Fifth grade. Maybe sixth. I was in band class.
Band class was in a separate building somewhat perpendicular to the row of classes for first and second grade. I was standing outside of the room, waiting for some reason (for what, I don't recall). I saw a young first grader walk out of his class with a hall pass to go to the bathroom. Like anyone remotely new to public school life, this kid found that he couldn't pass the water fountain without sneaking in a sip. He did so, and then noticed that the knob for the faucet would stay on, unless he manually turned it off (usually, the knob automatically turns as soon as you let it go, hence ending the water pressure). This overjoyed the li'l tyke. I continued to watch.
Then I watched as the boy's posture suddenly jolted to a state of glee with the ecstasy of discovering within himself the birth of a promising idea. The water fountain was positioned only a foot or so away from the door to the boys restroom. So, leaving the fountain on, the boy zestfully sprinted into the bathroom. His game was obvious: would the fountain stay on for the duration of his urination visit? For some reason, it brought joy to the kid to wonder whether the water would stay on while he bathroomed (yep -- just verbed bathroom).
While the boy was peeing out of sight, I walked to the water fountain, and turned the knob. I thought it was a waste of water. The boy was being careless. How dare he! I, being much older and wiser, saw to it to end his frivolous anti-environment game. As soon as I turned the water off, I returned to my perch so that the lad would be non-the-wiser, thinking that he lost the game by some freak of nature wind or something.
I watched from my perch. When the boy came out, he saw that the water had been turned off. His look. His face. It melted.
He looked around as if wounded by the world entire. He didn't cry, but he might as well have. Perhaps he would have sobbed, his face was distorted in the same way that very small children grimace seconds before they howl. But then his eyes caught mine staring back. He saw me not as the harbinger of unfulfilled dreams that I was, but as an older kid. In response, his face stiffened in what I presume was a desire to feign coolness in front of someone much higher in the elementary school food chain.
He walked back to his classroom.
The Class (Entre les murs - 2008) is built off of the same stuff as my memory of that boy. It was a small moment. I'm sure that boy grew up to someone who has no remembrance of the incident... but still, the world is pieced together by little moments, some more jagged than others.