You couldn’t possibly think it was easy for me to be ripped from the only life I knew even if maybe it wasn’t perfect only to be deposited in the wilderness where you actually had to drive to the candy store if there was a candy store to which you could drive which there really wasn’t at least not the kind of candy store you could find on any street corner in Brooklyn where you could get Dr. Brown’s and maybe a pre-made tuna fish sandwich wrapped in wax paper which was fine except you had to take off the lettuce which was kind of soggy and gross and candy of course and still have some of your lunch money left for marbles and this meant you were stuck in school at lunchtime which meant eating in a cafeteria full of other kids who mostly knew each other from like kindergarten and definitely were not interested in absorbing someone new or at least not you and if you were early enough and got a seat at an empty table somehow everyone managed to find seats at every other table but yours until all of the tables were full except for yours and a few kids from the vocational program who you knew from shop class and who called you faggot behind your back and sometimes to your face were stuck having to sit with you and maybe that was better than when you got to lunch on the later side because Dr. Schroder simply would not stop talking even though the bell had gone off and you could hear all the lockers slamming and footsteps in the hallway as the mass migration to the cafeteria wore on so you were freaking out and jiggling up and down in your chair and maybe squeaking just a little because there was nothing worse than getting to the cafeteria late where there were no empty tables and you kept glancing back as unobtrusively as you could which wasn’t really all that unobtrusively as you walked the cafeteria line trying to figure out the safest place to sit and the lunch lady scolded you for not paying attention and mashed potatoes on your knuckles even though you didn’t ask for mashed potatoes but you knew better than to argue with the lunch lady and when you finally managed secretly to flick the potatoes from your knuckle to the floor and arrived at the end of the lunch line you still hadn’t determined your best seating option so you had to stand there just beyond the cashier holding your tray trying not to spill the soup even though they always filled the bowl too much and it was hard to balance because the tray was too small to put the bowl in the center and fit your sandwich plate and milk on it not to mention the little dish of unwanted mashed potatoes which immediately after you paid the cashier you stashed on the edge of the place you returned the trays as unobtrusively as you could which wasn’t really all that unobtrusively but at least it didn’t fall and crash on the floor like the last time you were dished out surplus food when it shattered and splattered potatoes in a sunburst pattern reaching toward the lunch line and just a little might have gotten on Patty Green’s new boot toe and she immediately kicked it off back at you like a soccer ball while giving a look that rendered you deceased and the lump she kicked landed right on your jeans in precisely the worst place ever possible and everybody laughed and started clapping for Patty and the sandwich and milk even together were lighter than the soup so the tray was unbalanced but you did your best to keep it flat and it was even harder because there wasn’t much room between the cashier and the wall and once in a while another kid would wind up banging into you slopping soup onto the tray which now was not just unbalanced but also slippery and you were sure he did it on purpose and you were totally certain that every other single kid in the place and all of the teachers who were resentfully on duty and even the lunch ladies were staring at you as you scanned the tables for enough open seats that you could put some distance between yourself and the kids who were already sitting there and sometimes you could and just comfortably be ignored and sometimes you couldn’t and you actually had to squeeze in among people who kept their heads down as you tried to climb over the bench in a space that was too tight because even though they saw you and they knew you knew they saw you they kept their heads down anyway in the hope that if they didn’t actually acknowledge seeing you maybe you weren’t really there and if they did look up at you it wasn’t the kind of look you or anyone else could possibly have wanted and you did your best not to look back and they continued whatever they were doing as if you weren’t there but you knew they knew you were there and weren’t the least bit happy about it and so you felt like you just stuck out like a throbbing red lesion and you put down your tray before almost tripping over the bench and you kept your head down even as you sat and ate your tuna fish as fast as you could without getting it all over your face which you obsessively wiped with the completely inadequate napkin until it was so mayonnaise saturated that you maybe had left a dry surface area the size of a dime once you had balled the shredding napkin all up to contain the grease within but which still managed to leak out and which you could feel on your cheek and even worse choking which you were careful to avoid doing because of the one