The place nobody chooses

   Elementary School

Meadow Brook Elementary School had a control panel that allowed it to divvy its enormous gym into different sections. One half of this gym was our cafeteria. Everyday the Lunch Ladies would wheel out foldable, laquer-wood picnic tables that would host wave after wave of students eating in neatly arranged rows and columns.

The ceiling felt as high as the sky itself. Sometimes there would be a balloon stuck against the rails up there. I would imagine how scary it would feel to be teleported to that exact spot and my hands would sweat suddenly feeling like Luke Skywalker hanging on for dear life in Cloud City.

Kids liked pointing to things stuck in the ceiling. I'd see them while making my way across the cafeteria. I imagined them telling each other exciting stories of how the balloon or whatever else got stuck up there. I longed to learn these stories, even imagined myself approaching their table and listening in. But I was never able to. And the thick crowd noise made it impossible to hear what they were saying from my usual pathway to where Hassan and Karthik were seated.

The cafeteria felt divided. The crowd in the center and kids like us at the outskirts. Because of the high ceilings and the material of the basketball court's surface the cafeteria felt loud no matter where you sat. However, in the outskirts there was no local volume. All the noise we heard was coming from the crowd. This made me feel like the crowd was in a different universe.

Depending on which side of the table I sat, I'd either see the rest of the kids looking like they were haivng their very own carnival or a blank wall. I couldn't decide which felt more detaching. I thought they both managed that in their own different ways. Either an unobtainable desire right in front of you or a concrete reminder that you were at the end of the cafeteria. The place where nobody chooses to sit.