SAGINAW, MI—According to Franklin Middle School seventh-grader and closeted homosexual Ben McElroy, the highlight of his day is the 30 minutes between third and fourth period when he eats lunch on a staircase by himself.
"It's nice to eat alone while other people are in class or in the cafeteria," McElroy told reporters Wednesday as he finished the bologna sandwich his mother had prepared and packed neatly into a brown paper bag for him that morning. "No one bothers me, it's safe and quiet, and I get to enjoy my lunch."
"It's not so bad," a smiling McElroy added.
McElroy, who has revealed his sexual orientation to no one but is unceasingly ridiculed by his peers for perceived feminine qualities in his voice, dress, and gait, confirmed that he enjoys his solitary meal on the staircase far more than the bus ride to school, the walk from the bus to homeroom, finding an unobtrusive seat in the back of every class and hoping he doesn't get called on, receiving anonymous text messages from classmates telling him to kill himself, and every other moment of his day.
In addition, McElroy said that as his lunch period approaches, he enjoys staring at the clock on the wall and eagerly counting down the minutes until he can finally sit and eat alone on the seldom-traversed staircase in the school's South Hall.
"Sometimes when I'm in third period, I get this excited feeling inside knowing lunch is coming up," said McElroy, adding that the solitude offered by his staircase location allows him plenty of time and space to perform his usual ritual of carefully laying out his lunch on the step in front of him and moving through it piece by piece. "It's probably the most excited I get all day. I'd come here on weekends if they'd let me."
McElroy, who sources reported has been called "faggot" on 43 separate occasions in the past month, confirmed his favorite lunch spot is strategically located on the exact opposite end of the building from both the gymnasium and the hall most frequented by the school's eighth-graders.
The 12-year-old also told reporters it "felt cool" knowing he had a little corner of the school largely to himself for a moment.
"It's good that the staircase is also near the band classroom, in case I need to run there for help," said McElroy, adding that the band teacher, Mrs. Maki, is nice to him and always smiles and says hello. "I used to try to sneak my lunch into the library, which I liked because I could read. But a librarian caught me and told me I wasn't allowed to bring food in there anymore, so I had to stop."
"That's fine," McElroy continued. "The library isn't the best spot anyway because it's near where Justin and the baseball players hang out."
McElroy then ate a handful of Goldfish crackers and softly hummed a song to himself for approximately two minutes.
After taking a moment or two to carefully clean the area around him and stash all of his lunch refuse back into his brown paper sack, McElroy quickly gathered his book bag and stood up.
"I'm sorry, I have to go now," McElroy told reporters abruptly. "I need to get to my next class before the bell rings and the halls fill up."