I looked over at Colton and Jerome and asked, “What are we going to do?” Mrs. Edwards was arguing with Mr. Steele and Mr. Jacobsen. They were insisting that she should call the sheriff.
“If you want to call Will,” she stated adamantly, “then do it yourself.” She then turned and headed toward the restroom. “Right now I have to use the bathroom.”
“Wow!” exclaimed Jerome. “I would like to be a fly on the wall in there.”
Suddenly, students came streaming out of the cafeteria to see what all the commotion was about. Teachers were trying to get them to return, but they were more curious about what was happening in the hallway outside. Mr. Steele and Mr. Jacobsen were shouting at them to go back inside, but they ignored them.
Colton looked at me and asked frantically, “What do we do?”
“I don’t know,” I replied. There must have been a hundred students staring at us, wondering what was happening.
Just then, I looked to my right and saw Sheriff Tackett and a couple of his deputies approaching. I grabbed Colton’s arm, pulled him toward the restroom door. “Quick,” I shouted. “We have to block the door.” Colton grabbed Jerome. We interlinked our arms and stood defensively in front of the door.
Sheriff Tackett walked up to Mr. Jacobsen and asked, “What is going on?” He had an exasperated look on his face. “We just went through this last night. Now, what has happened?”
“I’ll tell you what has happened,” excitedly responded Mr. Jacobsen. He pointed toward the restroom door. “A young man has entered the girls’ restroom. I want you to arrest him!”
Tackett asked, “What young man?”
“You know,” stammered Jacobsen. “The one who pretends he’s a girl.” He pointed again to the door. “Now, do your assigned duty, and go in there and remove him!”
Tackett looked around at the scene before him. He saw Colton, Jerome and me blocking door. By now, over one hundred students had gathered to watch the excitement.
He grabbed Jacobsen’s arm and tried to pull him away. “Walter,” he pleaded, “Let’s go someplace and talk about this.”
“No!” insisted Jacobsen. “I want you to arrest him. Now!” Mr. Steele attempted to calm him down, but he was adamant about having Tiffany arrested.
He looked at Steele and warned, “I hired you, and I can fire you! Now, do what I hired you to do.” Steele backed away, crossed his arms and refused to do anything.
Tackett sighed and stepped over before us. “Please step away, Boys,” he ordered politely. “I don’t want any trouble.”
“Leave them alone, Will,” spoke Mr. Wilder as he approached the sheriff.
“I got to go in,” replied Tackett as he turned to face Colton’s father.
“No, you don’t,” responded Mr. Wilder. “The ladies are in there using the restroom. It would be against their rights to enter.”
Jacobsen muttered behind them, “Rights, my ass.”
It surprised me when Mr. Wilder wrapped his arm around mine. “You aren’t going in, Will,” he threatened.
The sheriff looked around. Students were watching to see what he was going to do. Jacobsen was shouting for him to arrest Tiffany while Colton, Mr. Wilder, Jerome and I blocked the doorway. I could tell that Mr. Wilder was ready for a confrontation.
Colton looked past me at his father. “Dad,” he asked nervously. “What are we going to do?”
His father stared at Tackett and replied, “We’re going to let those ladies in there do what they have to do.”
Just then, three more deputies came walking into the building. Two were carrying canisters of pepper spray. Mr. Wilder asked the sheriff, “What are you going to do, Will, gas us?”
Sheriff Tackett talked in a very gently voice. “I’m going to ask you real nice, George, to move out of my way and let me do my duty.”
“You better!” shouted Jacobsen. The Superintendent grabbed him by the arm and attempted to pull him away, but he refused to leave.
“I gotta go in, George,” insisted the sheriff. “If I have to arrest you, I will.”
I turned when two senior girls walked up and stood before Sheriff Tackett. “Then, Sheriff, you have to arrest us, too.” They held hands and stood defiantly before him.
Soon, three more students, a boy and two girls, joined the others and locked arms. One of the boys was the vice president of the senior class. He was very popular and active in many student organizations.
Tackett looked at him and said, “Matt, you got no business being here.”
“Yes, I do,” he replied. “I represent these students, and I’m going to insure that you don’t do anything that you shouldn’t.”
Jacobsen shouted, “Arrest all of them!”
