The Lunch Table

Sitting in front of my bedroom mirror, I looked at the hideous creature staring back at me. I wasn’t pretty; that should have been a fact of life. My squinty eyes, framed by silver owl-rimmed glasses, were too close together, and no amount of product could control my frizzy brown locks that hung down to my shoulders. I sighed, and wrestled my hair into a sloppy bun on the side of my head. I’m an ugly mess, I thought to myself. Why can’t I look normal like other girls?
I slipped on a pink and navy argyle sweater my mom had dug out of a clearance rack. I didn’t exactly know if it was ‘fashionable’ or not. I had always been homeschooled on our twenty-five acre plot of land in Montana, where I had no one to be judged by. The only connection I had with civilization was the television in the basement, and from those moments on video, I could tell I would like the life I had already better. I had just moved from my corner of heaven to the bustling city of Chicago, where you could barely see across the street due to the heavy layer of smog blanketing the town. I had always liked the outdoors, where everything seemed quiet and calm and relaxing, but in Chicago, I was forced to confine myself on a narrow terrace facing a busy street.
“Mary!” my nervous mother called from the kitchen down the hall. “You’ll be late if you don’t hurry!”
I slowly pulled on my backpack, and looking for my ‘inner beauty’ in the mirror, I convinced myself I would be popular at school.
Boy was I wrong.
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*
I didn’t fit in at all, and from the
very moment I walked into Jefferson Junior High, I knew I was in for a world of trouble. Comments seemed to fly by my face as fast as lightning.
“Freak!” one said.
“I bet she borrowed that from her mom!” said another.
Girls with ratted, color treated hair walked by in identical, ostentatious groups, whispering and giggling in each other’s ears. Their miniskirts swished behind them and their high heels clanked as they pranced down the hall. Shirts shouting Abercrombie and Hollister flew by my face in a flash. Boys wearing pants hung down to their knees and oversized South Pole t-shirts walked by, cussing every swear word known. I didn’t see anybody in the entire sea of seven hundred and fifty two seventh grade students like me. Everyone looked past me, occasionally glancing then whispering, like they couldn’t see me standing next to them. I felt invisible. I wished I was, when, in the middle of the dreary hallway, a handful of sour Skittles flew into my hair.
I could tell, from those few glimpses of middle school, this would be a very long year without a friend.
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*
Mr. Henderson stood in front of the science room, his clammy hand on my shoulder. I was standing in front of the students, seeming more like an accusing jury.
“Introduce yourself, Mandy,” Mr. Henderson’s booming voice roared. The florescent lights of the classroom glared off his bald head.
“It’s Mary,” I squeaked, careful with what I said. Their cold eyes burrowed to the center of me. I looked down at my shoes and nostalgically thought of my home- my real home, in Montana.
“Very well,” he chuckled, starting to write page numbers on the chalkboard. “Sit down, Carrie.”
As I began to sit down in the one empty chair in the room, a slacker used his oversized sneakers to pull my chair from under me. I fell to the floor in flushed embarrassment, and the class replied with stifled giggles.

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*
Stumbling to my locker from my disastrous science experience, I grabbed my lunch and my orange rain slick from the cramped top shelf. I thought people would admire my new, yellow, plastic lunch box decorated with neon flower stickers, but now, in the real world of criticism and judging, I felt like the biggest goof at Jefferson Junior High. I already had enough to be worried about, being the school nerd.

I soon found out I had even more, when I walked into the noisy, dull, gray, meatloaf-smelling cafeteria. I had nowhere to sit and no one to sit with. I started walking down the cramped isle, dodging the people hurdling at me, when I felt a wet splat on my back. I slowly turned around, only to find a howling boy with an empty spoon in his hand.

I ran, rather clumsily, to a graffiti laden empty table by a drafty window. I tried to contain the tears gathering in my eyes, but one loner fell and diluted my milk.

“Mary? I’m Sara,” said a voice as small as mine. A girl with long black braids and purple-framed glasses stood timidly by the table. “Could I please sit with you?” She shuffled her feet uncomfortably and played with the ends of her braids.

I nodded unbelievingly, not using any words, still surprised that there was a girl like me here, not just stereotypes and slackers. As she sat down next to me, she said in the same small voice, “I like your lunch pail.” Suddenly the cafeteria seemed to brighten up and not seem so hostile.

“Thanks,” I say genuinely to the possible friend I’ve been waiting for all day.

As Sara and I conversed over peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and bananas, I can’t but to think that maybe Chicago isn’t so bad after all. Now, with a friend to endure the roller coaster of junior high with, I believe I can make it through the year.





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TamiCoustic said...
Aug. 4, 2010 at 2:42 pm
sweeeeeeeeeeeet!
 
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