Lunch is always a difficult time for me.
Almost every day after fourth period I head down to the Den and grab a bite. I wait in the line to get my food and then pay for it, you know, the things normal people do. Once I leave the line, it becomes an uncomfortable expedition for a lunch table.
I look around for people I know, but unfortunately most of them have first lunch. To the right of me I see someone that I know. I head towards them and then realize they are sitting with someone that is unpleasant to be around to say the least. Time to find an empty table but that usually doesn’t happen. The tables fill up too fast.
This usually goes one of two ways. Well, maybe three if you count the rare occurrence of me actually finding someone I know to sit with.
Normally I find a table with one person sitting at it who obviously has just gone through the same ordeal that I just went through. I sit down at the table usually across from them. We just look at each other and awkwardly say nothing and just proceed to consume our food. To avoid any awkward glances, I look around the den at random things to give the illusion that I am looking for something. I see them looking around too. The only upside is that this allows me to notice things I wouldn’t otherwise, like how the ceiling is structured or noticing that a light has gone out. To avoid any awkward unwanted socialization, I’ll also put some headphones on.
“Hey did (mumble mumble) the (mumble)?”
Oh great. Now they are talking to me and I didn’t hear what they said. My mind fills with abnormal questions. Why are they talking to me? Are they talking to me? How can I avoid this situation? I can’t hear them if they are talking thanks to my headphones. This is perhaps the only situation where wearing noise cancelling headphones is a negative.
Now I have to ask what they said multiple times because I can’t hear them over the noise in the den either, even then I probably won’t know what they’re asking me so I just give some answer that they probably won’t understand.
“Yes” I reply with a nervous chuckle. I get a questioning glance indicating that my answer did not make sense with the question they asked. This situation is about as awkward as riding in a car with someone you know, in silence.
The other way these things go is that I do actually find an empty table.
I proceed to preserve my well being with my consumables and do many of the things I mentioned previously like put on my headphones. Unfortunately for me, this doesn’t last long because then a group of people I don’t know at all sit at my table. Again with the unwanted conversation. I’m not an antisocial person and have almost no stress in most situations, it is just really awkward when I am asked a question that I clearly will not be able to hear. I mumble some response to a question that I’m not even sure of.
No matter which way this situation goes, it always ends the same way.
I finish my food. I sit there for a little bit until I decide it is time to leave.
I quietly stand up and grab my garbage to leave. The worst part is that if the people that came to sit with me were in a conversation, it comes to a halt.
They all look at me with their ever-so-observant eyes as I walk away. It is almost as if they’ve never seen someone stand up from a table before. Maybe they haven’t, I don’t know these people.
Then there is the walk to the multiple bins to discard my paper, food, milk cartons and everything else. That in itself is awkward because sometimes there is just too much to carry and makes me look like I don’t know how to handle myself. There is that constant worry in my mind that everyone is watching this uncoordinated march.
The time after I finish eating follows a similar pattern to finding a table.
Much like my quest to find a lunch table, I try to find a place to sit down. The main difference is that people don’t randomly sit by me and attempt to socialize. I sit by myself.
This is my nirvana.
Words by GAGE THOMAS
Audio by ANGEL HERNANDEZ
Photography by JESSI PROULX