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A Shitty Situation
It was seventh grade, a time of odors
foreign (sweat and cum) and growth
of acne, insecurity, and yet a need
to attract a mate. What was important?
To us, clothes and shoes. So my father
bought me the latest Jordans, bootleg
and two sizes too big, from the corner.
“Who the fuck’s gonna get that close?”
That was his reply to the dunking logo
whose fingers, I noticed, were too long.
“And just stuff the fuckers with socks.
Shiiit. They’ll think you got a big cock.”
Still, I felt good clown-footing to my desk
in first-period. I had a new tee too: Hanes,
yes—but with a chest Hilfiger flag whose
inversion my dad said would go unnoticed.
As my blood pressure eased some, seated
I became aware of a sweet stank—shitty,
but somehow perfumed. I scanned faces
to see if anyone else was smelling this.
There was no indication. But it lingered
over me, each way I turned. To rule out
that it was me, I twisted my head further
here and there, trying not to make a scene.
I leaned back with a muscleman yawn
and stretched forward as if I were sore
from lifting. The smell remained, only it
varied in quality depending on my angle.
Bent forward, the smell was pure shit.
Stretched back, the smell was sweet,
but nevertheless with a twinge of shit.
Upright, the smell was a perfect combo.
Soon it came to me that the sweetness
was from my bootleg Nautica cologne.
And then I knew, before I even looked,
where the shit was. Still I had to look.
Compacted on the bottom of one shoe
was a hefty pile of dog shit. So thick,
it was a wonder that I failed to notice
any difference in my gait or balance.
If I had any sense, I would have went
to the bathroom. But the smell would go
with me and so everyone would know.
My hope was to escape the problem.
On the lip of the latticed compartment
for book storage underneath my desk
I worked the outsole, scraping away
the shit, crumble by grating crumble.
I flipped through my textbook, my brow
crumpled as if I were critically engaged
on the lecture. The plume’s amplification,
plus the grating, must have drawn eyes.
My feet, and the crumbly mound building
beneath them, were in clear line of sight
for all. My sole focus being on removal,
however, I shielded myself from the truth.
At this age, you are hyper-self-conscious.
And yet, come dire straits, you fall back
into that fantasy of stealth characteristic
of children: closed eyes have you unseen.
Soon the size of the pile knocked me
from my child stupor. I had gone too far.
Fear of being found out overtook me.
But the period ended without a word.
I went on to the next class rationalizing
my hope. After all, no one said a thing.
Bully types, those primed to pounce,
were there. But even they said nothing.
By lunch it was in the air that the teacher,
Mrs. Akbar, had to evacuate her class.
Assigned seats made it easy to connect
the dots. But no one ever said a thing.
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