“Cool,” I thought to myself as I stepped onto the bus one morning, 10ish years old, hair in pigtails, my Charlie Brown lunchbox clutched in my hands. “An empty seat.”
I sat down, scooted to the window, smiled.
Only then did I realize that there were words all around me. Words jeeringly flung into the air. Words aimed at me.
“EWWW!! You sat in the throw-up seat!”
I didn’t. I did not. Denials rushed through my mind and my own sudden nausea soured my stomach. I looked wildly around at the seat. It looked clean. Much cleaner than usual, actually. This is not a throw-up seat. They’re just being mean. I remained seated, hoping to goodness they’d just leave me alone.
“You’re in the throw-up seat, you’re in the throw-up seat,” voices chanted all around me.
“I am not,” I muttered, redder than the beets Mom served at dinner.
“Are too, Freddy’s little sister threw up there right after we picked her up. And you’re sitting in it.”
So that’s why the bus was late today. Shoot. I AM sitting in the throw-up seat.
“Cleaned it up,” grunted the bus driver, Mr. Faff, a cap-wearing, denture-sporting, laid-back man who doubled as the school janitor during the day. Sometimes he took out his dentures to make us laugh. Mostly he just minded his own business and left us to mind ours.
“He cleaned it up,” I whispered in my defense. “He did. He cleaned it up.”
But he couldn’t clean its reputation.