I shuffled off to the locker room. It’s difficult to do anything more than shuffle real fast with your hands cupping your private parts, in case you didn’t know. Dressing quickly, I wondered what penance I would suffer for my streaking incident. I probably had just invented streaking. One thing I was pretty sure of, is that I would have to explain all of this to Sister Marie Agnes in a few minutes. She would do, and had probably already started, her Crime Scene Investigation. She was probably already interrogating Patty and her friends about what they saw outside the gym door. When I explained how this happened, she would want names. One of the unwritten rules of making it safely through the kid world, is that you don’t give up names. It’s just not done, venial sin or not.
Kenny walked up behind me. What he half-whispered to me was, “You say anything and you’re dead.” Now, I wasn’t in fear of my life from that comment, but I knew immediately what that could mean on a football practice field. I would suffer injuries that clearly could have been avoided. I could suffer hits while sitting on the bench. They would seek me out and lay me out. Rusty from across the room, “It won’t be healthy to squeal like a pig.” I spotted Tim glaring at me from his locker in the corner. He put a finger up to his lips and then ran it across his throat.
These are times that test your mettle, when your acceptance in the world of jockdom is at stake. I slowly walked up the stairs, hoping Sister had tired of waiting. She hadn’t. I could see her through the window of the door as a walked up the hall. She was standing there, her arms folded, tapping her black-shoed foot, looking from side to side. I pushed the door open slowly and walked out. When she saw me, she started off towards the front of the building and I followed. I thought about running, but knew it would be pointless. She wouldn’t run after me, but I would only compound the trouble I was already in. We went through the front door, up the stairs on the left, to her office. Her secretary, Mrs. Kowalski, had already gone for the day. Inside the office, Sister motioned with her hand for me to sit down . Up to this point she had said nothing.
“Okay, let’s have it,” she said looking out the window on the school yard.
I was clearly traumatized. I had exposed myself, not only to Sister Marie Agnes, but most of the cheerleaders and, most importantly, the object of my current obsession. I had been threatened in the locker room by the very sinners that had done this to me. I didn’t know what to say.
“There’s nothing to tell,” came out of my mouth.
“Oh, I’m pretty sure there is something to tell,” Sister Marie Agnes said with a slight rise in her voice on the word “something.” “I’m preeee-ty sure there is a story here. Either you went outside by yourself to get a little sun, or you were thrown out by someone as a prank. Since you don’t strike me as someone with a proclivity for joining a nudist colony, I’m going to guess that you were thrown out in that state by someone. Am I right?” Up to this point, Sister had been pretty calm. She was sitting behind her desk now, tapping the eraser end of a No. 2 Eberhard Fiber on the desk calendar. I was still trying to figure out what proclivity meant.
“Yes, Sister,” I said.
“Yes what? You were thrown out or you were trying to cause an accident on the street by your own volition?” She smiled just a little, a scintilla. I didn’t know what volition meant either.
“Yes, I was thrown out. It was just harmless fun,” I added hoping to defuse the situation a little, but it ultimately led to the inevitable question.
“I see.” She continued tapping the pencil, a little louder now. “Who was responsible for this ‘harmless fun’? I WANT THEIR NAMES!” She hissed it. It was loud, but it was definitely a hiss.
“Well,” she said, after I didn’t immediately give up my attackers’ names.
It was decision time. I basically had three choices here. Lie and say I didn’t see them, I didn’t know. Venial sin. Lie and say I didn’t remember. Venial sin. Lie and say I didn’t want to tell her. Venial sin. All three answers would involve confession on Saturday morning. Any of the three would involve penance and further punishment for me.
I think it was a wise decision, still today, not to have given her the names. I don’t think she ever found out. She grilled me for an hour, pointing out all kinds of reasons I should rat them out, but I never did. She finally gave up and punished me with a 500 word essay on “Why It Is Impure To Be Naked In Public.” A rather tough topic for a seventh-grader, but I managed to knock something out. Impure thoughts were something we 13-year-old boys were constantly afflicted with, so I was familiar with the terminology. I had to sit on the back steps of the Sisters of Charity convent, a block down the street from the school, until I was done. It wasn’t my first time sitting there with pencil and paper, writing furiously about a difficult topic, either. I wonder if the nuns ever read them? I kind of wish I had them now.
The real reason it was a wise decision is because I lived through the football season. I also gained respect from the eighth-graders, Kenny in particular, who was a good person to have on your side. And the 7th and 8th grade classes were subjected to a week of discussion about the sins of the flesh, the body as a Temple of Christ, turning the other cheek, and so on. I knew it was all because of me.
Fast forward a few years, and my second most embarrassing moment also involved a girl. Not the same girl, but also the object of a current obsession. It would be accurate to say that Cathy had never noticed me, had no idea I even existed, but I was madly in love. One morning, walking up the front stairs of the high school, she was standing there with a couple of her friends. She started to walk toward me and I immediately looked over my shoulder to see if someone was coming up the stairs behind me. Nope. She walked up to me in all her teenage beauty, looked me in the eyes and smiled. My heart was pounding out of my chest.
“Your fly is open,” she said.