[Housekeeping - I've decided to write a bit more about stuff other than food. I will still be writing about food though. Please do not be alarmed]
I walk home on autopilot, as I do every day, past the myriad shops that barely make a dent on my consciousness. The school outfitters where my parents are forced to buy every purple piece of uniform that makes us the laughing-stock of the other pupils in the area, the newsagents that sells huge bags of broken sweets for 50p but take an eternity to serve, the chippy surrounded by a stifling haze of rancid fat - all of these blur as I quicken my step.
And as I walk, I slowly replay the day's events in my head. I think about my urge to stick my hand up, even as I feel everyone's eyes burn into the back of my neck. It doesn't matter how often they call me "bod", or "swot", or "teacher's pet" - it's like I have some kind of smart-alec Tourette's. And I sigh and I think at least the teachers like me (of course they don't).
I get to the traffic lights and I pause a while, as usual. As I watch the cars criss-cross in front of me, I hear a hawking, retching noise from the other direction. I wrinkle my noise in slight disgust, but the lights change and I forget about it as I trot on.
I'm on the red slate doorstep and I ring the bell, three times, as usual. My mother opens the door and walks off into the kitchen to get my tea ready. I bounce up the stairs, taking them two at a time, anxious to change out of my school clothes, the purple shackles.
It's only when I swing my rucksack onto my bed that I see it: a yellow-flecked slug of phlegm streaking all the way down the scuffed nylon. It glistens with viscous menace and somehow continues its mottled descent, and I stare at its progress, and I will it to go away.
Tears pricking my eyes, I pick up the rucksack, and empty its contents all over the floor. I yell to my mother, "I need a new bag!" as I push and shove the old one into my pedal-bin.
Then I crawl back down the stairs, shoulders slumped, infected.