It’s very hard to walk the half-mile home from school with my knees jammed together.

Step by step, I inch down the street, trying to breathe normally and not hyperventilate.

I pass the neighborhood candy store and long for the taste of my favorite drink: a chocolate egg cream.

My friend waves from across the street. I wave back and keep going.

The other kids are in the playground outside the apartment complex a few doors from my house. I definitely can’t play now.

Will I make it?

I finally reach my apartment house.

I gingerly step down the eight stone stairs to the thick glass lobby door.

I open the door, which seems heavier than usual, walk down the hallway, and push the elevator button.

Inside the elevator, I select “7” and wait. Has the elevator always been this slow?

I reach the seventh floor and walk to my apartment in the corner: 7L.

Shaking and fumbling, I find the house key in my backpack.

I unlock the steel door and hear it slam behind me.

I take baby steps down the hall, knees still jammed together.

My jacket comes off.

I throw my backpack on the floor.

I unbuckle my belt.

I unzip my pants.

Breathing heavily, heart pounding, I open the bathroom door and sit down.

Ahhhhhhhhhh …

In my Bronx junior high school in 1965, scary stories about the “tough” girls in the bathroom — smoking and doing who-knows-what-else — float through the hallways.

Are these bathroom stories true?



© 2012 Joanne Shwed