Picking Vegetables | Teen Ink

Picking Vegetables MAG

December 27, 2021
By gyang22 SILVER, Scarsdale, New York
gyang22 SILVER, Scarsdale, New York
8 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Aswell of relief came with the puncturing, shrill sound of the bell, welling up from within in a comforting embrace. The droning of the teacher quickly turned to a quiet muttering in competition with the rising voices of my classmates as they came out of their sedentary slumbers. 12:10 marked the magic minute — when the silence of the hallways would be quickly overrun by a tumultuous tumble of children, not only chasing their ravenous appetites, but also escaping the threat of another mundane class. Stepping into the hall, a cacophony of metal lockers and frantic footwork overcame my lecture-lulled senses, shocking me into the daily realization of the events to unfold: lunchtime.

In a time in which classes carried inconsequential weight for all but the most studious, middle school life was centered around a sentiment all together more trivial; classes were not interrupted by a lunch break, rather, classes were an annoying prerequisite before lunch. And while middle school presented a lighthearted introduction to academics for many, it was widely understood that study often gave way to more pressing issues of the adolescent times. In the same manner that children would often pick at their food, throwing certain vegetables away with the rest of their trash, it was of utmost importance to keep one’s “plate” presentable in middle school. In the moments when one would stand frozen before an insurmountable cluster of tables, availability partially played a role in deciding the seating for the day, but in the end, it boiled down to a matter of picking vegetables.

My hands gripped considerably at the tray, my milk carton wobbling in response to my vigor. A plate, soaked through with the juices of the daily mystery mash, rested on top of the unsteady surface, the apex of the mash mountain adorned with a great, big, ugly piece of broccoli. A raucous roaring filled the air, product of each student shouting incognizant of another’s similar attempts, hanging plump in the ears with noticeable mass. Fixed to the ground in indecision, I stood at the head of a mass of people huddled together on benches too small for their social affluence, observing the carnage with the eye of one from afar: indifferent, yet frightened by the ferocious nature of it all. My feet failed to guide me to a seat.

It went back as far as the first day of middle school. Suddenly reunited with the summation of every elementary school, the new middle schoolers found themselves at the front of a foreign entity: the challenge of reassimilating into friend groups with the new social pressures previously absent in a younger adolescent. Comfort often took precedence, with the first group established remaining the primary circle throughout one’s middle school life, and in the case of lunch, those who missed the first opportunity to integrate into the group were all the more eager to sprawl about on the tables, claiming it for their own to curry favor. These social shenanigans made it such that seating became starved, resulting in an informal assigned seating of sorts, with change not enforced officially, but certainly being a rarity.

I was no radical. It only took moments to reorient myself and trudge to the familiar faces that came with lunch every day; I stepped over the same daily card game and dropped into the seat, tray placed onto the table. The commotion carried on with the same intensity as usual, though it seemed almost muted as I idly picked at the mash. I spooned a bit into my mouth. The texture was luxuriously smooth, so disgustingly smooth that my throat rebuked my attempts to swallow. A piece of broccoli met my spoon. Without a second thought, I picked it out, setting it aside to throw away later.

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