School Lunch Yarn Ball This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

October 17, 2010
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The sandwiches were packed in red and white, pretty plastic tupperware. Every morning, I would bring one to school without fail, encased in a hot pink Bratz lunch bag. I would stuff it into a cubbyhole along with my Limited Too windbreaker, where it would be forgotten until lunchtime rolls around, and I'd eagerly peel open the top to the shining glory of the sandwich within.

Sometimes, it was the picture-perfect Sara Lee White Bread commercial sandwich. The bread would be like the moon—its artfully cratered surface pulsing with a demure glow, the edges sliced to clean perfection. Beside it, the speckled stars that were the sandwiches of others—bologna, ham and cheese, peanut butter and banana—were candlelights against my disco ball. They stood no chance. The scenery for that lunchtime would be gorgeous; pretty little girls with their blonde hair in pigtails, expressions as green as the peaceful rolling plains of Eden.

Other times, though, my sandwich would barely pass for the definition of one. The wrong brand of turkey, like a serial killer, would have drowned half your population in bread by the time you took notice. The other half that hasn't fallen into the evil slabs of Oscar Mayer cold cut would be positively shrieking in contempt at the stench of the killer turkey being drowned in mayonnaise. The meat has paled so much, it melted into the graves of the bread, visible through the opaque mayonnaise that had warmed and morphed into some catastrophic clusterfuck, waiting to implode in your stomach and empty you from the inside out. These were the embarrassing lunches, and I would often find myself chatting aimlessly and endlessly about the first thing I saw, in a vague attempt to distract my friends from the lack of aesthetics, eloquence, and pure edibility in my sandwich.

I've always prided myself in the knowledge that these chain of events—good sandwich, good sandwich, hell in tupperware—was the starting point of my career as a writer (career being an extremely loose term). I can't help but think, as I look back on elementary school, what would've happened to me if I was one of those kids that everyone swarmed at lunchtime because he or she had the Lunchable Nachos everyday, or one in the little trios sitting in a miraculously octagonal shape on the floor with backpacks and school lunches strewn between them. Would Lunchables make you popular, or just spread your name more as the Rich dork with good food? In taking school lunches, would I pursue a career in the school system in order to improve them, or would I be permanently traumatized by gelatinous chunks in the sun-warmed milk and swear off dealing with kids altogether? A giant plethora of elementary school roads pertaining to school lunches rumbles and rolls through everybody's lives at one point, but there is always just one string that we can grab and hold onto for dear life because for all the changes you might make along the way, that string is there to stay, whether it's threaded between your fingers or latched to the back of your pants. I was among the lucky ones, that I should be happy with the outcome of my lunches. So all I can really say is, choose your favorite flavored string and don't be afraid to switch while you're still on the ground.

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