On the evening this article is being written, after work, precariously near the end of my last roll, I bought a 12-pack of Scott toilet paper at Walgreens for $13.99. Each roll is 1000 sheets, totaling 12,000 sheets at 4.1 x 3.7 inches each; or, 1257.6 sq ft (115.2 m²). The math here is not meant to irritate the reader, but simply convey the enormity of its expanse. Among other things written on the package are “long lasting value,” “septic safe,” and details about a bonus offer and members-only reward. The package was too big for a bag, which my cashier conveyed with resignation, so I carried it home as an impersonal hug.
I defecate at work usually between 9:30 – 10:30 a.m., after my morning coffee and some moderate inbox-induced anxiety. I use the handicapped stall because my soul is broken. That this is at work implicates there are only two days a week, Saturday and Sunday, that I may defecate at home — “may” being a key word, since I often do the deed in cafes, public libraries, or luxury hotels (impostering as a guest), depending on where the world takes me. Imagine a more pensive and less adventurous Jack Kerouac being not necessarily “on the road,” but on the toilet.
I live alone, seldom receive visitors, and more seldom receive those who defecate in my home. Perhaps I give off an inhospitable or judgmental vibe, but it’s safe to say those would feel self-conscious, even resented, crapping at my residence. In the bounty of one’s hermitry, we may deduce that these 12 rolls of toilet paper — left to their own demise, and mine — will last a morbidly long time in my condominium. I imagine others getting graduate degrees, or married, raising children, or moving to Europe, all the while I grimly tend to my stash of toilet paper. If only someone, despite these walls of terror, would come and help me out.
I wipe thrice, using between five and six sheets (closer to six) which for the purposes of this venture shall numerically be 5.7, averaging (1000 ÷ 5.7 x 3) 58.47 sessions per roll. There are fifty-two weeks in a year — and as we’ve established that I will defecate, at maximum, twice in my home per week (i.e. 104 times) — I, in estimate, will annually defecate at home at a frequency of about two rolls a year. Regarding the aforementioned instances in which I am not home, let us absorb this figure towards the sporadic female who urinates in my toilet, the blowing of noses in lieu of a tissue box, the frantic clean up of a misguided orgasm, or any ad hoc uses of toilet paper. Put simply, at an adjusted 2:1 ratio of toilet paper to year, this ponderous 12-pack will last me six years. I shall be forty-two years old.
In this moment, tonight, I have become rather depressed thinking of myself six years from now having inadvertently dedicated my truncated future to the exhausting of this toilet paper. Maybe I should get an iguana for a pet, who can watch me with its small eyes and cold heart, moving about my condominium in grey sweat pants, disappearing for long spans of reptilian time, only to come back, play melancholic music, make a quesadilla, and go to bed. Maximilian — for that would be his name — shall hear my groan past the corner, then a flush, and know I’m inches closer to my goal. Or maybe just a cat, to knead me to sleep, with tiny claws grabbing at a supposed heart.
The miracle, however, is that life never works out the way logic proposes. The theorist ignores life’s entropy, that deep harmony of randomness. I will somehow use up this toilet paper within a year, maybe two at most, and while that notion is still a little depressing, it doesn’t quite compare to the void-like, almost sarcastic, formidable weight of an entire six years. I don’t know how, but I’ll be emancipated from the flaky chains of thin pulp. Let faith not be God, but the pristine concept of some kind of happiness without him, without time. May my reprieve come in the form of a pretty date with explosive diarrhea, who disappears into my bathroom and comes out with red abashed eyes. I smile at the waft. “Don’t worry babe,” I’ll say, gracing her peach-fuzzed cheek with a slightly curled hand, as life loosely grasping the gem of my future, “you’re just what I needed.”