50 Stories: Week 15, To Show + To Tell

I am sitting in a plastic orange chair, fit for a six-year-old. My first grade class is seated in a circle because it is almost time for show and tell, which is my favorite part of the morning. It is my turn today and I am bursting with excitement. As the last of five children, getting this type of singular, focused attention seems like a dream realized. I can’t remember exactly what I’ve brought, only that it doesn’t matter, because today it’s my turn to stand in the center of the circle, my turn to talk to the class, my turn. Mine.

I hear the teacher call my name and I look at her, beaming, but I cannot move. She repeats my name and her expression changes as she looks down at the floor below my seat. As I turn my gaze down, I notice for the first time that I am hot and wet between my thighs. I see the pale yellow puddle forming below my chair and I can’t look away. I’m sure that children must be laughing by now and the teacher is saying something to me but all I can hear is the drip from underneath the chair releasing to the puddle below. The tiny drops are thunderous and I feel my face flush with embarrassment. I don’t want to look at my teacher because she is going to tell me to get up. What then? I imagine that everyone will go outside soon for recess and I will be free to remove myself without further humiliation. But they are not moving and she is not telling them to and I hate her. I hear her say she will call my mother which sounds like a threat. There is a deafening silent pause, and then she asks if someone else would like to share. Another child starts speaking and I want to reach across to pull his hair out but the teachers’ aide is lifting me up from the pool of urine that has collected in the seat of my chair. I can smell it now and it reminds me of the dog next door who always pees in our azalea bush, turning the pretty peach blossoms brown. I remember my father threatening to strangle that dog but the worst I’ve seen him do is spray it with the hose.

My pants are cold now, the warmth is gone, and they bunch between my legs as I walk. When I get to the school office, the secretary gives me a look full of pity and tells me that my mother will bring me clean pants later and hands me a pair of too-big gym shorts to change into. She ushers me to the bathroom and pats me on the head before closing the door behind me. I stand in front of the mirror above the sink, only able to see from my nose up, and realize that I have been crying. I am still holding my show and tell item in my hand and I am suddenly infuriated that I didn’t get my turn. I want to run back and tell them all to shut up and listen because it is still my turn.

But instead, I peel my wet pants off, pull on the gym shorts, sit on the toilet seat and cry.

anxiety childhood Children Education Excitement Failure Fear Nervousness risk Writing

1 Comment Leave a comment

  1. Wow, I feel for this little girl in the pit of my stomach. You write it, though, leaving me no doubt that this girl has somehow been strengthened by this humiliation – not undone by it. Or maybe thats because I know ya. The detail that most caught me was her being patted on the head… I remember in 4th grade getting really nauseous watching that “period film” with all the girls, and throwing up. I barely lived that down. I was so humiliated. And they teased me. And – horrors – told the boys! For the next two years I panicked when that film was shown. I don’t think I was strengthened by that humiliation though –  My stomach is twisting with the memory of it even now! You were a really really cute girl. Dig that barrette. XXK

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