There was a loud commotion to my right, and I saw a local television crew trying to make their way through the throng of students. Mr. Steele rushed over and insisted that they leave the building.
The scene was more chaotic than it had been the night before. Mrs. Edwards came out of the restroom and asked, “What on earth is happening?” She then joined Mr. Steele in trying to remove the media from the building.
Several teachers were shouting at students to return to the cafeteria, but no one was budging. They all wanted to see what was going to happen next.
I was trembling because I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. Colton was holding my hand, but I could tell by the looks on his and Jerome’s faces that they were as frightened as I was.
Mr. Wilder looked at us and said, “Keep calm, Boys. Nothing is going to happen with reporters here.” Looking at the chaotic scene around me, I wasn’t sure.
Two girls approached and tried to wiggle in behind me. “We’re going inside, they insisted.” I moved so they could enter the restroom. They didn’t appear angry, so I assumed they were going to join our demonstration.
Demonstration? What had started out as a meeting in the conference room had now blown into complete and utter chaos. Students were taking pictures with their cellphones. What was happening would soon be shown on Facebook. That is probably how the media found out about what was happening.
Sheriff Tackett approached Colton’s father. “I want all of you to go inside the restroom and stay put until I tell you go come out.” He looked around at the mob scene developing in the hallway. “I gotta clear this out before it gets out of hand.”
Colton’s father laughed and said, “I think it has already gotten out of hand.”
“Please, George,” pleaded the sheriff. “Just do what I am asking.”
Mr. Wilder began to push Colton, Jerome and me into the restroom. The other students who had joined us also went inside. As soon as Mr. Wilder was sure all us were safe, he closed the door and blocked it with his body.
Jerome looked for Tiffany. When he saw her, he ran over and hugged here. “Are you alright?” he asked worriedly.
“I think so,” she replied. “What is happening out there?”
It seemed like everyone started talking excitedly at once. Suddenly, the senior vice president shouted and asked for everyone’s attention.
“I’m Matt Sullivan,” he informed us. “I’m the vice president of the senior class.” Everyone turned to listen to him. “We’ve got to settle down and stay organized.” Mr. Wilder approached and put his hand on Matt’s back.
He continued, “I don’t need to tell you the trouble we could be facing. He looked around at me and the other students. “We could all get expelled for what we’re doing.”
“You won’t get expelled!” shouted Mrs. Oliver. “I’ll go to my grave first before I see any of you get hurt.”
Mr. Wilder suggested that Matt, Mrs. Oliver, Mrs. Martin and he meet on one side of the room to discuss how things should be handled next.
“Why can’t we all be involved?” asked Cathy. “We’re in this as much as you are.”
“And you are,” assured Mr. Wilder. “However, someone needs to take charge here. We’re going to need a leadership team.” He looked around at us. “If you feel you can do it, then I have no problem with that.”
We looked at each other. Cathy stepped forward and said, “You better handle it.” Mr. Wilder smiled, and Cathy turned to join us.
Matt and the others huddled on the other side of the room while the rest of us talked. The four girls who joined us introduced themselves. They admitted they were scared, but they said they couldn’t just stand by in the hall and watch.
One of the girls named Sheila looked at Tiffany and smiled. “I don’t understand what is happening,” she said, “but I think you should be treated with respect.” She then gave Tiffany a hug. The others hugged Tiffany and expressed their support.
Matt’s cellphone rang. After hanging up, he went over to the door with Mr. Wilder and cautiously opened it. Two boys entered carrying eight boxes of pizza and a case of bottled water. Matt thanked them as they left.
“Eat up, Folks,” said Matt. “Drummond’s Pizza Parlor heard what was happening, and they thought we might be hungry.”
For the next half hour, we ate pizza and talked about what happened. Tiffany was surprised when Sheila and the other girls told her that they supported her.
Vicki said, “You have more people on your side than you think.”
“I wouldn’t know,” replied Tiffany. “No one talks to me.” She reached down and gripped Jerome’s hand. “Well,” she added as she looked at me and Colton, “other than a few friends.”
“I think we’ve been afraid,” replied Sheila. “We didn’t know what to do.”
“Until this morning,” said Cassie, “there didn’t seem like anything we could do. But when I saw how things were going, I couldn’t just stand by and watch.”
“Me, either,” responded Vicki.
