I remember watching you from across the table. You unzipped your power ranger’s lunch box, revealing a triangular box. I glanced at my sandwich and back at your chocolate pie and questions ran through my six year old mind. Is this what you ate every day? How come you got a chocolate pie and not a sandwich? In order to satisfy my curious first grade self, I decided to ask him the exact questions that were racing through my mind. You were about to take a satisfied bite, but you looked up at me shrugged and started to eat. I quietly watched you eat your pie and a small part of me was envious that your mom allowed you to have chocolate pie for lunch while my mom gave me the typical sandwich. This became my usual routine – I watched you eat with intense curiosity while I started to envy my own meal.
Unfortunately, not everyone had the gentle curiosity I possessed. Rumors started to spread around the small school and we all came to realize that you didn’t eat sandwiches with ham or bologna in between the white bread because you were a vegetarian. The only knowledge we had of vegetarians was that they didn’t eat meat and that it was weird to us, so my classmates started thrusting their ham and bologna sandwiches in your face pestering you by asking “Ooh, meat! Are you afraid of it? Do you want to eat it? It’s really good!” And you didn’t understand at first, but you slowly had to harden your heart and quickly hide your food and loudly push those who bother you at lunch. All you wanted to do was eat. I sat in my spot and I also wondered why you quickly backed away from the ham and bologna sandwiches, why you never reached for the chicken patties and why you always ate that chocolate pie.
One day, you bought Indian food and you ate with your hands. If you were my classmate today, I wouldn’t have given a second thought. Since we were children, we didn’t know better. The only thing that possessed us were questions. The naan bread you used to accompany your curry and rice looked repulsive to us with the bright and spiced meal being too loud for us and I joined in berating your lunch. I remember glancing at you after I gained the thrill of teasing you about your lunch and the look your responded with me was full of hurt and betrayal. From then on, I stopped my teasing, but I stopped sitting across from you. Sooner than later, I learned my lesson in third grade when my mother packed me seaweed for snack and I listened and watched my classmates gag and shout in fear of the green, salted snack I cherished. In that instance, I understood how you, a Hindu boy and how I, a Chinese girl were united in our classmates’ repulsed reactions to our cuisines. Our confusion slowly turned into a routine disengagement from the words tossed at us as these discourses slowly became more frequent. All we wanted to do was eat.
Written: 11/16/16 10:15pm