but they were radioactive waste as far as I was concerned.
A week to the day later we’re putting the final touches on the Victorian when the sky turns black. A thunderclap sends Mark and I running to the van for safety. It’s starts to pour, then hail but I barely notice because the van reeks. Mark reeks. I just stare at him. He won’t look at me.
“Dude. Why do you keep pooping your pants?” I finally say to him. “There’s a porta-potty right there in the yard.”
“No way I’m using that thing,” he says. “It’s full of spiders!”
The storm passed but it was too wet to paint that day. Mark didn’t change into his swim shorts. We drove back with the windows down, Mark sitting on a little extra cushion of his own making.
It ended up happening three more times. Even after I cleaned out all the spiders in the porta-potties that we used. He didn’t even try to hide it anymore and to be honest I’d gotten used to it. I could even tell when it’ was coming. When he got quiet I knew I only had ten or so minutes of fresh air left.
On his birthday I bought him a bag of adult diapers. He didn’t think it was funny.