The Canteen [That One Boy who Stayed On]

It was a regularity. The space laid quiet, nonchalant and silent, apart from the occasional clatter of pots and pans in preparation.

It was a time of stretched and lengthy moments, that is, before the familiarity of the bells sounded. It finally did.

Lunch break.

Little Phil nearly tumbled over, as the class spilt over like an overturned cup; leaving him, a single drop behind. For a moment like eternity, he reached where the others had already headed.

“They must be hungry kids”, he thought.

He deciphered the queues, one by one.

Seems like the first stall is the preferred one, or simply because their line moves slower?

“one, two…four”, he counted.

The first girl wore her hair in a beautiful ponytail, while the boy behind her had his hair shaved neatly by the sides.

A contrast of swiping oceans and clean-cut shorelines.

Dressed in a warm and crisply ironed uniform, little Phil himself was impeccably handsome with a childish grin. Occasionally, one of his hair will stray out of place, like the rebellion he was.

With time, he marked out the favourite spots of different groups of friends, and the individuals that always ordered a certain food.

For perhaps familiarity was comforting to them.

Immersed in his observations of ravenous kids, his nervousness fell away.

He always felt uneasy in class, but never in the canteen. He felt home right where he stood, amongst the cluttered crowds and delicious wafts.

“The odds of a packed lunchbox is about 1 in 10”, he observed.

Delicious jelly sandwiches, with the occasional treat of peanut butter, proved the most popular.

Little Phil construed different recipes in his head, all the time.

He imagined himself concocting new happiness with a few swirls of the spoon, and tipping pans over to reveal deliciousness.

The 5 min bell rang, and the kids clamoured to clear their plates away.

Soon, the space returned to the quiet self it was.

All but little Phil stayed on, enticed and enthralled by the happy faces that food left on people.

“Someday, I’m gonna be a chef. ”

He ravelled in this thought of his, and felt a surge of excitement running wild.