“Look, Tiffany,” said Cassie as she reached out and took Tiffany’s hand. “You’re not alone.” She looked at the other girls. “There’s a lot of girls who feel like us. We don’t care if you use our bathroom.” She looked down at Tiffany and Jerome holding hands and giggled, “We talk a lot about boys.”
Colton asked, “What do you say?”
Audrey, another girl who had joined us, giggled and replied, “Some of the girls think you’re really cute.” I looked over to see Colton’s face turn red. I wanted to reach down and hold his hand, but then that would out both of us to the school.
It surprised me when he grabbed my hand and squeezed it. “Sorry, Girls,” he laughed. “I’m already taken.”
Sheila smiled and said, “Cool.” She looked at the other girls. “We kind of figured you were gay. Several girls have tried to get you to date them, but you wouldn’t.”
Colton blushed again and replied, “Yeah. Whatever.”
Everyone turned when Matt’s phone rang again. He and Mr. Wilder again approached the door and cautiously opened it. This time Mrs. Edwards entered.
She looked around the room and announced, “You may all leave now. Things have settled down and the halls are clear.”
I was surprised when Matt announced, “We’re not leaving.”
“What?” asked Mrs. Edwards.
Matt approached and stood before her. “We aren’t leaving,” he said again, “until we are guaranteed that there will no retribution for what we’ve done.”
He looked around the room. “How do we know that we won’t be arrested, or that all of the students in here won’t get suspended, or even expelled from school.”
Mrs. Edwards appeared very nervous. “I’m not sure I can promise you that,” she replied. “You have violated school policy.” She looked at the adults and added, “And Mr. Tackett says some people may be looking at misdemeanor charges.”
Matt crossed his arms and stated adamantly, “Then, we’re not going anywhere.”
“But you must,” insisted the principal. “We’ve got the media posted outside. The community wants this matter to come to an end.”
“It will,” responded Matt, “when you guarantee that we can walk out of here without any reprisal.” He walked over and stood beside Tiffany. “And,” he added, “Tiffany has the right to use the girls’ bathroom.”
Mrs. Edwards became angry. “You can’t make these demands! I can’t guarantee what you’re asking.”
Matt walked over to the door and opened it. We could see flashes coming from cameras outside. “Then we’re done talking.” Mrs. Edwards stormed over to the door and left.
The next few hours were boring. Thank goodness we were inside a restroom because after gorging on pizza and drinking several bottles of water, I needed one. What’s strange is it didn’t seem to bother me that both men and women were present while I was in the stall. “I don’t understand what the big deal is,” I thought to myself. Maybe it could be different in a boys’ restroom where there are urinals. However, even then, there are usually several stalls where a guy could go for privacy if he wanted to.
Colton and I were sitting against the wall. Colton had fallen asleep with his head resting on my neck. I was getting a cramp in my shoulder, but I was afraid to move for fear I would awaken him.
Cathy came across the room and sat down beside me. She had been talking to the other girls for the past hour. I was happy that she was making friends with them. She also appeared more cheerful than I had seen her in a while.
“Hey, you,” she smiled as she sat down. “You doing alright?”
“Yeah,” I replied, “but I’m bored.” I looked at my watch. It was after four. “When do you think we’ll get out of here?”
She said, “I don’t know. It could be a while. Matt was talking to us earlier, and he said he’s keeping in contact with his mom and dad. They’ve been down at the school board all afternoon trying to meet with Mr. Steele.”
“Can you believe how crazy things got?”
“It was bound to happen sooner or later,” she replied. “Schools are going to have to start dealing with students like Tiffany.”
“I guess you’re right,” I responded.
“Of course I’m right,” she insisted. “Kids today don’t look at the world like our parents did.” She looked at me and frowned. “If anyone knows that, it should be you.”
I asked worriedly, “But what do you think will happen to us?”
“Matt says the community is outraged,” she informed me. “They’re showing what happened earlier on the national news.”
I sat up and gave her an astonished look. When I did, Colton woke up. “Are you serious?” I squealed.
Colton yawned and asked, “What’s happening?”
Cathy continued, “Yeah. According to Matt’s dad, the news is showing Sheriff Tackett and his men confronting us outside the restroom. He said some politicians are commenting on it.”
“Damn,” hissed Colton.
“It’s not all bad,” assured Cathy. “Matt said most people are supporting us.”
