The urge starts like the jingle of a tiny bell: Tink. Tink. Slowly, it builds like an orchestra. Strings. Horns. Percussion. All together. I have to go; there is no holding. None.
Usually the instance I felt a tingle in my bladder, I jumped up and ran to the bathroom. I was a bed-wetter. I couldn’t be trusted to hold, and I knew better than doing so. I had gotten too used to the hot liquid turning cold fast against my bum, the angry flick of light switches in my bedroom, the bathroom, then the laundry room, the stink of vinegar water on my mattress, the swoosh of sleeping bag against floor, and overwhelming guilt of being a bed-wetter. At home it’s one thing, but around family I never see, it’s completely different.
The Christmas Eve I was seven, my mom and I hitched a ride to Chicago with my grandpa and grandma in their Crown Victoria to visit my uncle and his family. Sure, the whole way there I had to pee, but I was with an old lady who had to pee all the time. For once it wasn’t my fault that we stopped at almost every rest area along snowy the Ohio turnpike. No adult questioned the validity of my bladder’s urge and hushed my requests to stop with “you can hold it until the next one.” Finally, there was an adult who had to go as much as me. It was the first time I had traveled in complete bladder comfort.
That night I slept on the pull-out couch with my cousin Katie and cousin Matt. I could barely sleep thinking of Santa. I tossed and turned, bumping Katie’s reindeer print flannel arm and leg while continually whispering to Matt that he was wimp for not staying up with me. The red, green, and blue outdoor Christmas lights that wrapped around the bushes in their yard and their neighbors cast a warm glow in the sunken den of our room.
Up the stairs of the sunken den was the kitchen, then the great room with the front door and chimney, then a hallway where the three bedrooms were. At the end, the bathroom. My aunt and uncle were the closest to it. I hadn’t seen their bedroom, but I imagined them sound asleep based on the contagious yawns I saw at our early evening arrival. My grandparents were second closest. I pictured them sleeping on Matt’s twin sized beds, each in a separate bed, an arm’s length away from each other. My mom was third closest. I thought I heard her loud eggnog induced snore from Katie’s room, trailing downstairs to me, the farthest person from the bathroom. I found the thought of each family member sleeping in a room much closer to the bathroom than me, not comforting but thoroughly upsetting.
Immediately, my bladder jingled its tiny bell.
I had to get up; there was little time for such a far run. Rolling over Katie, thumping on the floor, that’s exactly the moment I heard it.
Scratch. Scratch. Neigh.
I froze, crouched on the green shag carpet.
Scratch. Neigh. Scratch.
Santa was here.
My first thought was: if he sees me, I’ll scare him away before he sees the picture of Poochie I colored for him, before he eats the special sprinkle cookies, before he sets the shiny presents under the tree. Piss my pants or risk no presents. I’d be damned after how good I had been that year to not get presents. And I certainly did not want my distant relatives glaring back and forth between the present-less, brown pine needle-ridden tree skirt and me. I squeezed my thighs together, squinted my eyes shut, pressed my hands over my ears, and prayed Santa would be quick about his business.
Each second the urge to pee grew. The bell was joined by the strings, the strings joined by the horns, seconds later the percussion section took over until all I could hear under my sweaty palms was the drumming of pain in my bladder, throbbing in every nerve of my body. I tightened my vaginal muscles like the doctor told me. I counted. I breathed. Just like the doctor said. 10. Inhale. Exhale. 11. Inhale. Exhale. The burning sensation began. 12. Inhale. Exhale. I felt a little trickle escape. It was only seconds before my urine made a prison break. I looked to the stairs, consciously clutching my vaginal muscles, preparing my body for movement. I had to chance no gifts. I had to make the break.
I popped up like the little flower I was in the past spring’s play, and when I was up, I ran like never before. I jumped the stairs, my bare feet making sticky noises against the kitchen linoleum. I passed through the great room’s threshold, and zoomed passed the reflection of myself in the front door’s glass. Rounding the 8 foot glimmering Christmas tree, I tripped on the hem on my long flannel nightgown. The hardwood cold underneath me, I crouched for a moment on my palms and knees, gathering myself. So far no leakage. My thighs were still tight. I could make it. I took a deep breath and rose to a slight chuckle.
Looking up, I saw a round belly jiggling slightly, shiny black buttons, a white beard twitching. I literally had stumbled upon Santa, who was looking at our pictures and chewing on a cookie. When we made contact, he winked at me. I know it sounds cliché like something from a holiday movie scene, but I swear he was before me in all his magical flesh. This Santa was not some dude at the mall or my grandpa dressed up. He was the real deal. I could tell by his wink. My grandpa couldn’t wink without closing both eyes. I gave Santa a smile and a curtsey. He motioned his head towards the bathroom. The pain returned swiftly, and again I was racing down the hallway. I flung open the door, slammed it shut. I danced my panties off. I sat on the rim without putting the seat down. I didn’t care. The rush of liquid was exhilarating. It wasn’t until my first orgasm that I realized pissing after holding for a long time feels almost exactly the same.
Of course, Santa was gone when I reentered the great room. Crumbs from his cookies rested on the plate and on the chair. I had triumphantly seen Santa. A tale to tell to make all kids jealous. I was proud tiptoeing my way back to bed, knowing I wouldn’t be able to sleep after glimpsing the stacks of shimmering paper and perfectly puffed fabric bows. Christmas would happen after all. I wouldn’t be blamed for scaring off Santa, but soon I realized I would never be believed for seeing him.
(Thanks to Ray Ray for helping this essay come to fruition.)