In adult life, four memories of Mrs. Sherwood persevere. 1) That in second grade I handed out supplies to the class, she thanked me, and then snapped at me when I replied “yeah, sure” rather than “you’re welcome” and entered a tirade about the deterioration of etiquette among children. 2) That she moved on to teach high school art and, ostensibly complimenting my sister’s work, said that Asian people had a good eye for detail. 3) That in high school she embarrassed me by showing the entire class a dreamscape I had drawn in my sketchbook as an exemplar (that I had drawn the girl I was secretly crushing on, front and center, was lost on her).
4) That I peed my pants in her class.
My crotch ached. At seven years old, I was only a year removed from my hernia removal, the first and most major surgery I’ve undergone, and I swore that this pain was the very same as the one I’d felt when the space above my pecker bulged and I had to go under the knife.
I thought of going home and telling my dad. Reporting ailments and injuries to him was a tricky proposition, bordering on paradox. Tell him about an issue too early or when it turned out to be nothing and he’d scold me for it. Wait until the problem was truly severe and he’d chide me for not saying anything sooner. He had echoed my doctor in telling me that it was very unlikely I’d get a hernia again, but just the same had cautioned me against any sort of heavy lifting ever since.
I clenched every part of my lower body and looked on, trying to pay some modicum of attention to Mrs. Sherwood’s lesson, though, for all her self-professed years of experience as a teacher, she still didn’t seem to understand that only the front row of kids had much chance of seeing what she was trying to demonstrate, and half of them were too short to catch much.
Finally, the ache grew so tremendous that I let go, standing in the back row. I released and, to my astonishment, it was not a hernia that threatened to claw its way like an alien from beneath my skin, but rather a full bladder that had afflicted me.
So I peed and peed and peed and peed.
A side note: I rarely visited the restroom in my early days of school. Some of it had to do with a general reluctance to ask for help or privileges, inspired by my home life. I also generally didn’t drink more than my little juice box at lunch time, so I could generally hold it pretty comfortably until I got home at three o’ clock.
Standing in the back row of the art classroom, I looked down at my ill-advised salmon-colored (read: pink) jeans that I can only assume were one of those final few gender-neutral enough hand-me-downs from my sister. Though they appeared marginally darker in hue than before, I was pleased that, at least in my seven-year-old estimation, the urine was hardly noticeable.
I walked back to my worktable, seated with three classmates, none of whom commented on seeing anything odd about me, or catching any unusual odors. Mrs. Sherwood circulated and took the time correct my scissor technique, but said nothing about my pants.
My second-grade homeroom teacher showed up to collect us and bring us back to the regular classroom for lessons in language arts and arithmetic for the rest of the afternoon. I walked down the hall and back to class, and later boarded the bus and took the half hour ride home, where my father let me into the house.
No one said anything.
I struggle to fathom that not one teacher, one kid, the bus driver, nor my dad noticed anything. Maybe the pee really wasn’t visible when it was wet, and dried unnoticeably. Maybe I was, unconsciously, a smelly enough kid (perhaps among other smelly enough kids) that olfactory clues didn’t’ give me away either.
Or there’s the answer that I’ve suspected since I remembered this incident a couple weeks prior to writing this post--that everyone, particularly the adults, did notice. It was just too awkward, or they just weren’t a hundred percent certain, and they didn’t want to say anything.
And so the mystery of the peed pants lives on, through the eyes of an unreliable seven-year-old narrator, now told from a thirty-year-old point of view. I can only say this much for certain: that wasn’t the end of the pink pants. I wore them until I had grown too tall for them. Then my parents cut them into shorts so they might survive amidst my wardrobe for years to come.