Lunch Time

By Elena Zhang

We eat lunch in the bathroom. The one on the second floor next to the gym, because it’s the biggest and smells like pine instead of prepubescent bodies. We shuffle into the stalls and sit on hard ceramic seats. Our laps become picnic tables. We hear the crinkles of sandwich wrappers, the clicks and snaps of plastic boxes. We use toilet paper to wipe delicately at our lips, our cheeks, our noses. We speak to each other in carrot crunches, in juice slurps. It isn’t perfect, our language, but somehow we understand what our mouths can’t say. When someone comes in to pee, we clamp down on our tongues and play it cool. All anyone will be able to see is a row of feet in mismatched shoes. How long had we been there? Maybe we came in just a few minutes ago, clutching stomachs and clenching bladders. Blood drips and phantom pains. No one would know. The door shuts and we can breathe again. Then one day, Mrs. Marian steps inside, her heels clacking against dirty tiles, and we know it’s over. We scatter like marbles. We roll into the cafeteria; we hide underneath our bullies. We’ll find each other again. Maybe in the bathroom by the music room. The one that doesn’t smell at all. The one that sounds like heaven.

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Elena Zhang is a freelance writer and mother living in Chicago. Her work appears or is forthcoming in HAD, JAKE, and Bending Genres. Find her on Twitter @ezhang77

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