Like every other night, he awoke around midnight and needed very badly to pee. And as he also did every night, he cursed the choice he made years earlier to take the first-floor bedroom, ceding to the children the second floor, which also included the bathroom. So instead of being able to walk sleepily in the dark a few feet to piss, he had to turn on the light and climb the narrow, century-old creaky wooden staircase to make his way to the bathroom. Usually he made it without pissing himself; actually, he always made it without pissing himself, but some nights it was a close call. This was one of those nights.
A decade earlier he had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, and so urination was something that was on his mind more than it probably was for most people. High blood sugar leads to frequent urination (the least of its effects, which also include blindness, stroke, heart attack, and the one that really haunted him, amputation), and although his sugar was mostly under control these days, it could always be under better control, and he could rarely go more than 3 or 4 hours without having to go to the bathroom. Long gone were the days of his childhood, when his mother would marvel at how long he could go without peeing, sometimes an entire day or more, it seemed, in his memory.
The cat, white and gray, must have stirred when she heard him rising and turning on his bedroom light. When he opened the bedroom door and stepped into the living room, she was waiting, on her haunches, just inches from the door. Her motionless patience made her presence timeless; she could have been waiting there 15 seconds or 3 hours, it was impossible to tell. She trilled a throaty greeting to him as he passed by, then beat him to the top of the stairs when she realized where he was headed.
Like every other night, the music coming from his daughter’s room was too loud. If it was too loud because it was too loud, or because it was Insane Clown Posse, he couldn’t say. If it had been one of the bands who he and his daughter both liked, like Death Cab for Cutie or The Beatles, perhaps he would not have quietly opened the door, reached in and turned down the volume. But it wasn’t, and he did, and then he closed the door and headed toward the bathroom.
And so finally he got relief; it wasn’t the sweet relief of youth, when an empty bladder felt like it would never fill again, and every piss was the last you’d ever need to take. Rather, it was a ten-years-of-diabetes session that never really seemed to end, but rather just to came to an unwilling stop, like an Oscar Award winner with more to say but the orchestra drowning him out. Like every other night, of late, he wondered as he exited the bathroom if he should try one more time to empty himself, just a bit more.
But like every other night, he just wandered back downstairs, defeated, tired and old.