Spring of 1995. They had all of us lined up like pigs about to be shot. We stood on stage shoulder to shoulder, staring hopelessly at our music teacher at the piano below us for her over exaggerated nods so when we knew when to mutter sing our “we’re moving on to first grade” ballad. Our music teacher was a heavy lady with a slim fast shake always handy. She always seemed tired, but not really grumpy. Music teaching just didn’t blow her skirt up anymore is all. The stage was in the gym at my elementary school with an odor of dust and salty perspiration. My two kindergarden teachers stood behind the piano: Miss Sobinski was a beauty, big kind browns eyes like my mother and a sunny, toothy smile. I used to dress up like her in my bedroom and addressed my American Girl Dolls as the class. Those were some of the greatest times of my life. She was truly one of my first idols: a warm, sweet, and humble person. Then there was Miss Q, even her name emits a robotic, severe detachment from humanity. She had short blonde hair, tight to her head, not an old or ugly woman, but completely alien looking to my five year old eyes. High pants, thin lips, and constant glares were her motto. Miss Q had those eyes that look like they’re permanently shocked in judgement of something. She accessorized sometimes around holidays with dangly seasonal earrings, but that didn’t distract anyone from those scary orbs on her face. As far as everyone else was concerned, she was a cold hard bitch with a Dress Barn credit card. With the music teacher between them, they stood like angel and devil over her shoulders. Miss Q yelling out “Nicolas, turn around!!” “SMILE!” While Miss Sobinski bopped her head to the sound of our timid, small voices, everyone in that gym hating every minute of it.
After the second verse, about how we’ll never forget the times we’ve had together, I raised my hand. The piano abruptly stopped, the music teacher frustrated by another interruption, gulped down some chalky strawberries n’ cream. “What, Bridey!?” Miss Q snapped. I tugged at my crotch. “I have to go to the bathroom.” It took a lot for me to talk at that age, and even in more for me to admit I needed to pee. I’d deny that shit to the electric chair. Once my family was on a trip to the Adirondacks that went horribly awry. We had no idea where those pesky adirondack mountains were once we got there so the trip consisted of a visit to a delightfully seedy wax museum and pizza in a room at the Best Western. Around three am, I had been kicking my dad in bladder discomfort for long enough. He dragged me into the bathroom and sat me down on the toilet. I glared at him as I went, watching him revel in my defeat, and then it came time to wipe myself. My eyes never left my father’s who really just wanted to sleep after a bad trip. After I applied the toilet paper I threw it as hard as I could at my dad’s face. He screamed disgusted at the omen he brought into this world.
“We are breaking for lunch in five minutes. So you can wait.” The piano banged back in. And the little voices started around me again, but I couldn’t sing. The weight in my bladder was cramping my stomach and I couldn’t push my voice out without hosing down the stage. My eyes hyper focused on the basketball hoop on the end of the gym. I hate basketball, I always have. Who knows why have this aversion? Maybe I was a basketball in a past life! Oh, gosh stop that kidding. My head dizzied and the music teacher motioned for us to sit down. There was a row of metal chairs behind us. My body rested down in the chair, the relief of sitting calmed my body, and before I could stop the alleviation, my bladder released and I peed all over that metal seat, a big old warm puddle flooded around my bottom. There was no stopping it. The smell of urine caught on with my classmates on the stage next to me, but no one realized the origin at first. I sat quietly in my pee, wondering how I was going to pull off pretending that it never happened. I could just sit there until everyone else left or maybe I could soak up all the pee with my underpants and jumper so that not a drop was left on the seat. I stayed frozen. “Then, after Miss Bozzuto says “Welcome the First Grade Class of 1996”… You all get up and then all together take a bow.” My classmates stood up next to me. I had no choice. My secret was about to be revealed on stage in front of everyone. There was no covering up the pond behind me, or the wet circle on my denim jumper. I didn’t do it just like O. J. didn’t do it at this point. That was a reference to the fact that this was 1995.
I chose to feign ignorance. I raised my hand again. “I have to go to the bathroom.” All eyes were on me. Nicolas jerked his head trying to see what happened. Frankie G. started pointing and laughing at the puddle, but when he saw my face glaring at him, he got scared and immediately stopped. It’s all very vivid in my head, kids trying to sneak a peak at my urine as though it was some intriguing art installation, and me standing beside it, the vulnerable artist behind the work. I was embarrassed, excruciatingly so and embarrassment when you’re a kid is one of the worst possible things. Like in Girl Scouts, when I was too embarrassed to say my favorite band was the Monkees, so instead I tried to think of someone cooler so I said “Calvin Klein” (in my head I was thinking of Shawn Calvin) “He’s not a singer” said one of those dreadful girl scout moms in a Billy Joel shirt. “Well, who sings the song “Sonny Came Home”?” But they moved on to Tracy who said N’Sync. Why didn’t I just fucking say N’Sync! Why, god, why? No one will ever like me!
It was probably third grade when I noticed it for the first time. There was a class assembly in the gym, and we all had to set up our own chairs from the side of the gym into organized rows in the center, child labor much?! I should be getting a check after this I’d think to myself, hauling those goddamn chairs around. So I unfold it and low and behold, there is a rusty round imprint on the seat and I knew instantly that this was the chair from that fateful day many moons ago. It was aI couldn’t believe it had rusted like that or that it was still alive. I thought after my accident, it was buried or at the bottom of the ocean, or thrown in a Toys for Tots barrel for christ’s sake. Luckily, no one else made the connection with the rust spot, but me. I pondered how I could somehow get rid of it. I never wanted to be reminded of that incident ever again. But how the hell would I ever get rid of that chair. I tried to hide it a few times, but it always made its way back into the gym. Somehow always in my peripheral, reminding me that no matter what I do, that memory will always be right over here.
Sometimes I wonder if I’ll haunt the chair when I’m dead. I’ll fling it all around the gym and they’ll do exorcisms on it, but they won’t work. So they’ll look into it’s history and find my DNA all over it, and one of my classmates will recall on their deathbed that I had in fact peed all over it. And then on those paranormal shows, some historian will talk about the rusty chair possessed by the soul of a kindergardener who really needed the toilet and I’ll finally be famous like my idol, Cher! What’s different now is I hope that chair is still there. I am proud of that chair. It is part of the history of myself and if some small child finds themselves peeing on it, I hope they feel OK about it too.