According to Franklin Middle School seventh-grader and closeted homosexual Ben McElroy, the highlight of his day is the 30 minutes between third and fourth period when he eats lunch on a staircase by himself.
"It's nice to eat alone while other people are in class or in the cafeteria," McElroy told reporters Wednesday as he finished the peanut-butter-and-honey sandwich his mother had prepared and packed neatly into a brown paper bag for him that morning. "No one bothers me, it's safe and quiet, and I get to enjoy my lunch."
"It's not so bad," a smiling McElroy added.
McElroy, who has revealed his sexual orientation to no one but is unceasingly ridiculed by his peers for perceived feminine qualities in his voice, dress, and gait, confirmed that he enjoys his solitary meal on the staircase far more than the bus ride to school, the walk from the bus to homeroom, finding an unobtrusive seat in the back of every class and hoping he doesn't get called on, receiving anonymous text messages from classmates telling him to kill himself, and every other moment of his day.
In addition, McElroy said that as his lunch period approaches, he enjoys staring at the clock on the wall and eagerly counting down the minutes until he can finally sit and eat alone on the seldom-traversed staircase in the school's South Hall.
"Sometimes when I'm in third period, I get this excited feeling inside knowing lunch is coming up," said McElroy, adding that the solitude offered by his staircase location allows him plenty of time and space to perform his usual ritual of carefully laying out his lunch on the step in front of him and moving through it piece by piece. "It's probably the most excited I get all day. I'd come here on weekends if they'd let me."
Speaking as someone who never spent a single lunch period in the cafeteria in high school, but instead spent all his time in the school library, I agree: this hits close to home. (It also reminds me of the fact that some places need to be nuked from orbit since it's the only way to be sure, but that should go without saying.)
The subtler humour of the article is compactly and quietly satirical almost in the vein of Swift's A Modest Proposal, where Swift enumerates the main things that are wrong with his Ireland but dismisses them as quotidian. It's left to the reader to react, to explicitly identify what's wrong. It works superbly here.