12:00 pm

Sunday, December 5

Room C14, Madison High School

My name is Althea. I am fourteen years old and I am doing fine.

That's what I tell everyone in Teen Writers Group on Saturdays and Sundays from nine until two. It's one of those things that the adult in charge has you do to break the ice, so at nine o'clock sharp every meeting we go around the table stating our names, ages, and how we were feeling at that particular moment. My statement never changes, always 'My name is Althea. I am fourteen years old and I am doing fine.' It's only partly true but who cares.

Next, we go around again, reading anything we want to share from the journals we're supposed to keep. I think the goal is to get us to write something during the school week too and not just during meetings. I never partake in the exercise. Mr. Emilio, the aforementioned adult in charge, gave up trying to get me to say anything other than 'My name is Althea. I am fourteen years old and I am doing fine.' after a few weeks, letting me write and listen and observe and break in silence. Most of the time I don't actually write anything, choosing instead to stare at blank pages and let the words of others wash over me. I no longer have any for myself. They're a luxury I can't afford lest something slip.

Everyone's eating lunch now, a noisy affair at a small circular table in the corner. It holds food that the PTA people brought. Today's gourmet menu consists of ham and cheese sandwiches, celery sticks, fruit punch, with some of those vanilla wafer cookies for dessert. I'm not hungry. I almost never am these days. My lack of appetite and everyone else's having it lets me sit in my chair by the window and write in peace for a few moments without fear of being interrupted. No one approaches me and I approach no one. Just how I like it.

Your least favorite loner writer,

Althea Truman