It was the year 2004. My family as a collective decided to change my fate by transferring me to an international school. With how the public-school system functioned in Myanmar, they worried for my future. They didn’t have a lot of money but they were willing to sacrifice the simple pleasures in life to provide the best education for me. Although I was already in one of the best public schools in the nation, the best public-school was not good enough for their precious baby. Next thing I knew, I was enrolled to attend an international school for the upcoming school year.
Being an ungrateful brat, I detested the change. The English language was foreign to me — the public school barely taught English. My parents anticipated this by enrolling me a year below even though I had already completed my second grade in public school.
With half the alphabet song under my belt, I strutted my sorry bum to school.
The culture shock that I endured transferring from public to private school was traumatic. I stuck out like a sore toe, and I stubbed it everywhere. I was this bossy kid who had a superiority complex making up for my lack of English literacy and being significantly poorer than my classmates. I thought I was a hotshot for being separate from the status quo, but no one else was buying it.
I didn’t want to accept it, but deep down, I knew I wasn’t extraordinary, but rather, abnormal.
To make matters worse, the school had a policy where everyone had to speak English; it was their way to strengthen students’ English speaking skills. On top of being an all-around jerk, the fact that I didn’t speak English inhibited me to truly express myself. Weeks went by and I was still having a hard time making friends. If you’ve read the title, you’d know that what was about to happen didn’t help my social status at all. It all went down during the English period.
You see, I wasn’t a complete (s)tool. I just simply didn’t know English. With non-language-relying subjects like Mathematics, I was more than competent. A perk of having Asian parents is that by the age of 8, I had already memorized my multiplication tables up to 16. My peers had nothing on me when it came to non-English classes. The English period, on the other hand, was a nerve-wracking class. I remember being completely dumbfounded at the vocab “community” when the teacher handed out the flashcards — I didn’t think that vocabulary comprised of more than 6 letters. So, it is safe to say that I wasn’t comfortable expressing myself in English. Mr. Joey, our Filipino English teacher, was different from other instructors — he didn’t believe in bathroom passes. In order to use the bathroom, he wanted students to raise their hands, and when called upon, to ask if we can use the toilet. With his approval, students were able to go to the restroom.
One delightful day, I had the pleasure of having a stomach ache during Mr. Joey’s class. Up to this point in time, which was still only a few weeks in at this new gig, I had not used the communal toilet at school for things other than excreting fluids. I had always used the bathroom at home, either before school or right after. This particular day, I had this strong urge to go. I looked at the clock, and it was about twenty minutes before the class was wrapping up.
I proceeded to tell the biggest lie to myself — “I can hold it in, it’s only half an hour more.”
A combination of not knowing how to ask for permission in English and not wanting to be reprimanded for talking in Burmese, I never spoke up. (I said earlier that I wasn’t a complete tool, but I never said was smart.) Hot and sweaty, I was holding in a big burden. Unbeknownst to me, during that exact time, our revered (read: feared) principal who I had only heard tales of, Mr. Schaefer, was going around classrooms to check in on students.
Knock knock, in came the 6’ 1” grey-haired, broad-shouldered, White individual into the classroom.
My heart sank. I didn’t know what to do, but I knew something for certain: I could no longer hold it in. Despite all my efforts of fighting against my body, my bottom gave out. The only thing I felt was the warmth leaving my body, literally. The instant gratification of relief was quickly followed by dread. I didn’t move my body. Correction: I couldn’t move my body. Eventually, I managed to shift my head ever so slightly to look around — so far, no one had noticed. I definitely spoke too soon, because it was that exact moment when the smell smacked me right in the nose.
I may have only been a second-grader, but I learned what Brownian motion was that day.
The next few seconds felt like an eternity. Chatter began. “Do you smell it?” said one classmate to another. She nodded. I saw the face of disgust on Mr. Joey. Still, no one knew where the smell originated from. People looked around to find the source, as if cracking the case came with a handsome reward. Mr. Schaefer started to look concerned, which in turn concerned me.
I decided to turn myself in. “Sorry,” I whispered.
Everyone went silent for a split second before they turned their heads towards me. I felt the judgments, every bit of it. No one said it, but I got the “of course it was him” looks. There was an uproar — some people laughed, some exclaimed in disgust, and some got angry. Mr. Joey then escorted the entire class outside.
I was now alone in the classroom, and I still hadn’t moved from my seat. A little tidbit I forgot to mention: I was a chubby kid. This is important to the story because my fat bum couldn’t fit into most pants made for my age, which made it difficult to find a fresh change of clothes. Mr. Joey asked around for spare pants, but the search and rescue was unsuccessful.
Minutes went by.
Then, he had an idea.
He walked four classrooms down the hall to where Ms. Alma, my music teacher, was. After a brief conversation with her, he came back with a pair of cargo shorts made for older women. Reluctantly, I got up, cleaned myself up in the restroom, and changed into a pair of tan shorts. When I came out, everybody was there. There were poorly-hidden chuckles, and not-so-well-hidden laughs. I can not remember what happened right after. My brain decided to block out that specific part of the memory to save me. All I could remember about the aftermath was shame.
I can talk about it and laugh it off in hindsight, but the event has definitely left a smear. For years, my classmates loved to bring it up. Just in case I forgot, I bet — they’re just so sweet.
Little did I know, that chapter of my life ended with a “to be continued”, because I did in fact, poop myself again. This time, it was during an after-school Chinese class. Replace the part of this story where I struggled in English with the Chinese language, and you’ve got the gist of my second conjuring. Except this time, there were no principals involved, butt at the cost of remembering the aftermath vividly. That time around, I didn’t get to change into a fresh pair of pants, nor did I get the help of my teacher. With my by-product tucked between my legs, I had to trek home. I will never forget that 20 minutes of my life.
For the year 2020, I’m hoping to write more. Tune in before I learn a new language and Kanye my pants again.