We stopped talking when Matt’s phone rang. He now appeared to be the liaison between us and the people outside. He and Mr. Wilder again went to the door and cautiously opened it. Four boys entered carrying several large boxes. They placed them on the floor, looked around and left.
Matt smiled and announced, “Dinner’s ready thanks to The Midtown Diner.” We opened the boxes to find containers containing fried chicken, spaghetti, cheeseburgers, a pasta salad and other assorted side dishes. There was a note telling us to keep fighting.
When we finished eating, Cathy grabbed her stomach and moaned, “If we stay here much longer, I’m going to gain twenty pounds.”
We spent the rest of the night inside the small, cramped restroom. It surprised me that no one wanted to leave. Even Mrs. Oliver seemed comfortable sitting on the floor beside her daughter. Mr. Wilder did a lot of pacing around the room. I think he was afraid that Sheriff Tackett and his deputies might barge into the room and spray us with tear gas. He and Matt rested against the door and tried to sleep.
Around two, Colton pulled me toward his lap. “Why don’t you put your head on my lap and try to sleep,” he suggested. I drifted off to sleep several minutes later as he gently stroked my head.
We began to awaken around six. I laughed when Cathy smelled her armpit, then raised it to my face. “Do I stink?”
Colton laughed and said, “Only a girl would think about hygiene at a time like this.”
Cathy huffed and responded, “It wouldn’t hurt for boys to be more aware. I’ve smelled some of you guys after you’ve gotten out of gym.” She went over to the mirror, turned on the faucet and began brushing her teeth with her finger.
Colton looked at me and his face reddened. “What?” I asked.
“I gotta take a shit,” he muttered softly.
“So?” I replied. “People have been using it all night.”
His face deepened redder as he said, “But mine kinda stinks.” He looked around the room. “I’ll smell everyone out of here.”
I sat back and laughed loudly. “You can’t just hold it,” I said.
He sighed and grabbed his stomach. “I guess not. I’m in so much pain right now, I have to use it.”
He rose and went to the far stall. Seconds later, everyone stopped talking when they heard a burst of gas, and then what sounded like an enormous eruption.
“Jesus!” shouted Mrs. Martin. “Have you no decency?” The room erupted into laughter. I felt sorry for Colton. He had to be embarrassed beyond anyone’s imagination.
Just then, people started fanning the air and coughing. Mr. Wilder was holding his sides and laughing uproariously. “He does the same thing at the house,” he announced.
I held my nose and continued to laugh. I looked around the room and wondered if anyone would leave. There was a flush, and Colton emerged from the stall. His face couldn’t have been any redder. I felt sorry for him.
He plopped down beside me and muttered, “Don’t say anything.” I laughed as he buried his head in his hands.
Everyone let out a loud laugh when his father hollered, “You didn’t wash your hands!” Without looking up, Colton raised his hand and flipped off his father.
Two restaurants and a doughnut shop provided us breakfast. I couldn’t believe the outside support we were receiving. After eating, I sat down beside Tiffany and Jerome. They were still holding hands.
“How are you doing?” I asked Tiffany.
“I don’t know,” she replied. “This seems so unreal. I can’t believe that people are risking everything for me.”
I responded, “Sometimes things are worth fighting for.”
I was thinking about my father and his fanatical ideas. This fight was about Tiffany’s right to use the bathroom, but for all of us it was something more. For me, it was a fight against wrong or right. It began for me when I first told my father I hated him. Like we were doing now, I took a stand, that now looking back, I don’t regret.
I could have continued to remain quiet and lived under his rule. However, it was diminishing me as a human being. With each day, I was being choked of life. To breathe again, I had to take a stand against everything my father stood for. I had to live my life on my terms, not his.
I looked around the room and realized that is what each person here had done. They had taken a stand against something they knew was wrong. They could have easily turned their back and made Tiffany fight the battle alone. My chest heaved with pride when I looked at Mr. Wilder, Mrs. Oliver and Mrs. Martin. It was harder for them to denounce the rigid ideas they had been raised to believe. They had joined the new fight, one that we understood had to happen. It was easier for Matt and the others to join us. But for them, they had to break with old traditions and fight for the new.
I smiled at Tiffany and said again, “Sometimes things are worth fighting for.” Only this time, I said it with a renewed understanding.