Monday, May 16, 2016

Bathroom Law

The thing that I remember most were the shrieks coming from the stall: "Get out! Get out, David! Get out!" That is how I learned about bathroom time is a private time. To be clear: Jenny was absolutely correct to be shocked and upset at me. She was five and she was in what we had learned was the "rest room," but she wasn't getting any rest because a boy had walked in, disturbing her quiet, private time. To be fair: I was five too, and I was on my first trip outside my kindergarten class alone. I was looking for the room that matched the letters on the wooden paddle that matched "Boys." In those vast, dimly lit hallways, I walked in circles with a full bladder searching for a place to relieve the pain I was feeling and the fear that was mounting in my terrified little brain.
No one was there to help. All those times before I had gone with my classmates, lined up and ready to do my business with the rest of the boys, then back to the line that was so safe and orderly. Now I was off on my own. I was walking in circles that kept me coming back to the door that said "Girls." That's where I saw Jenny go. I knew that Jenny had gone to the rest room at the same time I did, accepting the power and responsibility of the pass with solemn gravitas. At some level, I understood that there was a division here. She had her place. I had mine. I needed to do my business and return just like she was going to.
The problem was I had no idea where the boys were supposed to go. I was determined not to be that kid who showed up in our classroom with wet pants. I didn't want a call home to bring fresh underwear. I did not want to fail. And now, for the second time, I found myself standing outside the door marked "Girls." I pushed the door open.
That was a mistake. That was when the shrieking began. Inside the light was a little better than the hallway, which made it briefly welcoming, but Jenny's voice let me know that I did not belong. I may have seen her feet, but I don't remember seeing anything else. Just the clear message to get out.
I did.
It would be nice to say that I waited outside and then Jenny took pity on me and my predicament, showing me the way I had taken a wrong turn at the cafeteria and here was the boys' room after all. It would be a more tragic tale if I had become one of those wet pants phone calls. Neither one of those came to pass. In the end, I made the trip around one last time and found it myself. A triumph of some monumental proportions for a five year old on his first trip to the restroom. I don't know if I ever felt more relief, inside and out.
When I returned to the classroom, Jenny and I did not speak. We went to school together for another twelve years, sharing teachers and classes, but we never brought up that bathroom trip again. It probably wasn't a big deal.
It just felt like it to me.

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