I’m sitting in my 7th grade English class when severe pain hits in the lower abdomen area. There’s a civil war raging inside me and I know it’s only a matter of time before the South will inevitably lose.
My first plan of action is obvious. And simple. USE THE BATHROOM. But I’m scared to get up from my seat. There’s one obstacle that I have to overcome before I can get my freedom and then much needed relief.
The hall pass is guarded by my teacher. As if it’s not humiliating enough to ask permission for the most basic of human functions, but I get to do it in front of an extremely judgmental 7th grade audience. Even that would be bearable if it wasn’t for the one tiny, frightening question that I know she’ll ask. “Why.” WHY do I need to use the hall pass?? There is only one permissible reason that students are allowed to use the hall pass but she has a sick need to verify it. Honestly, if I was going to do something else while in possession of the hall pass I wouldn’t tell her over my dead body. The truly evil teachers will ask you this inane question over and over until you cower away. I sit in my seat imagining that asking for the hall pass will go something like this:
“Can I use the hall pass?”
“Um….I need to use the bathroom.”
Thinking to myself How much does she really want to know?
With as much implication as I can muster I say, “Because….”
“Can it wait?”
Obviously not or I wouldn’t be here, I think. But saying that would definitely get me sent back to my seat so I continue with the staring contest and battle of wills.
I lose and go back to my seat.
The possibility of that scenario convinces me that there has to be a plan B. I look up at the classroom and the teacher has apparently stopped yammering and is sitting down. Glancing around the classroom I notice that everyone appears to be doing something, but for the life of me I don’t have a clue what it is. I quietly get out my pencil to blend in.
I’m starting to get a white knuckle grip on my desk as the war continues. It feels like all the tiny men have little knives stabbing here and there in my intestines. It’s taking all my concentration and will power to sit quietly and endure an ever-increasing and insistent pain.
I was thinking about something. Oh yeah. A plan B. Since nothing comes to mind, I consider waiting it out. It can’t be that long before class is over and I get exactly 7 minutes to get my books at my locker, dash to the bathroom and run to my class. Easy. No problem. I look at the clock. It’s only been 20 minutes?! I’m definitely going to die.
Back to Plan A. Asking permission. I envision myself being successful this time and walking blissfully and swiftly to the bathroom. My blood stops cold. The bathroom. If someone else is in that bathroom when this war is unleashed in all it’s fury, it would get me labeled for life. My reputation is shaky as it is and I just can’t take a risk like that. I’m going home. I can go home if I’m sick, right? And what is being sick if not massive and severe pain?
There’s the same obstacle. I’ll have to ask permission to leave. It’s not the same as asking for a hall pass since I won’t be coming back, but it’s close enough.
I carefully and very slowly make my way to the front of the room. On the first day of class, all teachers will insist and even beg that if you are violently ill, would you please, please just run out of the classroom? Or at the very least use the garbage can? No student in their right mind would ever heed this advice. Innocent until proven guilty is not allowed for teenagers. At the very least you would get lectured for ditching class.
Every teacher fears students throwing up in their classroom. While my illness is on the other edge of that sword, she won’t know that. The threat of that should get me out with minimal interrogation.
“I need to go to the office,” I ask quietly when I reach the front of the room.
“Why?” she asks. Not so quietly, I might add. It turns a few heads.
I clench my teeth a little while I take a deep breath.
“Because I don’t feel well.”
I can see that feared word on her lips just begging to come out, but something about my appearance changes her mind. There’s even a little fear behind her eyes. She says okay, and with all the clenching power I can muster between my legs, I walk to my seat, squat carefully and pick up my bag. As gracefully as I can, I make it into the hall.
Civil war is at it’s peak and the southern soldiers are fleeing to the hills as I walk this incredibly long hallway. Since no one is around, I resort to waddling slightly to increase my speed to the front office to use the telephone.
I feel out of breath when I finally reach the office, even though I’ve just been walking. Freedom is one phone call away. The phone is sitting next to the secretary behind the counter.
“Can I use the phone?,” I ask.
I feel all the breath go out of me as I slump in disbelief.
“I don’t feel well,” I try to say with anger, but it comes out more pathetic as it mixes with the pain in my voice.
She plops the phone on the counter and goes back to whatever she was doing before.
As the phone rings, I pray inwardly that my mom is home. Please, let her be home!
“Mom! Can you come get me? I don’t feel well.”
A pause. Oh, no. She’s going to ask why. What can I say to present the urgency of the situation without giving away too many details to the secretaries who I know are secretly listening? Terror starts to grip me. There are not many forbidden words left in the world, but what I have is definitely still one of them. I’ve never heard anyone say it out loud. It’s usually replaced with words like “flu” and “sick.” Or what my dad would later come to call “my problem.”
“Okay. I’ll pick you up where I usually drop you off,” my mom says.
My mom is an angel.
I hang up the phone before I realize that where she usually drops me off is at the end of the long hall that I just came down. The door at the end of the hallway that goes to the parking lot starts to shrink in the horizon as the hallway seems to get longer just looking at it.
As I start walking/waddling down the hall with all my muscles clenched tight, my confederate soldiers in my insides have retreated in alarming numbers. The end of the war is looming. My concentration is completely shot to … that one place. I can’t think of the word. Someone stops me in the hall to chat. I would probably know her name on another day. The way I say “Fine” to her question of how I am was meant to come off as care free, but from the look on her face I think it came off as more disturbed. She says something and leaves as I continue my walk of shame. I try not to make eye contact with anyone in the classrooms as I pass, but I can feel eyes on me as I waddle slowly by. Let them stare. There isn’t anything quite so painful as going against nature.
Fresh air hits me as I finally make it to the door and wait outside. It feels like it took forever to get there and I half expected my mom to be there already. I close my eyes and wait for an eternal five minutes when she pulls up in her glorious white mini-van to save me and take me to a judgement-free bathroom.