School makes me nervous.
I dread lunch.
In fifth grade I got along and I belonged, or at least, I thought so.
I thought I got along.
I thought I belonged.
In sixth grade, my two best friends have gone to different schools, and I find myself by myself, surrounded by the same sixty children I've known and played with since kindergarten.
Suddenly I hate them all, and know no one.
I've warped from the reasonable side of social acceptance into the nervous bystander on the constant brink of children's taunts, all in the stretch of a single summer break.
Looking back there is no way of knowing if my lunchtime anxiety was a product of preteen hormones, a dramatic play into everything is exactly the same and completely different, or if everything really was completely different.
I hate everyone but I just want everyone to like me. Lunchtime, our longest break of the day, the greatest opportunity to socialize, becomes my greatest fear, the absolute focus of my anxiety.
I feel nervous.
I feel fat.
I feel awkward.
I feel unwanted.
I stop eating lunch.
I spend an elaborate amount of time orchestrating my classroom exit, always the last to leave.
I drift through the multipurpose room, old enough that the teachers don't pay any mind to whether or not I eat.
I stack minutes upon minutes going to the bathroom. I wash my hands carefully and slowly before and after, punching the button for the water exactly five times, counting to five in my head between each push. Hand dryer five times. Count to five before I hit it again. The careful ritual, which happens regardless of my need to use the restroom, takes me almost to the end of the period.
Water fountain, carefully. Five drinks. Count to five between each.
The first person to line up outside the classroom, my lunches fly neatly past, one after the other - ticking down the days until I could get out of that school.