I ran blindly up the stairs, tears of panic and humiliation clouding my vision and my mind playing the same words on repeat.
Have to get away. Faster.
For a second, the voice of my teacher calling my name cut through the refrain, but I kept moving. I didn't look back. Couldn't.
I hated last period English in eighth grade. Actually, I hated all of eighth grade, but last period English was particularly awful.
I only had five minutes to run from my seventh period class to my English classroom down by the lake on the outskirts of campus. Every day I got to class sweaty and out of breath and spent forty-five minutes trying to be invisible in a classroom filled with the popular kids. And when English was over I had another five minutes to get up to the bus that would take me to the high school campus where my mom picked me up.
Every day I was gripped with anxiety about being late for English or, more terrifyingly, missing the bus. No matter that shuttles to the high school left every ten minutes. If I didn't make the 3:50 bus, obviously something catastrophic would happen.
On this particular day, at 3:38, I had to go to the bathroom.
The closest one was up on the main campus, so I couldn't go and come back before the last bell. I had spent the past fifteen minutes wondering if I could hold it until I got home, because I also knew that if I stopped on the way to the bus I would miss the 3:50 for sure.
But I couldn't hold it. I had to go now, even if I missed the bus.
I raised my hand per classroom policy and asked if I could please use the restroom. My teacher said that I could, and since there were only a few minutes of class left, why didn't I just take my things with me.
Feeling like I had won the lottery, I hurriedly gathered up my backpack, turned to leave, and walked straight into the classroom's closed sliding glass door.
After a beat of silence, the entire class - including five football players, three baseball players, two members of the girl's soccer team, an actress and the student council president - burst into wild laughter.
The tears rose faster than I was able to battle them back and, unwilling to be any further embarrassed, I wrenched open the door and fled.
I was halfway up the stairs when my teacher yelled, "Samantha, come back. I'm so mad at them for laughing at you."
But I didn't go back, and her coming after me didn't make it better. It made it worse, and so did the notes of apology that she made the entire class write to me the next day.
I wish she would have just ignored it and pretended it didn't happen, just like I tried to do.
Even if I never quite managed it.