I'm 20 years old and from a small city in Ontario on the border of Canada and the USA. This happened when I was 14 years old and in my grade 9.
I don't run. I'm not an athlete in any sense of the word, but this didn't stop me from joining the Cross Country Team in my first year of high school. It wasn't exactly my idea to begin with. My Grade 9 Math teacher, who I will be calling Mrs. P for the duration of this story, just so happened to be the schools Cross Country Coach. Mrs. P was extremely athletic and would regularly work out in the schools weight room on her breaks. As you can imagine, she loved her job, and she wanted others to enjoy it too.
It was in mid September when she walked into the class extremely excited about something. I didn't have many friends, none of which were in this class, so I sat in the desk that was right in front of Mrs. P's. I was going over some notes when she called our attention.
"Good morning everyone!" she began with so much joy you could kill 10 circus clowns, "Before we start today's lesson I have some exciting news!" I smiled up at her because at the time she was one of my favorite teachers and it was impossible to not be affected by her energy. "The Cross Country Team sign ups are now Open! Please see me after class if you wish to sign up!"
Now normally I would just leave my exercise to my mandatory Phys. Ed. class but I am a people pleas-er. I felt bad because I knew that none of the teens in my class would sign up for this kind of extra curricular activity. So without much thought I stayed after class to sign up for the Cross Country Team.
The first few practices were just running around the enormous gym for a few hours. The next few is where it got interesting. It was early November when we got a good few days of sunny weather. On those days we ran down to a local woodsy trail where we would run pre-planned tracks. Most of which looked like this: we run up a hill, around some trees, back down the hill, across a field in a figure 8 pattern, and then back up the hill. This made all of us giggle because if you map it out it looks like a certain...male body part...and us, being the immature teenagers that we were, couldn't hold back the childish laughter.
Now we ran this trail several times during practice and like i said before, I am not a runner, so of course by the end of it I was so winded. It was time for us to run back up the hill to the school. Normally we would just walk on the sidewalk, but today we were allowed to run through the rest of the trail, and this is where I made my first mistake. I decided that I was going to run back through the trail. Bad move.
All together there was about 30 of us running that day, I was the slowest one so I was at the back of the group the entire time. Ahead of me was Mrs. P and about 20 other students. I set my watch to start timing my way back and for about 3 minutes I was able to still see my peers as they ran ahead of me. Mrs. P got to the top of a hill surrounded by trees and disappeared from sight. When I got to the same hill I was winded and huffing hard. My heart was pounding in my chest and I remember thinking that I had made a big mistake taking the forest route back. I couldn't see anyone anymore but I didn't panic because I thought I would still catch up to them.
At some point I stopped because I saw a wetland with cattails in it and thought that I should grab one for my mom, since I knew it was something she liked. I stepped off the trail and into the wetland to pick one of the cattails. My foot sunk into some mud as I pulled as hard as I could at one of the stalks. It took quite some time to pull it free from its muddy home, but I was soon able to hold the cattail like a trophy over my head. Next was my muddy foot. It came out with a heavy suction sound which grossed me out a little. I just tried to ignore it as I continued on my way back to my school.
I was starting to notice that the sun was starting to set when I came across a series of forks in the trail. I had no idea which way to go and now that the sky was turning purple I began to panic. I tried one trail that lead to a dead end so I back tracked to the wetland. I tried the path that went off to the right next and found that the trail continued on for a while before another fork. I was full of anxiety and there were so many thoughts running through my head all at the same time. Was I going to make it out? Was I really lost? What if I can't find my way back and they have to send someone to look for me? What if a bear gets me? All these things were going through my head at a rapid pace until suddenly I stopped.
I could hear faint construction equipment in the distance. I knew that the rest home across from the school was renovating so I decided that if I got closer to the sounds I would be able to find my way out. The sky got darker as the sun set, and I did my best to stay on the trail closest to the noise. To my luck I found myself at a plastic orange construction fence,and soon I was able to walk around the construction site to the trail exit.
I exited the bush behind the elementary school which was beside the rest home. As I walked out of the bush there were kids and parents looking at me bewildered as I crossed the field. Kids stopped playing on the play equipment to stare at me, and parents rushed to their kids as if to protect them from a monster. I ignored it the best I could and made it to the street. I crossed with little difficulty and began the walk to the school doors across the sea of paved parking lot. The hot tar blasting me with the heat it had collected over the course of the day, the emptiness, taunting me with its dessert like appearance.
As I made it to the edge of the sidewalk that lead to the front doors, out walks Mrs. P. She looks at me and asks, "Where were you?" with a bright smile on her face. I looked her in the eyes and said with a fake smile, "You left me... in the bush... "I looked down at my watch, "for over an hour." She just looks at me and speaks as if she didn't hear me, "We were wondering where you were." and she walks away like nothing happened.
I just went inside and up the stairs to my locker. I didn't bother changing. I grabbed all my stuff and called my mom, ignoring the creepy janitor who offered to let me change in the janitors closet when the bathrooms were right there. I waited for my mom to pick me up and gave her the cattail I had grabbed while telling her all about how my math teacher and Cross Country Coach just left me in the bush and didn't care to even look for me when she noticed I was missing. Needless to say my mom was quite mad. I quit the Cross Country Team shortly after.
To this day Mrs. P still works at the school. She never got in trouble for leaving a student in the woods. I think that incident left me with some trauma because I hate being alone in the woods, and to this day I will never step foot on that trail. I hold a grudge to Mrs. P for leaving me in the bush, not doing anything to find me, pretending like it didn't happen, and continuing to bug me about getting back to the team after I quit.
Mrs. P, let's never meet again.