I would say it was an ordinary Tuesday but truthfully, it didn’t feel like one. I was in a particularly sunny mood that morning that matched the beautiful spring day; and even the sound of my navy-blue kitten heels tapping on the scuffed hardwood floor was actually bringing me a welcome sensation of joy. I was wearing a new outfit—a nautical style sailor suit with a pleated skirt that flowed with each peppy step I took. As I waltzed past one glass-front office after another on my way to the bathroom, I smiled and waved at each of my coworkers, employees, and even my department supervisor. One woman, too engrossed in her work, did not look up at me. But everyone else did.

In my memory of the event, I look like I’m in a cheesy made-for-tv musical. The last wave went to Charles, whose large glass-front corner office was the last one I passed before reaching my destination. Charles, the Human Resources Assistant, was the only man working in an office full of women social workers. He was very funny, very kind, and had always been one of my favorite coworkers there. I popped my head inside his doorway and said a quick hello before I ducked into the bathroom.

When I emerged from the bathroom, juggling the three case files I had been holding along with my morning cup of coffee, I resumed my perky walk back to my office; but something was off. Just as I met Charles’s wide stare, I felt a cool breeze behind me. In a flash, he was approaching me with a look of dread, like an ER doctor with bad news; and the closer he got to that doorway, the cooler the breeze was getting on my backside. With pain in his eyes, as if he had done something wrong, he did what only a true gentleman, a real hero would do in a moment like that. He risked it all, looked me right in the eyes, and told me that my ass was showing. Literally.

My worst nightmare of tucking my skirt into my nude pantyhose, wearing no underwear, had just come true in real time. And Charles, a real-life hero, had sacrificed our friendship in his selfless decision to defend my honor because surely, he knew in that moment the two truths that would follow. One being that I would never use that bathroom again even if it meant having to use the one two floors up with no air conditioning. And the second being that I could never look at or speak to him again. Thank you, Charles. It’s been over 30 years, and no other man has sacrificed that much for me since.

Tracie Adams is a writer and teacher in rural Virginia. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Oddball Magazine, Sheepshead Review, The Write Launch, WOTL Magazine, and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature.