Eventually, I made some friends, and played along with their games. One of these involved using my lunch box as a pillow – it was white and fairly soft, since it was only made of vinyl-covered cardboard. It broke down fairly quickly, and I was heartbroken when it finally disintegrated completely.
My mother bought me another one at the dime store, but since it wasn’t the beginning of the school year, there wasn’t much selection. I got a sturdy metal lunchbox with Inch-High Private Eye on it, and my mother got an extra discount because it didn’t have a thermos – but my Alice in Wonderland thermos fit inside it, and I didn’t really want another one.
She filled the lunchbox with a food that was different from everyone else’s. Sometimes the difference was small: The American cheese that went on my sandwiches came from a pre-sliced block of slices that all stuck together, instead of the individually wrapped slices that seemed somehow better. These are cheaper, she told me, and they’re exactly the same. But it might not have been the cheese that bothered me as much as the healthy bread she always bought, which wasn’t soft like the Wonder bread I always asked for, but was hard, and brown, and crumbled into sand against the metal walls of my lunchbox.