Here I am. Two hours already in front of my computer and no slice yet. I have too many ideas but nothing. I still have to write my assignment for my Thursday writing workshop. We have to write a thriller, mystery or murder story which is very challenging for me. So far I have only the title : The Japanese Soprano.
Finally, I think I am going to settle on writing about something that I wanted to write about for a long time. After you read it, I will explain the events that inspired this slice.
A new outfit for Reme
That morning Reme woke up as usual. Very sleepy. Her dad tickled her, so she would get up quicker. She had mix-feelings about this early routine. She didn´t know whether to burst out laughing or start crying like a baby. Eventually, after some roughhousing, she slid out of her bed. Her feet were surprised by the coldness of the floor.
— Don´t forget to go to the bathroom and pee, Reme!— yelled her mom from the kitchen while preparing breakfast. Actually, it was not an angry yelling. It was a loud but a gentle reminder, since Reme always got distracted and forgot to go to the bathroom first thing after getting up.
Reluctantly, she ate her breakfast and let her mom squeeze her with hugs and kisses that sometimes took her breath away.
— Be careful when you walk down the street. Remember to follow María´s grandma to the bus stop — Those were always the last words of advise her mom repeated every time before jumping in her car and going to work.
— Yes, mom, we will.
Reme was in second grade now, and her parents started to allow her and her little brother to stay alone until it was time to walk to the bus stop with María and her grandma. She was the one who requested it. Before, when dad and mom were getting ready to go to work, Reme and her brother Julio needed to go to one of the neighbors and wait with annoying Sandra until the bus arrived. They hated it. Sandra lived in a messy basement, and the only thing her mother did all the time was spoil that little brat. By the time the bus arrived it seemed that an eternity had passed, even when they were there only ten minutes.
—Mom, please? Can we stay at home? It´ll be only ten minutes. We promise, we will be good and won´t forget to lock the door.
Julio nodded with his big brown eyes and a grin on his face. Reme gave him a stern glanze. “Oops, maybe I should put on my responsible face” he thought.
Reme´s mom looked at her husband, then at Julio, and finally at Reme.
— Ok. Let me talk with grandma. I will give you a copy of the key of the house. You need to put it safely in your backpack, or maybe wear it around your neck. Don´t loose it. I will set an alarm that will tell you when to leave the house. I will ask grandma to come and get you if you don´t show up. I probably should get her phone number also.
Room 22 was quiet. Reme knew that when the teacher was talking she needed to listen but her friend Lola told her a joke and she started giggling. Ms. Ramos caught her, and used a much angrier voice than she would have liked.
— Reme! How many times do I have to tell you to keep your hands on your desk and be silent!
The scolding caught Reme by surprise. Her teacher was never mad at her. She was always sweet, and with a smile on her face. She let her class read any book they wanted every morning, and if they couldn´t find one in the classroom, they were allowed to go to the library and ask the librarian to let them pick one.
Her giggling stopped. Her face got paled, and her startled body shook. Then, with no warning, a warm trickle of pee started to flow down her seat. She tighten her legs and flushed.
— Is there something wrong, Reme?
— Yes, Ms. Ramos. I peed my pants.
The class was not quiet anymore and Reme knew it was her fault.
— Oh, Reme, so sorry. Go to Ms. Pinto´s room and ask her for some dry underwear and pants.
Reme walked towards the door like if she was walking on a blanket of eggs, so afraid to wet the floor. Twenty pairs of eyes followed her tracks. Once outside she felt relieved. At least nobody was staring at her. She ran to the bathroom. Quickly she took her underwear and put them on the sink. She opened the faucet and rinse them with hot water. She started to feel much better. She sighed, straightened her dress, and walked sheepishly to Ms. Pinto´s room.
— Hi dear, may I help you?
Reme nodded and showed Ms. Pinto her wet panties.
— Oh, I see. You need a new set of undies, and probably another dress.
Ms. Pinto´s room was amazing. A little bit chaotic but still amazing. Tons of books, clothes, toys, and the most absurd things were all around. She also has a picture of two children on her desk. They looked exactly the same age as Julio and her. After she looked for a bag where she could put Reme´s underwear, she opened a box filled with clothes: pink and floral briefs, big and small shirts and several leggings.
— Pick whatever you want— Ms. Pinto told her while tossing the contents on the floor. The two of them kneeled down. Ms. Pinto started playing dolls. Or at least, that´s the way Reme felt. Yes, she felt like a beautiful doll whose owner was going to get her to look astonishing.
—There you go! You look perfect. Now hurry up, before you miss recess.
Reme muttered a shy “thank you” and returned to room 22.
When her mom picked her up after school, she noticed the new outfit. While holding her in her arms, and pushing her nose with her finger, she looked into Reme´s eyes and said: Let me guess, … You forgot to pee this morning!
This slice of life story was inspired by events that happened when I worked as a resource assistant and parent liaison in an elementary school in Arlington, Virginia between 2002 and 2006. One day a girl showed up in my office asking for a dry set of underwear. She was really ashamed. She knew she was old enough to know how not to pee on her pants. I always wondered what happened to that girl before she ended up in my office. During that time, I was studying to get my master in library science, and occurred to me that I should write a children´s story about this event, that maybe could help little, but not so little kids to cope with a situation like that.
I have neglected for almost 15 years to write the story and today it showed up again in my memory. It was about time. While I was writing it, it occurred to me that I needed to give a background of who was that girl, where did she come from. At the beginning I was trying to imagine the real girl that came to my office. It was difficult to paint a picture of her that was genuine since I didn´t know her. All of the sudden the story started to take shape easily but in another direction. I remembered my own daughter when she was little. She could wake up at 6:30 in the morning and not go to the bathroom until 11 am. I always had to remind her to pee not because she wet her pants but because she held her pee too long. The rest is history…
Matilde and I, her first day of her first grade year, Annandale, Virginia, September 2002
Always felt good to hold my daughter in my arms
My real office in Arlington, Virginia c. 2004