We were waiting in line, up against the wall in the hallway outside the lunchroom. My feet were on the dark brown strip of speckled terrazzo bordering the wall, it was separated from the main field of the hallway floor by a thin brass line. I stood on the darker brown floor along the wall as if it were a ledge, and the brass line, the very edge of that ledge. The main field, beyond the brass line, was a neutral beige terrazzo. It was speckled with flecks of light. It was the open air above whatever lay below.
We were waiting for the flouride. We didn’t all have to come out and wait for it, only some of us. Like catechism, only some of us had our names called, and only some of us would form a line and follow each other out. After we had eaten lunch, they would call our names, and then we would line up out in the hall outside the lunchroom. From there we could see out the side entrance to the school. The entrance the short bus pulled up to, an entrance no one else used.
As we waited, the bus pulled up. One girl exited the bus holding a book with both arms folded over her chest. She entered the school through this door as we waited in line, as I was balancing on the edge of the dark terrazzo ledge. One of the other kids called her a name, which I didn’t like. He’d done it before. When I’d told him it wasn’t nice, he’d stuck his tongue out at me.
He called her a name, and then the nurse came out and gave each of us in line a small paper cup, it looked like a shower cap in a way. It had ridges up along the sides, as if it were or could be folded. But it was just a small white paper cup. And then she came back with a bottle and she poured the blue liquid into the cup. She said this was the fluoride. Then, when we all had our fluoride in our white paper cups, the nurse told us to pour it into our mouths, and then to swish it. And all the kids would pour it into their mouths, and with their cheeks puffed out, swish it.
I pretended to pour it into my mouth, and I even puffed my cheeks out and made the motions of swishing. I hid the cup within my hand so no one could see it still contained the blue liquid as I swished along with the other kids. And then the nurse told us to spit the fluoride back into the cups, and all the other kids did, while I pretended to, and then we walked in line to the fountain, just farther down the hallway where we each poured the contents of our cups into the fountain’s drain. Then we waited for the rest of the kids from the cafeteria to join us before we were all separated into groups again, and we all went back to whichever classroom our group belonged.
While I waited, I balanced against the wall, on the ledge, my toes hanging over the brass line that was the edge. I could curl my toes as if they were gripping the edge, as if my feet were like hands, or like a primate’s feet, maybe. As I imagined a primate’s feet anyway. I imagined them gripping the ledge and holding on as I dare to lean away from the wall, out over the lighter, beige terrazzo main field of the halfway floor that sparkled under the bright light here at the intersection of two main hallways where I waited with the others.