I am about eleven years old. I walk into my class, pull out my wooden chair, and sit down at my wooden desk. I put my hands into the shelf and pull out my books.
I look down and see a cockroach, twirling its nasty antennae at me. I did a half-gasp — you know, the kind where you’re startled for a mili-second and don’t make much of a sound. And I sat there, staring at that damned cockroach that was seemingly mocking me. You see, I was a reserved kid. I had always felt I had something of a delayed-response to things. A muted response. Or even a non-response. Don’t get me wrong, I have reactions. They’re just mostly internal. It’s like I want to react, but I am so overly concerned with how others will perceive and judge my reaction that I end up having no reaction. Because as I am trying to decide what sort reaction would be best suited, the situation dragged on and became increasingly awkward. So there I was, sitting there, looking at this cockroach, panicking on the inside, but looking 100% calm on the outside. I glance at my teacher, and then at my classmates, racking my brain for what to do.
I slowly push my book back into the shelf. And then I slowly pull it back out. This time, I was ready. I pretended as if I had just noticed the cockroach for the first time, and I gasped loudly. Not loud enough unfortunately. Nobody heard me. My face went red with embarrassment. What an idiot, I thought to myself. I had a second chance and I couldn’t even do it right. I look at my classmates nearby, they were laughing loudly. The girls were twirling their hair, play-hitting each other, their heads tossed back in loud, belly laughs. And there I was — a lame loser who gasped too quietly.
And I looked back down at the cockroach, it was still twirling it’s antennae at me. It taunted me, as if it say, what you gon’ do about this, loser?
I thought, okay, let me try one last time. I’ll get it right this time. My heart was pounding. I was rehearsing in my brain the kind of yelp I will let out. Okay, Jamie. You need to do it now, otherwise the class will settle down and the teacher will notice you being weird and then everyone will see what a stupid loser you are.
“Ahhhhhhhh!!!!! Cockroach!!!” A high pitched scream blared out.
Except, it wasn’t mine.
The girl behind me yelled so loud. She struck her arm out and slapped my book to the floor. “HELP!!!!” She continued to scream. “Oh. My. GOD. That’s so disgusting!! Aaahhhhhh!!!!”
Everyone turned around. The teacher noticed. Are you okay? What was that? It’s just a cockroach. Everyone was saying something at the same time.
“Ew, that’s disgusting. Thank you for that. I didn’t even see it…Ew…” I quickly muttered to the girl behind me. Pretending as if I hadn't been staring down at the cockroach since the start of class.
I spent the rest of class not hearing anything the teacher was saying. All I could hear was the thumping of my vein in my neck. And the beating of my heart in my ears. I repeated the scene of me half-gasping quietly without anyone noticing me — what an idiot I was, how embarrassing was that, how lame was I?
The class finally ended. But the feeling of embarrassment would linger on. I knew I would be replaying that scene over and over and over in my head for nights to come.