My 7th grade math teacher’s name was Mr. Curl. Wallace Curl. Math was not my favorite subject, but it just so happened this was the class I was in when one of the most embarrassing things in my life happened.
Junior high, or middle school as it is called these days, is where it happened. I was shy. I mean really shy. If a teacher called on me, I shrunk in my seat and turned several shades of red, like the phases of a ripening tomato. I hated it. I couldn’t help it. I’m not sure why I was so shy. Does anyone really know why they are shy?
I sat in the middle row. It was the old part of the building. It smelled like old books. I really liked that smell. It also smelled like old wood. The wood floor creaked as feet walked across it. The classroom had windows, so at least when I was daydreaming, I could look out the window. I recall our desks faced north and the windows were to the west.
Kevin Maskovich sat in front of me. He had broken his leg so he was on crutches. He was really nice to me and always took time to talk to me. For the life of me, I can’t remember anyone else who was in this particular math class with me. Tunnel vision and tunnel memory may be real. I do remember Mr. Curl standing at the front of the class with piece of chalk in hand, at the ready to scrawl the math problems on the board, beads of sweat running down his forehead. He had his suit coat hanging on the back of his chair and his shirt sleeves were rolled up to his elbows. Heaven forbid I would have to get up and go to the board. That would be like pulling my fingernails off with a pair of pliers. Actually, pulling the fingernails off may have been better.
Everyone was tired. This class was right after lunch. We had hot ham and cheese sandwiches that day. I have never in my life eaten another one after this tragic day. It was hot in the classroom. There was no air conditioning in the school. I didn’t feel well. I was sweaty and nauseous. I was getting worried. I was afraid I was going to be sick. I didn’t have time to ask to go to the bathroom. I couldn’t stop it. It was like a lava volcano erupting up through my throat. I barfed. I puked. I hurled. I blew chunks. Oh God!!! What just happened? I wanted to die. I wanted to absolutely die! How could this happen? Idiot! Why didn’t I run to the bathroom? Why?????
I remember Kevin saying, “What was that??!!” Well, buddy, it was barf and I got some on you. Poor guy! I felt terrible. He did move his crutches out of the way pretty fast though.
Mr. Curl got the janitor. They brought in that disgusting smelling cat litter-type sawdust product to cover up the vomit. You know, that reddish brown stuff. Vomit powder. Supposedly this helped clean up the mess, once the product absorbed the liquid. GAWD!!! I still wanted to die. I just wanted to slither away. I wanted never to be seen again. I just wanted to go home.
I remember watching the janitor sweeping up the vomit. It almost made me vomit again. Someone came and got me and took me home. It was probably my mom. I was devastated. I was embarrassed and I just wanted to shrivel up into nothing.
The experience was traumatic. I had a hard time going back to school. I think it actually took almost two weeks for me to go back. Every time I thought about going to school I would become physically sick. It was hard. I know I wasn’t really sick, but I couldn’t go back. I just couldn’t. One day when I thought I was all better, dad gave me a ride on his way to work. We pulled up to the school and I told him I couldn’t get out. I told him I felt sick. He took me home. I would have to try another day.
I finally got my shit together. I knew I would have to go back at some point. I knew I would have to face my fears. I couldn’t be “sick” forever. My grades were going to go to crap if I didn’t get back. I forced myself to go. Even though it was the last place I wanted to be, I forced myself to go back. See, sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do. It’s part of life. It’s part of growing up. It’s part of becoming a better human. So, I had to.
** As I was searching Kevin’s name, I realized that he passed away in 2010 from cancer. May he rest in peace. Sorry for puking on you, Kevin.
** Mr. Curl passed away in 2012.