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The Real Evil Here Isn’t Inside You

, , , , , , , | Learning | July 27, 2022

When I was in school, the concept of allergies was sort of new to anyone who didn’t live with them on a daily basis. Schools and restaurants were just starting to implement a very hard stance on treating allergies with the seriousness they deserved.

My mom is allergic to peppers (bell, jalapeño, etc.) I have an intolerance. Mom needs to be hospitalized; I unleash a horror that can only be described as The Evil.

Home Economics class existed for the sole purpose of teaching you how to cook. We basically learned kitchen safety and how to make, read, and follow a recipe. The classroom was partitioned off into multiple “kitchens,” with several students per kitchen.

[Teacher] was a cantankerous, middle-aged, stuck-in-her-own-opinions woman that nobody actually liked. 

[Teacher] believed, with the fervor of a cultist, that if it didn’t have peppers in it, then it was bland and tasteless. Garlic powder, onion powder, even salt — none of these things actually seasoned foods, she believed. They merely enhanced the flavor of peppers.

I’m sure you’re already dreading what’s coming.

The first recipe we made had bell pepper in it, and I attempted to explain to [Teacher] that while I didn’t have an allergy, I still wasn’t advised to eat the food we had prepared. However, since I wouldn’t be hospitalized for anaphylaxis from this food, she snappily told me that she expected everyone to eat their portion since the portions were small. When I tried to explain the horror that was The Evil, she cut me off and said that I needed to stop being a picky eater and expand my horizons a bit.

My fellow group members were more sympathetic and just set my place without putting food before me. Since they had no such dietary limitations, they were perfectly happy to accept my portion and redistribute it among themselves.

The next week, the recipe was vegetable wontons — with bell pepper as one of the ingredients. And the wontons were to be fried in oil.

It just so happened that I had been having other food-related problems, and it turned out that I had an overactive gallbladder. This meant that food that was greasy/oily was not taken well by my digestive tract; it caused horrendous pain on my right side that lasted for hours, left my digestive tract in a painful state for days, and enhanced The Evil in ways nobody would enjoy.

[Teacher] was looking straight at me when she told us that she expected everyone to eat their portion of food with no arguing or “skipping out” on trying new things, or else she would be docking entire letters from our final grade for every instance. (If you had an A and skipped the food just once, the highest grade you could get was a B, etc. And she had many recipes, 99% of which had bell pepper, or spicier peppers, somewhere.)

So, let’s make sure everyone understands. Peppers cause The Evil. Oily foods act as an enhancer for said The Evil. And I had just been ordered to eat something that would blow right past the perfect storm and straight into an apocalypse.

My fellow students watched me with expressions of horror and concern as I forced myself to eat the three wontons on my plate. I had patted as much of the oil off as possible with a paper towel, but I knew that this would do nothing to help.

Class ended. [Teacher] looked smugly at me as I left.

My body was beginning to make low noises of unhappiness in the next period. That hour passed with nothing significant happening. However, the period after that, the first toll of the apocalypse rang.

In a quiet classroom of about thirty kids, my gut made a sound somewhere between a humpback whale and the screams of the damned. I was on my feet and bolting for the door without waiting to be excused, shouting, “[Teacher] forced me to eat something that made me sick!” at the teacher and my many, many witnesses, some of whom knew exactly what had happened.

I now had two minutes — two precious minutes to bolt down the hallway and make it to the bathroom.

I heard a hall monitor shout something, (probably about running in the halls, and needing a pass to be in said halls during class time) but the world had narrowed to the Olympic sprint I was doing.

I dove into the bathroom and landed on the toilet just in time. The Evil had arrived.

Agony ripped through me and I doubled over as much as I could as I unleashed a substance that probably caused the porcelain to hiss and smoke beneath me. In a haze of pain and misery, I heard the bathroom door click open, a heartbeat of silence as my body made horrendous, unearthly sounds and smells, and a teacher’s voice muttering in shock and horror before the bathroom door gently closed again.

Five courtesy flushes and a redwood forest of toilet paper later, I hobbled out of my stall, washed my badly shaking hands, and left the bathroom.

The hall monitor turned out to be a teacher who was considered kind of cool; she would use mild swears if something impressed her enough. She was standing well back from the bathroom door, trying not to clap a hand over her mouth and nose.

With a calm voice that did not match her horrified eyes, she asked me, “What the h*** happened to you, [My Name]?”

Walking like a ninety-year-old woman in desperate need of a walker, I explained what [Teacher] had done to me two periods ago.

She was silent for a heartbeat and then said softly, “Come on. Let’s get you to the office. We’ll send you home.”

The walk was much longer than I remember the halls ever being before, but I was eventually put on a bench while the adults talked in hazy, incomprehensible words. My entire digestive system felt like I had called an Orc a sissy and he had taught me manners with his fists.

At one point, the principal came to ask me some questions in a very, very gentle voice, assured me that my mom had already been called, and informed me that there was a bathroom out the door and immediately to the right if I needed it.

I did. Twice more.

My poor mom had to come through the front of the school AND through the cloud of Eau de The Evil to pick me up. Most of what happened later was lost in a haze of cramping, but I was told what happened by my mom.

[Teacher] blew off a lot of criticism from both the principal and my mom. She was still adamant that intolerances weren’t allergies and therefore triggering them wasn’t a big deal. My life obviously wasn’t in danger, so maybe they should just stop coddling a “picky child.” (I was sixteen or seventeen at that time, by the way.) Students needed to follow instructions and learn not to mouth off to people who were giving directions because that was a skill necessary for the work world. Parents who let their kids do whatever they wanted put the burden on society to fix what the parents failed to do. Picky eaters were what she had to deal with, and she was not going to let a spoiled brat get away with such nonsense on her watch.

She held this attitude right up until the principal told her that he would be recommending her to be fired for deliberately harming a student, and yes, he interrupted her, making a child sick in a non-fatal way was in fact considered “harm”. Then, the switch flipped and the waterworks and apologies began as [Teacher] realized how deeply she was in trouble.

When I returned to school after a few days of recovery, we had another teacher covering Home Economics, the recipes only rarely involved peppers, and it was very clearly stated that any health concerns could be brought up and the recipes could either be altered or the student in question could be given reasonable exceptions.

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