Whenever people tell me “You know what made me think of you the other day…” I always interrupt them because I know where it’s going. I say “I bet you were in the bathroom or it has to do with poop, right?” and you know what, it almost always (like 99.99% of the time) is one of those two scenarios. Some people might think that’s weird, but I take it as a huge compliment. In the same way that Oprah taught us to understand and share our Aha! moments – I want to give the world a forum for their “Ah-Shit” moments. I’ll start with one of mine.
I’m sure that if you were brave enough to delve deep through the cavernous pile of nonsense in my noggin – this incident might have been one of the driving forces of my Imodium AD addiction. As I’ve mentioned before, when I was in Elementary School I used to incite the girls that I liked so that they’d chase me around and then beat me up when they caught me. There was a girl in second grade named Jennifer who could run faster than any of the other girls (and most of the boys) in our class. When she eventually caught up to me – and she always did – she would tackle me, take hold of my hand and ankle and then swing me around so fast like a carnival ride…Granted, she would eventually let me go and I’d usually go flying face-first into a chain link fence or a brick wall, but she did hold my hand for those few brief moments…She was crazy but I never minded being the Tina to her Ike.
One day, after a particularly rowdy dose of ass-kicking, Mrs. D (the aide on the playground that afternoon) called me over and made me stand against the Gym wall as punishment for letting the girls beat me up again. “It’s OK though, I like it” I tried to explain to her, but apparently that was the wrong thing to say. Far be it from me to argue, but isn’t it odd to punish the victim? Wasn’t I the one who was tossed into the air like a Frisbee? I wasn’t one to question authority back then so I went and took my place of shame against the dreaded wall. I tried to ask how long I had to stand there, but it was no use – I was shut down with every syllable.
As I stood there thinking about my next flight into orbit courtesy of Jennifer’s private airline, I started to get really bad stomach pains. As an adult, I know those pains oh so well and recognize the significance of them, but as a young lad – I couldn’t begin to understand the tell-tale warning alarms that were going off right then. It was a Quick-Hitter and time was of the essence.
“Mrs. D, I don’t feel so well…” I muttered. “Don’t pretend to be sick – you’re staying against that wall!” she said as she walked away tooting her whistle at another kid acting up.
My stomach was making some crazy noises and gurgling something fierce and I just knew something was wrong; it was like a wave of warmth came over my body and it just didn’t feel right. It subsided for a second and I thought that I might be OK when I realized (a little too late) that I need to get off that playground and head into higher ground (i.e. get to a bathroom). I took a few gentle steps in the direction of the gym door but after the first step I realized it was a big mistake to rock the applecart. I tried to quicken my pace, but after about five steps, I had to grab onto the wall to steady myself because there was an explosion. It felt like a bullet had pierced my stomach because there was intense pain and then it was as if a flash of lightning shot right through my body. “Oh God” I cried out and braced for impact.
Clenching was futile as this was a force that was just too powerful for my nine year old buttocks – it was like a tornado tearing through a fence. This may sound strange, but as soon as the warmth shot through me (along with everything that I had eaten for lunch) there was a moment of relief that the pain had stopped. Granted, it was a quick moment immediately followed by the realization that I was on a playground full of people covered in shit.
I made a full-on sprint towards the door as fast as I could, but I’m not sure if you realize how difficult it actually is to try and run with a full pair of tightie whities immediately after a gastric explosion. By the time I got to the door, I was covered head to toe and there was shit everywhere. It was running up my body, down my legs, across my back (because my shirt had been tucked in) and falling out my pant legs. I was leaving a trail that Hansel and Gretel couldn’t miss, but I just couldn’t stop running.
I headed straight in the door and right towards the one place that always offered me solace: the nurse’s office. As I was running, I was hoping upon everything holy that there wasn’t a line of kids for lice checks in there. By the time I made it to Ms. O’Donnell’s office I thanked God that it was empty. She took one look at me, jumped up from her desk, and sprung into action. I tried to say “You’re not going to believe what happened to me” but before I could even get half the words out of my mouth, she was at my side. In hindsight, I’m not sure that really I needed to explain it to her as it was fairly obvious what had occurred. It might have been the stench I was trailing through the hallway or the fact that I actually looked like I had been dipped in something, but she could tell immediately what was wrong. “Let’s get you out of these clothes” she said gently as she guided me behind the curtain for privacy.
