In the eighth grade in Public School I was already hooked on the concept of friendship to confirm my sense of worth. So, when I learned that there was going to be a spring celebration luncheon, I joined the buzz knowing that this was the acknowledgment of having many good friends. It was a buffet where you artfully piled your plate with donated ethnic foods and strategically chose your seat to be identified as a member of the A-crowd. I patiently stood in line, decorated my plate carefully with food and looked for the right place to be seated.
The cafeteria was empty except for one table. It was already filled with buzzing drones and furthermore, additional chairs had been pulled tighter around to press into the crowded core. There was no way that I could survive pressed into that swarming mass of insects clinging to a queen bee. I decided that my social prowess was sufficient enough to be the nucleus of another table and sat down at an empty table nearby. The napkins, knives and forks were all set up with a glass at each seat and I put my plate down and pretended that I was happy and confident.
My pulse shot up when an attractive girl came over to my table and asked if anyone was sitting across from me. I said no and with that, she scooped up the setting and pulled the chair away to the populated table. Without asking, her friend scooped another setting and chair. Now, no one could occupy the void across from me if they want to. I felt like a butterfly retreating back into his cocoon as winter unexpectedly returned. I sobbed on the inside while I presented an unconcerned face.
Then, as I felt I was bobbing alone in a vast sea, Sharon, a casual friend, came with her plate of food and without asking, pulled over a chair and a place setting and sat facing me. Her friend Lee soon followed her. They seemed to want to be at my table in spite of the illusion that the in-crowd was just a few feet away. I looked into their faces and exploded with contentment and a sense of self. At that moment I understood for the first time the meaning of a loyal friend. What a way to start the teen years!