At Denton High School, the only reason you would ever eat lunch in the cafeteria was if
you got lunch for free. This was because it was somewhat easy to skirt around whichever
Kronk-like coach was standing guard at the double doors, but it was 99.99% impossible to
escape the opposite direction with a tray of soggy fries and pizza (unless your name was Macy
or Mandy, the principals’ daughters). Football players left and went who-knows-where-fast-
food. IB students ate in the foreign language department, and any girl (or overly chauvinistic
guy) that was musical ate on the sidewalk between the band hall and the orchestra room.
And of course, the moment you became a senior you were absolutely banned from the
cafeteria. Everyone just knew. The teachers, even, gave you funny looks if you had to make
the descent of the sloping hallway to the lunchroom if, heaven forbid, you forgot to bring your
lunch that day and didn’t know anyone with a car. It was better to grab a pack of powdered
donuts and some Doritos out of the vending machines by the sports wing than to make that
trek of doom.
The band juniors and seniors got into the habit of piling into the few cars we had
between us, driving four blocks down, and ordering burritos in bulk from Mi Casita. They got to
know us there, and would have a tray of six dozen tin foil-wrapped chicos ready for us, along
with a special discount for the Bronco Band. If you forgot your money with us, it was okay. The drum majors always had a few extra dollars to spare.
Aside from Fridays, though, there was only one expectation of the lunches you brought
for eating on the sidewalk. If you had something new or ethnic, you had to bring enough to
share. The point really was to bring something as unique as possible and create a potluck. For
example, Britny would bring a Tupperware of homemade oatmeal cinnamon cookies, I
contributed a tin of pimento cheese and some of my momma’s homemade pumpkin pecan
bread, Gaby brought tortillas and guacamole, and Sara was in charge of the carrots and Ranch.
We all brought other stuff too, like apples and chocolate milk, but just between the woodwinds,
we could have a feast.
When Britny moved into her friend’s parents’ house in the Spring of 2009, she and I
stopped eating lunch. We’d use the forty minutes holed up in a practice room in the upstairs of
the band hall, flutes untouched across our laps, to just flap our gums. She fussed about how
ridiculous our band director was, I fussed about how mean my creative writing teacher was,
and we talked about everything and anything, except the important stuff.
Then, an hour later, we’d hop in my Camry and make a pit stop at Sonic for happy hour
(Route 44 sweet raspberry tea for her and a Route 44 Barq’s for me, for a grand total of $2.46),
and drive right back past the school to Bonnie’s house. I was never really friends with Bonnie,
but her mom absolutely adored Britny, and any friend of Britny’s was always welcome in their
house. Also, they loved to grill me about being Mormon.
Our school bags never got past the foyer. Britny and I were always great students, AB
Honor Roll and all that, but after Christmas, our senioritis had kicked in full swing and we just
barely managed to finish enough homework to pass that semester. We stood in the kitchen,
sipping sugar and munching on microwaved somethings and talked for hours.
I have no idea how we had so much to talk about for so long every day. I spent more
time with Britny than I spent with my own parents, and I was the only child living at home at
the time. And as much as we discussed, there were elephants that we never even aspired to
touch. Parting ways at the end of the summer to different school for the first time since we
were eleven. My recently-ended abusive relationship. Her parents’ drug addictions.
I think we didn’t talk about them because we didn’t really have to. It didn’t take words
for us to communicate. She could glance at me over the top of her glasses, bottom lip between
her teeth, nostrils flaring, and I could respond with a thirty-second hug, a nod, and a half-smile
with my head cocked to the right. That’s all we needed. We were too old to cry and not old
enough to brush it off and say, “We’ll be okay!” We weren’t okay, but we both knew that, so
not being okay together made it better.