I raise my hand. Ask if I can go to the bathroom.
Take a bathroom pass, he says.
The pass is a necklace, but the white string has turned gray so I put it in my back pocket. Then I’m gone. Skip one two three, it’s good to be free.
A pipe burst above the coatroom last week. It’s not the first time. Floor tiles have bent together to form a mountainous ridge that leads to the bathroom. I follow the path, leap over one peak, then another, and back again. Three times for good luck. Pause to make funny faces in the mirror before using the toilet. There are no new comments on the stall. I stand up to flush.
This is not ideal.
The bathroom pass is floating in the bowl. It must have fallen out of my pocket.
Do you know the names of all the germs lurking in the average toilet? I do. In grade five I did a science-fair project on germs. I was surprised to discover the school water fountain had more, but I’d already looked up toilet bowl germs and their related afflictions.
The answer is: E. coli, salmonella, norovirus, staphylococcus, shigella, and streptococcus. The first three are relatively minor and cause diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and vomiting.
But staphylococcus can cause impetigo.
Shigella can cause dysentery.
Streptococci can cause a skin infection commonly known as flesh-eating bacteria.
These are all worst-case scenarios, I agree. But I think it’s better to err on the side of caution.
The first flush is unsuccessful. The pass dives like a manta ray, its body struggling to escape into a cave. Then it bobs back up again. The second and third flushes are a repeat of the first. Dive and bob. Dive and bob. The fourth time, I hold the flusher down, close my eyes, and pray. Come on, little manta ray, you can make it. Count to ten. Open my eyes.
The manta ray has indeed made it into the cave. But now the bowl is very full. Too full for the next person to use. Being considerate, I flush again.
For a second it seems like the situation is resolved, and I breathe a sigh of relief. Then the water returns and keeps rising and doesn’t look like it’s going to stop. It reaches the edge of the toilet seat and spills over the lip of the bowl and onto the floor.
The manta ray does not come with it.
I wash my hands and hurry out of the bathroom before the event can be linked to me. The water has already seeped out from under the stall.
I have every intention of returning to class, I do, but then I happen to look out the window of the side door. The one that faces the playground. I’m not sure how long I’m out there before he finds me. I’m hanging upside down on the monkey bars and the first thing I see are his shoes. I know they’re his because he never wears socks.
You’re supposed to be in class, I hear him say.
Let’s have class outside today.
Because we have to follow the rules.
Pourquoi êtes-vous si difficile?
I flip off the bars and land on my feet in front of him. Perfect dismount. I’ll answer your question if you answer mine, I tell him.
Monsieur Martin exhales like a whale and pinches his nose. It leaves a red mark like he was wearing sunglasses.
Because I said so. Besides, you lied to me. I trusted you to go to the bathroom.
I did! I did, but then I came out here.
I see that. Where’s the bathroom pass?
In the bathroom, I say because it’s the truth.
Shortly after we return to class, Lydia screams in frustration and throws her workbook across the room. Monsieur Martin and Marianne the teaching assistant take her to the back of the room while the rest of us continue our work and pretend it isn’t happening.
George is picking his nose. I watch as he wipes his finger clean on the lip of his desk drawer.
Outside, the sun is shining and the birds are chirping.
My math book has a large 9 on it. I’m supposed to be doing the end-of-chapter French questions, but Martin est préoccupé so I pull out my sketchbook and draw the playground instead.
Playgrounds are very hard to draw. There is a lot to remember if you’re not lucky enough to have a view of one outside your window, and there are a lot of lines. Plus all of these lines have to have the right perspective. Ms. Nguyen, the art teacher, taught us how to draw with perspective. You put a little x on the page to mark your horizon, and then you take the corners of your object (say, a box) and draw toward the x so that they connect there. Next you draw horizontal and vertical lines where you want the box to end and it will look 3D.
Or you can leave them so it looks like the box is coming right at you, like a train.
The playground isn’t progressing as hoped so I continue work on my underwater scene involving dolphins. I once heard dolphins are the only mammals that have sex for fun, besides humans. How do they do it? To avoid the question, I draw them holding hands (fins).
Fin. La Fin. The End.
Audrey! Monsieur Martin is at the front of the room again. You’re not paying attention.
I am too! To what?
To me. To what I’m saying.
I am. I only looked out the window for a second. I feel like adding, What did I miss? But I can tell from his expression that it wouldn’t be appreciated.
He marches to my desk and there’s no time to close my sketchbook.
Looks like it will be a frownie-face day. When the bell rings, I watch him draw it on my chart in permanent marker.
To make matters worse, my parents get a phone call. This isn’t the first time, but I doubt they ever get used to it. Clare goes to a different school and they never get phone calls about her.
In the car Mom looks like I’ve broken her heart. Again? she asks.