The Bystander

Voices spill over each other, one after the other, colliding, sliding, bumping into each other, fighting to distinguish themselves clearly in my ears. My friends are all yelling at me uselessly, feigning a dramatic fight over what I am going to eat for lunch, where should we sit, am I going to Angie’s party this weekend. I zone back in from day dreaming and shrug, saying something about getting a slice of pizza. My friends give up and start talking to each other, pulling me onto the lunch line.

The smell of pizza, French fries, and salad dressing fills my nose and my mouth waters, composing music with my grumbling stomach. I did not even notice I was hungry. Guess I was too busy staring into space. Today’s one of my slump days, the ones where I wear sweats and sneakers to school, not caring that my friends will reprimand me. Sometimes, high heels and skinny jeans just don’t cut it.

Janet pulls my arm forward, past the pizza and to the salad bar. She fills up my plate: lettuce, olives, carrots, olive oil and vinegar dressing. Janet hands it to me, her blonde bob bouncing around her head as she fills up her own plate, everything on my except the olives. I don’t even care that I wanted pizza, don’t even care that this is not going to be enough food to get me through one period, don’t even care that Janet knows my lunch code and buys both of our salads using my money. I just trudge along, grab a fork, and head into the jungle of our lunchroom.

Janet and Tiff pull me over to the left side of the room, to our usual table, the one by the window looking out over the small fountain in the middle of the courtyard. I sit down near the door where I feel the warm, spring breeze every time the door opens. Suddenly Janet starts laughing hysterically next to me while Tiff looks shyly down at her pizza.

“Jeez, Tiff, didn’t you get the memo? Salads today, not pizza; didn’t you notice? Well, whatever. Enjoy getting fat, Tiff.” Janet’s voice is unusually sharp, cold, snobby, even for her normal self. She looks down her nose at poor Tiff, who is bristling, and I wonder what went on between them last weekend at Erica’s pool party. I didn’t go.

“Janet, give me a break. Emily wanted pizza too, but you didn’t say that to her. She just let you walk all over her, let you take her plate and fill it with food that wouldn’t feed a guinea pig. No wonder everyone thinks you’re anorexic.” Tiff snorts at her own comment and Janet stares at her in bewilderment. Then the shadow passes over her face, and I see her hand raise, a nasty look in her eye. Suddenly I can’t take it anymore and stand up, dumping my “food” in the garbage. I am walking out the doors when I hear Janet’s hand slap across Tiff’s face, but I am too far away to see her tears stream silently, too far away to care.





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