I stood there limp as she started by peeling my T-shirt off of me. It was now soaked through and stuck to me like everything else that I was wearing. She was so nice and calming, and I started to feel a tiny bit better until she tried to take my sneaker off. “Oh my God, it’s everywhere!” she gasped, as one sneaker slipped off, spilling me all over the floor and she realized that my socks were soaked through as well. She peeled my clothes off one layer at a time and immediately placed them into a giant black garbage bag on the floor next to me. I don’t know why she thought there was any chance in hell that bag was getting on the school bus with me, but she soon changed topics and asked me for the phone number to call my mother to come and bring me some new clothes to put on. I started hysterical crying and had to tell her that my mother started a new job and I didn’t know the number. She offered to call my brother out of his class to see if he knew the number, but that was the absolute last thing I wanted her to do. I was still under the deluded impression that no one would ever find out what just happened to me.
Since we couldn’t call my mother, she said for me to sit tight and she would go look through the lost and found for something I could change into.You think it’s embarrassing when the school nurse has to wipe your ass? Imagine the embarrassment level when she has to hose you off because you’re covered head to toe with shit! And those paper towels might as well have been sandpaper because they most certainly were not Scott tissue. By this time, she had used about fifty four wet paper towels to clean me off and still hadn’t gotten all the shit removed. I stood there while she went into the back closet to find me something to wear. As if I hadn’t been through enough, I heard the office door open and someone come in. All of a sudden, the curtain swung open and there was Mary, a girl that lived up the street from me, staring with an equal mix of curiosity and disgust in her beady little eyes.
I tried to cover myself as best I could, but it was no use; there was shit all over my body, the room smelled like a cesspool, and my soiled clothes were in a heap on the floor next to me – who was I trying to fool? All I could do was cry while the nurse shuffled her out of the office and locked the door. As she was escorted out, I could hear Mary asking “Oh My God! What did he eat? Oh My God – Is he OK?” (Years later I actually went to one of my proms with Mary, and I wore a white tuxedo. Believe it or not, I sat down on the seat in the limo directly onto a peppermint patty she had dropped and the chocolate got all over the back of my pants. What are the odds that I would soil the seat of my pants twice in front of the same girl? That must be a record of some sorts!)
I would like to tell you that the story ends there, that Mary was the only one who ever found out about what happened to me, and that I eventually lived that horror down – but it didn’t end there. When the nurse came back from the closet she laid out the clothes for me to put on and I started hysterically crying again. It was a pair of red and white checkered girl’s pants, a tight green V- neck tee shirt with a butterfly on it (also a girls) and a pair of girl’s white sneakers that were a half size too small on me. I had no other choice since I couldn’t call my mother to bring me something to change into and there was nothing else in the lost and found. I was content to wait in her office until the bus came at the end of the day, but she wasn’t having it. I looked at myself in the mirror and the pants ended up being too short for me. The pants legs stopped mid calf and capri pants might be “in” now, but back then a little boy in short pants tended to stand out from the crowd. If the butterfly wasn’t so prominent on the green shirt, it might not have been as obvious that it was a girl’s shirt.
As I went back to class people were asking me where I had been and why I changed. I tried to play dumb, but one girl recognized the shirt and told me she had a very similar shirt and I wanted to tell her that since it was in the lost and found it might actually be her shirt, but I was afraid she would try and take it from me. The only other shirt left in lost and found after this one was pink, so I kept quiet. It’s actually very hard to keep quiet and pretend nothing is up when twenty kids are making fun of you and asking why you’re now wearing girl’s clothing, but I did. Needless to say I was devastated and was out of school for over a week because I got myself so worked up from what had happened I just couldn’t go. It’s funny to think of it now, but that was the longest day of my life and has most definitely played into my neurosis and obsession with Imodium, cleanliness, and butterflies.