It came, unbidden to my mind, in vivid technicolor clarity. And momentarily I was transported back in time to a shame I have not felt in a very very long time. It felt like more than a mere daydream. I have so little recollection of my childhood. And truth be told, it’s probably better that way. A mentally unstable mother left chaos and bad feelings in her wake. But this memory, for whatever reason, did surface.
In a bathroom stall in elementary school. I was perhaps in second grade. Frantically pulling a wrinkled pair of pants out of a crocheted (pink and purple no less) pocketbook purse my great aunt made for me, a purse I never used except for this occasion. My heart pounding, short shallow quick breaths, I frenetically pulled at the brownie uniform (a dress), nearly tearing it as I yanked it over my head. I had to get it off. I felt suffocated by it. The shame in wearing it unbearable. The shirt I had on under it didn’t go with the pants I had smuggled in my bag to school, but I didn’t care. I just needed the dress off. My skin was clammy as I sat, in my undressed (literally and figuratively) state, on the toilet, as my shame engulfed me, filling solid the space in that small stall, crushing me, threatening to obliterate me.