When I Was Little…
by Amelia Kanan
…I hated public bathrooms.
“Amelia, just go in, the stroller won’t fit.” My mom held the public restroom door as strangers who looked like they were judging me walked past.
I was hesitating. “Is this the ladies’ one, mom?”
“Yes, Amelia. Just go to the bathroom.” I could tell she was irritated but, I didn’t care because I was scared. There were all these strangers around. What if one was hiding in one of the stalls? What if they reached under and grabbed my leg? I’d scream. And bite them.
“Ok, but don’t leave. And keep that door open so you can hear me if I scream.”
I still hadn’t moved an inch. I forgot about the flush. I hated the sound of the flush in public bathrooms. Why did it have to be so much louder than it was in houses? What if that stranger grabbed my leg right when I was flushing and I screamed but my mom couldn’t hear it because the overpowering noise of the toilet?
“Don’t worry, I’ll come in and flush it.”
I walked in to the bathroom, that smelled like throw up soap. I kept looking behind me to make sure my mom was sticking to her word. She was. After taking a deep breath, I opened a swing stall door to see if it looked alright. I looked back at my mom who liked like she was ready to really yell at me so I scurried in and didn’t lock the door, so if I had to, I could escape without any obstruction like a lock.
“Don’t forget to put toilet paper on the seat!” My mom’s voice sounded closer than I thought it would which slowed my rapid heart beats a little. I still was in a hurry, though so I wasn’t going to put down the toilet paper on the seat. I’m lucky for this safe moment but at any moment, things could awry.
When I was down, I pulled up my underwear and exited the stall without worrying whether or not my skirt was covering them.
“Did you put toilet paper down?”
“Yes, Mom!” I said with conviction so she would think I was telling the truth.
I was almost out…”Wash your hands, please.”
This grossed me out too but I wasn’t going to argue because I didn’t want my mom to finally snap.
“Ok, now stand here with the stroller so I can flush for you.”
I stood, trying my best to keep the bathroom door open and looked at my baby brother. I was jealous that he never had to do these things. My mom would never make him go, alone in to a place like this.
My heart started racing. Waiting for the sound of the flush. What if…what if the stranger was in the bathroom. Hiding. But he didn’t want me…he wanted my mom. What would I do? Alone, with my brother. In public? I’d find a police man. Or someone in some kind of uniform. Uniforms make people important. My mom disappeared into the stall. I hope she knew to run right after she flushed.
My eyes and face scrunched at the sound. I hated how loud it was and why did it last so long? Where is she? She should be out by now. The flush quieted.
“What honey?” She came out and I let out a huge sigh of relief. She was washing her hands.
I didn’t want her to know the real reason why I called her name so I asked her a question I already knew the answer to. “Are we going to the Burger’s for dinner tonight?”
As she threw away the paper towel she looked at me. “You know, I’m not happy.”
I was shocked. I was finally getting back to my normal self and feeling calm again and now she’s upset with me. I can’t help that I’m afraid of things and she needs to be understanding of that. “Why, mom?”
“You didn’t put toilet paper on the seat and you lied to me.”
Inside, I smiled. I was relieved. I thought she was upset about something serious.
“I’m really sorry, mom. I promise not to do that again.”