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When I was in the ninth grade, Derrick Shaine pantsed me.
He didn’t like me for some reason, though I don't see why. He was a senior, years ahead of me. Barely knew me. But for some strange, teenaged reason, he couldn't stand me.
I wonder if he remembers what he did. Or my name. Or even my face.
Apparently not, because he is standing up and leaning over his desk slightly to shake my hand.
I stare at Derrick Shaine’s face, made a little unfamiliar by the years gone by and the professional half-smile it is wearing. The smile begins to falter and I remember his raised hand. I hurry to shake it before sitting down, now trying not only to keep an expression of slight horror off my face, but also an expression of sheepishness.
“So, Mr. Matthews,” he begins, shuffling through a few folders and bring forth a document I recognize as my resume. He has already shaken off the awkward introduction and I can not help but both envy and admire him for it. “I read your resume, and I must say that your work experience has been very... varied. Could you talk me through it?”
He has stopped talking and now he is looking at me expectantly. I blink and try not to squirm in my seat. Suddenly, I've forgotten everything I'd planned to say to defend myself and all I can focus on are his eyes, the eyes all turned on me, boring in.
Any second now, they’ll all start laughing.
I’m standing in gym, shorts and boxers ripped to my ankles. My arms are raised in what would have been the beginning of a jumping jack had they not been interrupted by hands near my hips. The entire gym class has gone silent and everyone is staring at me. The pressure of their eyes constricts me and it is not until I feel an unexpected breeze that I realize exactly what happened.
Finally, a girl tries to stifle a giggle, fails, and suddenly everyone is laughing.
“Um… well, I guess I’ve done a, uh, a lot of different jobs,” I try. I force myself to breathe, reassure myself with the fact that Derrick Shaine doesn’t remember me. “Lots of different experiences.”
He taps a pen on his desk, his mouth falls into that little frown, that frown that says a person hasn’t heard what they wanted to hear.
“Well, that certainly is true. But, Mr. Matthews…” He leans back in his high-backed chair, examining me. “I can’t help but wonder why it is that you have never held the same job for more than three months.”
Derrick Shaine is watching me closely, awaiting a response. I know he’ll grin triumphantly any second now, I know because I’ve lived this a million times, and now that everyone is laughing, it is his cue to snort at my deep blush and flash me his teeth in something that isn’t a smile but a smirk given prey just before devouring them.
I scramble, bending down to pull my shorts back up. However, my boxers and gym shorts have somehow become a little tangled and my hands are quivering with embarrassment as I try to get everything back in order.
“I… uh…I promise it isn’t anything you’re thinking, it’s not because of, uh, you know, some bad.” I look away, look at the photo frame on his desk of people who must be his lovely wife and precious little girl. I still feel his eyes on me. The image on his desk isn’t doing much to boost my confidence, but I struggle onwards. “I sometimes have some... um… trouble with work. Like, uh, with my coworkers and sometimes my, uh, boss. I don’t like it, so I, um… leave and start somewhere else.”
His face shifts into something I don’t recognize on him. He sits forward in his seat and when he speaks again it is lower and somewhat softer. “What kind of trouble do you mean?”
I realize suddenly that the expression is concern.
I’m too startled by this realization to answer at first. After a moment, he continues, hesitating for the first time.
“If you’ve… experienced some unpleasant… attention at previous workplaces, I assure you that nothing of the sort will occur here.”
His unsteadiness has returned some of my focus and I blush darkly when I understand what he is driving at. “No!” I exclaim, hurrying to set things right. “It’s not like that. That has never happened to me.”
He is frowning now, confused. “Oh.” Derrick Shaine furrows his brow and this reassures me as well. Then, his face clears. “I see. Mr. Matthews, we do not discriminate at this company. We have a zero tolerance policy for offenders who might disturb you about your lifestyleâ€””
“No!” I say it a little louder than necessary, but at this point I don’t care. “You’ve got it wrong, it isn’t like that at all.”
Derrick Shaine stares at me again. There is a little bit of frustration, a little bit of anger in it this time, and I quickly lose any confidence I gained from his fumbling.
“Well, then, Mr. Matthews, please elaborate on what you mean by â€˜trouble’ so that I may understand.”
I sigh, my head hanging. “I’m, uh, very easy to embarrass. And sometimes when I get embarrassed, I have, um… kind of like a panic attack.” Even as I’m explaining this, it is getting hard to breathe, harder to hear myself over the laughing.
I’ve got my shorts up, but my dignity is still dangling. I keep my face to the ground. I want to whirl around and confront Derrick Shaine, but even though the laughter is dying down into chuckles, I know I’ll just make more of a fool of myself.
The coach has finally gotten some control over himself and yells at the kids to settle down. Everyone quiets and we start jumping jacks, but throughout the hours, days, weeks, months, years, I still hear everyone talking about it as I go by, pointing, laughing. Still feel their eyes laid out upon me, especially Derrick Shaine’s eyes.
Derrick Shaine blinks as he registers my answer, nods. He moves on, posing another question to me, but I can’t answer him because I’m still standing frozen, exposed.
Hackettstown, New Jersey
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