The Lunch Room By Kevin Rishell
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Rated "G" by the Author.
This is a true story about a Junior High lunch room.
The Lunch Room
My fear turned to frozen terror as I heard the dreaded words, “What are you doing here?” echo off the lunch room walls.They were just five little words that in other circumstances pose little threat, but when you are an unpopular 13-year-old, standing with a food tray in front of a lunch table of cool kids hoping to slip in unnoticed… it was a spotlight of death to me.
With a smug confidence that comes with actually having friends, this self-appointed lunch table guard, Ronnie Schwartz, aimed his sniper tongue at the escaped nerd he had just targeted and pulled the trigger again saying, “Why do you want to sit here?.. Nobody here is your friend.”
It wasn’t a question, it was a statement of fact begging to be challenged if I dared.Time stood as still as my feet.I could feel my heart pounding in my ears.The whole world watched as what little courage and self-esteem I had was stripped away like a cheap trailer-park facade in a hurricane.
Then it got worse.As my peripheral vision failed and I slipped into a tunnel of frozen indecision, this emboldened wretch put his money where his mouth was.He said, “I’ll bet a dime that no one at this table is your friend”.Since I was a skinny and weak kid, my tongue had been my defense in the past.A quick comeback or joke was often my way of escape.Not this time.I was caught off guard.I was a statue.My mouth was a dry rock.
In the eternal seconds that followed that last cruel wager, my life of failure and shame flashed before my eyes.Deep down, somewhere in the murky past, I was convinced that I was not worthy or deserving of love and friendships.I felt weak, unwanted and stupid.Whether it was being picked last for kickball or not being invited to parties, I felt like a loser.The embarrassment I was experiencing now was simply another nail in my coffin of self respect.
But then, suddenly, through the fog, a voice spoke up.It wasn’t mine…it was Eric Schmitt’s!A blond-haired boy I barely knew came casually to my rescue by saying, “I am his friend”.Fear and shame turned to hope in an instant.Hope turned to confidence.I found my tongue, thanks to my new-found friend, and looked Ronnie in the eye and said, “I’m here to eat my lunch and I’ll take that dime!”
I glanced at Eric and smiled.I took that cursed dime and bought an ice cream sandwich that I then split with Eric.I savored every bite.Eric probably never knew how he saved me that day, but I will be forever grateful to him for that simple act of lunch room kindness and courage.