time you gobbled down your sandwich so fast just to get out of there that a piece of bread got stuck in your throat and you started to choke and cough and you desperately tried to stay quiet and inconspicuous by keeping your mouth closed while you were coughing and choking but the pressure was too much and the bursts of compressed air forced your mouth open enough to shoot some spittle that brought with it a gob of mucus to the floor where it splat down and bubbled and slicked the tile and you could see the cute freckled girl with red hair from math class who you kind of liked even though maybe you really were a faggot turned around watching you from the table behind you and visibly gagging when she saw your gob on the floor and the kids sitting near you for once stopped talking even though you prayed they would just keep talking and continue to ignore you and they sat there and stared but of course didn’t do anything and the art teacher who was on duty that day rushed over to you and almost slipped on your snot but grabbed the bench just in time except she missed the bench and both of her hands plopped down on your thigh and all of the kids laughed as they saw her almost fall and once she managed to right herself she banged your back a few times which made things even worse because you weren’t actually choking to death but just trying to get some crumbs out of your throat and each time she hit you they seemed to stick deeper until finally the crumbs had snot-dampened enough to stop the scratching and you almost stopped coughing but not really but at least your coughing had diminished enough that you actually could close your mouth and try to hold it in but each time you coughed inside the outside of your body shuddered so it wasn’t really over until finally it was over and you felt a bit wrung out and a lot relieved and you tried simply to breath normally and sit there and focus on the rest of your sandwich which you ate more carefully now and very quietly until you realized.
You had hiccups.
Which led you to the boy’s room.
In a closed stall.
With your feet on the seat.
And you didn’t breath so you could try to get rid of the hiccups but also because you desperately hoped that nobody would come in and find you there.
And the bell rang.
And you still had hiccups.
But you had to go to class.
And your seat was in the front row.
And your back burned more than usual.
So, what did you want to know about school?
* * *
While we’re on the subject, can we talk about tuna fish? What do you mean, what is there to talk about? Doesn’t it bother you that they call it tuna fish? I mean, everybody knows tuna is fish. So it’s redundant and frankly (I haven’t used the word “frankly” in a while) it just sounds kind of stupid. No. It is not at all the same. Flying can be something other than a fish. So can a trigger. And seriously, so is a cod. I mean, have you ever tried to put a fish over your crotch? But a tuna? A tuna is nothing but a fish. Redundant. So stop arguing and just stay with me for a few minutes.
I mean, if you’re so ok with tuna fish, why don’t you try walking around town saying salmon fish or flounder fish or whatever? I mean, just do it. Watch the way people look at you when you’re in the middle of a conversation and you say “I had the most lovely grilled halibut fish last night” or you’re sitting in a restaurant and ask the waiter for the salmon fish. I guarantee that he will look at you as if you’re some kind of an idiot, which seems entirely appropriate to me. Which is why I think you sound like some kind of an idiot when you say tuna fish, which is something I never do and always just leave it at a simple and respectable tuna. Except when I slip and then make some sort of a joke about it by knowingly rolling my eyes at the person to whom I’ve entirely by accident said the word tuna fish. Who usually doesn’t get it anyway because that is how socially and linguistically entrenched the practice of saying tuna fish is, that even perfectly intelligent people like you don’t see anything even a little bit odd about it.
And you can’t blame the whole thing on etymology, which I know you were about to do even before you looked it up because that’s what people do in arguments like this, they assert facts that they don’t actually know are facts but which are actually verifiable facts if you take a minute or two to check and especially since I’m pretty sure you have a smartphone in your hand or your bag or your pocket or whatever so there simply is no excuse for you being a douchebag by making up facts and treating me as if I’m the stupid one. Anyway, if you had bothered to do a simple Google search, you would have learned that the word tuna comes from the Spanish word atun which itself comes from the 16th century Arabic word tun (you will of course remember that the Arabs spent a fair amount of time ruling Spain) which another so-called authority says the Arabs took from the Latin tunny (and you will again remember that the Arabs in the ninth century themselves took Spain from Christians who davened in Latin) so all of this makes sense but I am here to inform you that none of these words mean anything even remotely like fish so please explain to me why we don’t just say plain old tuna and call it a day.
Don’t get me started on grapefruit.
That’s a whole different kettle of fish.