I was never temped by the food in the freshman cafeteria. All the freshman at my high school ate in their own secluded mini-caf to...I don't know, bond as a class? Not be intimidated by the upper classmen? The food choices were chicken sandwiches, chicken tenders, some dumb snacks, pizza, fries. My first semester I packed my lunch. I think I ate a lot of pb & j and bags of potato chips. Off-brand Oreos. My second semester I had an early lunch right after swimming. I remember swallowing a lot of chlorinated water and always feeling winded from having to get ready in five minutes after laps. My look that spring: wet slimy hair, a bloated tummy, and hastily applied lip gloss. The only thing I could even imagine eating for some unknown reason were pretzels and Kit Kats. So that's what I ate. For five months. Very occasionally (like, three times) I bought a donut from the lunch line, and I would be given a free fruit cup. Everyone always got a free fruit cup. It had something to do with the school being able to get government funding for balanced meals. I spent around 100 hours total in that dumb room, and I remember very little.
A rando from the town everyone made fun of shared my lunch seat with me for two weeks. He asked me to write him notes but only drew pictures in response. A boy in my history class asked to see my homework "just to check his answers" and I let him have it. I watched it circle his entire table, everyone copying. I tried to drink Brisk Iced Tea like a club of two new friends did, but I thought it was very gross. My friend Smidge and I would quietly sing Les Mis to each other when we were bored. One girl gave up junk food for lent and ate it every day, making tally marks in a notebook. She said, "I'll make it up later."
My iced coffee got warm yesterday. I was at the Writing Center, so I asked around if there was a soda fountain somewhere in the building. There was one in the cafeteria, I learned, so I walked in for the first time and was immediately struck with a flood of nostalgia. It smelled EXACTLY like that freshman lunch room, and as far as I can tell, nothing in my life has ever smelled the same. I wanted to eat all the food even though I hadn't eaten it when I was fourteen. If I ingested that tray of fries, would I be fourteen again? As if being fourteen is so great in the first place.