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Lunchtime

I remember my first day of first grade. I was at a new school and my relationships with the other eight kids in my homeroom were all about the same. All eight had already gone to either Montessori or kindergarten together. I was the new kid.

After a light morning of introductory material, my homeroom teacher decided to take the nine of us down early to lunch. In the transition from classroom to cafeteria, I somehow ended up in the back of the lunch line.

At the moment, this was no issue; bus rides on the way to my parochial preschool/kindergarten had taught me that it was actually cool sometimes to be in the back. And it was not as if I wasn’t talking to the eighth kid in line. I’m pretty sure I put up a decent effort of some laid-back conversation.

As each one of us filtered through the lunch line, we were directed to the two circular tables that would serve as the eating grounds of my homeroom for the forthcoming year. The table closest to the exit of the lunch line happened to have eight chairs. First graders also happen to follow the behavior of the kid in front of them

Therefore, when I made it to my homeroom’s section in the cafeteria, I was forced to sit alone, as the eight kids in front of me had gone and filled up the first table.

Now my homeroom teacher quickly realized what had happened and prompted the rest of my class to recognize the injustice they had passively accomplished. Soon enough I had half the class around me at my table and life went on from there.

Did it feel good being made an exclusion case study? No. Was it personal? Probably not. Am I still harboring resentment? Possibly.

The memories of my school lunchtimes since then could fill volumes.

I remember passing the twelfth second of 12:12 p.m. on Dec. 12, 2012 in that same cafeteria I first enjoyed in the first grade.

I remember how my happiness each day in middle school came to depend on who I was seen eating lunch with in the cafeteria we shared with the high school I never wound up attending.

I remember the tall tales I told at the lunch tables my own freshman year of high school to attract the attention I desperately need.

I remember taking my to-go lunch out of the cafeteria during the second semester of my senior year of high school to eat behind the library book stacks while reading news articles about some disease that was tearing through China.

I remember reading the summer before college about the Zahm table in the north dining hall that would never materialize again due to Covid.

I remember sneaking in Subway turkey sandwiches back from LaFun in my backpack to eat at my desk day after day my first-year.

Now a proud Baumer Buccaneer, I call South Dining Hall my home. I have even found a little bit of love writing for The Observer’s news, sports, scene and social media departments in the basement of SDH.

Still, Monday through Friday this semester, after I get out of class at either 1:40 p.m. or 1:45 p.m., I head to SDH to eat alone.

I’m usually wearing boots and trying to get better about not wearing my headphones. If you want to eat with me, let me know.

You can contact Peter at pbreen2@nd.edu.

This views expressed in this Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.