It was a rainy day outside, the sunny and springy kind of rain. But instead of splashing gleefully in puddles, I’m stuck inside, in grammar class. Luckily enough, the most crusty kid in class, Ben Jones, was seated on my right. Judging by the wafting fumes of his stank breath, he had some kind of hummus for lunch. Ack. (And seriously, what fourth grader brings hummus to school?) Now, I was a picky enough eater as it is, and just like the rest of my family, I have a really strong sense of smell. I don’t even like to smell someone else’s food, since I have the unique ability to remember every smells after it’s gone. It’s truly a blessing and a curse. But today, thanks to my pal Benny-boy, it happened to be a curse. I was trapped in the fourth-grade equivalent of H-E-double-hockey-sticks.
I tried facing left, the opposite of Doctor Stank, but I was hit with a blast of heat. The class was humid and muggy from the rain outside. It might have just been my imagination, but I think the posters had beads of condensation on them. The missing water from every draught in the world was condensed on the surface of my skin. (Fun fact, this was also the day my parents decided I needed to wear deodorant.)
I looked around me to see if any of my friends were experiencing similar trauma. Molly and Jennah seemed to be deeply interested in what Mrs.Peterson had to say. A few boys were looking out the window at the puddles, probably wishing to be liberated. On my left side, Katie Kramer was drawing a picture of the scene outside in her notebook. I could see the yellow sun and flower stems carefully drawn in crayon. Not a one in the room was roasting like me. It’s safe to say that morale was low amongst my classmates.
Every sense I had was on overload. If drowning in a regular pool sounds rough, try drowning in a pool of sweat. (For a similar sensation, try drowning in a hot tub.) My hands were so sweaty that I could not grip my mechanical pencil. I felt the unsteady presence of El Stanko’s breath on my shoulder. My eyes felt foggy from the heat and my ears couldn’t hear anything. My stomach gurgled- a sign that meant if I didn’t get fresh air soon, I would probably toss some cookies.
I meekly raised my hand.
“Mrs.Peterson? Can I go to the bathroom?” It was a daring move, but I had to risk it. I was too young to die.
“In the middle of my lesson? No, Miss Emma, you may not,” said Mrs.Peterson. The heads of every kid in the room swiveled around to stare at me. I could feel their beady eyes silently judging me.
The bubbles in my stomach only grew at this. Awkward. I could taste my peanut butter and jelly sandwich rumble in my stomach and I wanted it to stay there. Oh crap, I thought, Here it comes. I’m going to be known as “The girl who threw up in the middle of class.” It’s not going to end like this. It can’t end like this.
Up and up it went until…
It was a burp. Not vomit, as I had expected. A burp. And a loud one, too. The relief was unimaginable, which sounds awful, but considering my predicament, you can see why I felt so gratified.
The class collectively turned around again. I could see the shock in their eyes. A few of the cool kids even sniggered to themselves. At least they could get a laugh at my expense. Mrs.Peterson decided to intervene after a few moments of awkward silence:
“Emma, please do not burp in the middle of class. If you feel you must, please step out into the hallway.”
I shriveled in my chair.
“Sorry.” I uttered, barely audible. Unfortunately, the relief I felt in that moment did not compensate for the heat. And Mrs.Peterson didn’t hesitate to steer everyone back on task. I stole another look around the miserable class and discovered that yet again, I was the only sweat-glazed child.
Class continued as normal, except my condition worsened. I tried pressing my forehead against the cool desk. It worked for a time, but eventually, the wooden surface became moist too.
Uh oh, I thought, my stomach feels funny again. Please don’t...please don’t...please don’t… But apparently, my stomach and brain were not on speaking terms. Here we go again.
The class turned again. I was getting lots of attention today, but for all the wrong reasons.
“Emma! I asked you to please not burp in class. The next time you do, you will be getting a note sent home.” she snapped.
“Sorry, Mrs. Peterson.” I replied, ashamed. I don’t think she understood that I couldn’t control it. My classmates looked at me a little longer this time, and I wonder if they noticed my condition. Most likely not, because no one asked me if I was okay. Mrs.Peterson turned around and continued to lecture on the importance of commas in a sentence.
I decided to just ignore the heat as a last resort. It had to work. I thought that maybe if I concentrated hard enough, I’d be able to finish this class and then get some fresh air. It seemed like a great plan: organize my thoughts and focus on work. And it would work, in theory.
But Dragon Breath Ben’s breath hadn’t gotten any better. The room hadn’t gotten any cooler, there was still no A.C, the room was still muggy, and my hand couldn’t seem to figure out how to hold a pencil. I glanced sideways at Ben, with a look I can only describe as disdain, wondering what I had done to his parents to make them pack him hummus for lunch. Just then, my thought was interrupted by a huge
BLARP. Except it wasn’t me.
Ben Jones let out the nastiest belch I had ever heard. It smelled like hummus and pita, except way more acid-y. Mrs.Peterson whipped around and stared at me with a look that could freeze a hot tub. Her lips formed into a thin pencil.
“What did I say, Miss K? Go flip your card and then sit in the chair.” she curtly spoke.
The class gasped collectively. “The Chair” was reserved only for kids who really made the teacher mad. It was meant to make you rethink your choices, but it felt like a jail sentence. You practically became a social outcast if you were sentenced to The Chair. There was even a rumor that the screws in the chair would dig into your back if you didn’t sit absolutely still. The kids who went to The Chair never returned the same.
“But, Mrs. Peterson, I didn’t…” But I was cut off.
“Emma, do as you’ve been told.”
“I didn’t try to protest any further. I made the Walk of Shame to flip my card. Card flipping was a sort of behavior system to give us kids a visual of good/bad behavior. If your card was on green, you were good to GO. But if you had to flip your card to red, you were in trouble and had to STOP and think about what you had done. A red card also meant you’d get a note sent home to your parents. Every step I took towards the card hurt a little because I knew that my mom and dad would not be happy when I got home. My classmates’ faces showed no mercy, for in their eyes I had done wrong and deserved my punishment. After all, I was warned twice. But that little devil child Ben didn’t even step in and try to take the blame.
That day, I learned that the real world is cruel and unfair. I was forced to face The Chair alone, with no companions by my side. A bit of my soul died that day. Looking back, I wouldn’t have done anything differently, because I did the best I could with what I knew. This just goes to show that we were all interesting, quirky, sweaty, unique, and wonderful children. And maybe, just a little bit disgusting.