After seventh period, one of my students pops her head back into my empty classroom. It's into eighth period already, but I let her come in, figuring she's here to work on an essay she missed. My assignments, of course, are a lot more important than other teachers' work. So I like to tell my students. Eventually, some of them end up believing. The girl today claims that her eighth period teacher is out of the building. "He just left," she says. "People are just standing around in the hallway."
"By the way," she says, walking over to my desk, "do you have any kind of snack?"
"Nope," I say, face buried in essays.
"I'm hungry," she says, really emphasizing the hun. I don't respond, so she continues, "I get so hungry sometimes. Then I get these headaches."
"Why don't you swing by Mr. A.'s office? He usually has something," I tell her.
"Nah. It's eighth period already. He runs out of stuff by seventh."
"Huh," I say, looking back to the stack of essays. (The stack is currently in my backpack, next to my computer as I'm writing. Mostly ungraded. Gotta finish this post and get going.)
"I don't think we have any food at home," she says. "So, I'll go over to our neighbor's place. It's like I have two homes. Whenever we don't have something, I just go next door."
"Yeah, I sure can eat a lot. And when I don't eat, I get into these really bad moods."
"You're lucky," I say. "One of these days all that eating will catch up to you."
"No way," she says. "You should see my cousin. She's 21, and she eats twice as much as I do. And she's as skinny as I am. Yup. My grandmother, too. We can just eat and eat."
And as she continues, talking about how fourth period lunch is too early, because then she ends up hungry by the end of the school day, I finally get it. She really is hungry. Damn, sometimes I'm slow. I reach for my wallet.
"Hey, listen," I say. "All this talk of food has made me hungry. Feel like sharing a Pop-Tart?"
"Oh yeah," she smiles.
I hand her a dollar. "Buy a cherry one," I tell her. And off she goes to the vending machines. A couple of years back, all unhealthy snacks were removed from school vending machines, replaced by granola bars and Rice Krispies Treats. The Flamin' Hot Cheetos were replaced by the much healthier baked Flamin' Hot Cheetos. I figure my dollar goes the furthest with the Pop-Tarts.
The girl comes back in a flash, hands me the package.
"And it gave me 15 cents change," she says. "So I looked in the other machines and found another 15 cents. Here." She holds out the coins.
"Keep the change," I say. I open the Pop-Tarts, take one out and give her the other one. "Weren't there any cherry-flavored ones?" I ask.
"No, I looked in all the machines."
"No big deal. Strawberry's fine. Now since you're here, why don't you work on that essay?"
"Oh yeah!" she says. "Almost forgot about that."