Mr. Patron

Sequoia Jr. High; 7th grade

“REMEMBER…WHEN YOU GET HOME FROM SCHOOL, WASH YOUR T-SHIRT AND SHORTS, PLACE THEM IMMEDIATELY INTO YOUR BACKPACK SO YOU DON’T FORGET THEM MONDAY MORNING!

As always, anyone who didn’t show up dressed for P.E ready to play received a full-on humiliation yell from Mr. Patron our 7th-grade P.E teacher.

Today was my turn. I forgot my clothes over the weekend and all morning my stomach twisted in knots knowing I’d have to face him later that day. I had two options: get to the locker room first and ask for loner clothes…or face humiliation in front of the other students while I received a tongue lashing. Anyone who feared Patron as much as I did made sure to get on his good side. It was the only choice available for not having shown enough responsibility.

“AT LEAST YOU WERE HERE FIRST!” Those were the only words I wanted to hear him say as he compared me to all the other students who had forgotten as well. Although dressing out meant I’d have to play some organized sport — which I hated — acceptance was the one thing I wanted the most.

Later that day, as the last few students meandered around the lunch counter, the first bell rang. I ran into the locker room as fast as I could. The smell of old plumbing and cologne filled the air as I made my way down the hall, past the lockers. I may have been overreacting but my desperation to please him was all that mattered. With no one else in sight, I could see the white fluorescent lights shining past the door of his office.

As I approached the last few steps, I could hear Mr. Patron clearing his throat along with some ruffle of activity. As I neared the door, I noticed his hands were clearing the wrinkles out from under his shirt, but I wasn’t prepared for what I saw next. Like my P.E clothes, Mr. Patron had forgotten to wear underwear that day…or maybe he just didn’t wear underwear. His shorts were down to his knees as he cleaned himself for the next class. He wasn’t doing anything inappropriate or questionable, I just walked in at the wrong time. He immediately began to yell at the top of his lungs, “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING IN HERE…GO WAIT ON YOUR NUMBER!”

I ran out as quickly as I came in…not only having been yelled at — which I was trying to avoid — but feeling worse than ever before.

The Loneliness Cold

St. Joseph Catholic Church; 1981

As I stared blankly out the living room window that afternoon in 1981, I had no idea what I was going to do.  

“What am I supposed to say?” I thought to myself accusingly.

I was on my third glass of water as I nervously tried to hydrate my body one gulp at a time.  The anticipation and waiting of the evening’s event kept me obsessing about the same question all day.  

My concentration was broken when dad shouted, “Let’s go!”  

I swallowed my last thoughts of anxiety and ran out the door.

***

“Everyone line up outside the hallway – single file.“

As we entered the side corridor. thin wisps of frigid air circled around me and found its way among the families in the pews.  It was the same cold I always felt throughout the building. The dark orange carpet below did nothing to warm up the experience waiting at the other end of the altar.  

I shared a brief history with the newly renovated church.  It was the place of my baptism and for the first eight years of life — like home.  Which is why it should have felt different…instead it felt very lonely.

While the first group of kids lined up along the wall I was still obsessing, “what am I going to say?” As a distraction, I looked up and saw the deeply recessed stained glass windows that blocked out the sun.  The dark paneled walls that held them up created ample space between me and the outside world.

As we were called to line up, I felt the iciness of the air even more…my body’s warmth no match for the cold around me.  It was a mild Spring day but inside I felt the quiet, isolating fear of winter.

“When it’s your turn, your row will get up and make its way to the right side of the church.”

With only one person in line ahead of me, I noticed the effects of all the water I nervously drank before my first confession.  The release waiting for me at the edge of my bladder. “You’re next,” whispered the lady with sandy blond hair and pare shaped body.  “After her, you’ll walk to the end of the hallway and enter the confessional…father will be waiting.”

I could feel the edge of my bladder becoming weaker and weaker after each word.  

“Once you’re inside, you can either kneel behind the curtain or sit face to face…it’s up to you.”

Then with a sudden break, I could feel the first trickles of heat covering the right side of my hip.  The warmth I had searched for when entering the church — the warmth I so desperately wanted but couldn’t find – had found me as it was leaving my body.

I looked helplessly at the lady in front of me.  While she emitted the last bit of direction, I released all the built-up anxiety and nerves from the last few hours.  

I wanted to run across the altar.  Across all the waiting families and into the room reserved for crying babies.  Once there I’d find the restroom, the one place — at the time — I felt I belonged.  But instead, I stood there. I stood there trying to stop the flow that cascaded down to my knees and spread throughout the floor around me.  Although my insides had warmed the outside of my body, I stood there frozen in sheer panic.

With a sudden jerk to my shoulder, the lady with sandy blonde hair and pare shaped body directed me towards the confessional.  

“Did she know?” I whispered to myself.  “Could she smell it?”

“Father’s going to know I peed my pants…he’s going to smell it.”  

As I walked through the small hallway, I could feel the sponginess of my saturated tube socks press up against the soles of my shoes.  

Squish – squish, squish – squish.