CNF: Soup and Sandwich
by pronounced "ahhh" like a sigh
Two posts in one day? What?! This is madness!
Wrote this a few minutes ago as a writing exercise. I thought I’d share. Ignore every and all grammar and punctuation issues. That’s why God invented editors.
Love someone. Mean it.
PS. I miss you all on Twitter too. Thanks for the well wishes and love.
When I need to write and stay away from the Wendy Williams Show or the View, I end up in one of two places. Either the Panera Bread literally 5 minutes from my house or the Borders in Bowie, a good 15 or so minute drive. When I’m feeling particularly adventurous, I will venture into the city and settle at Busboys & Poets. Today, I left the house later than I usually do. Couldn’t seem to propel myself into the shower and into any presentable clothing. But I had to go. This proposal is almost finished and I’m notorious for quiting the game in the 4th quarter (or whatever happened to the Celtics last night.) I picked up a pair of jeans off the floor, found a clean t-shirt and the nearest pair of Havianas. Today was one of those, “barely get dressed” kind of days. Today was one of those, “you gotta get out of the house” kind of days. Today was one of those, “you can be cute tomorrow” kind of days. Today was gray and weight. Dull and wet. Today, was a Panera day.
I drive to Panera and see the entire parking lot filled with cars. Lunch rush. Wrong time to come. Just as I was about to talk myself out of being there, a black Escalade pulls out of a space, a few feet from the entrance.
The universe wants me to finish this proposal too. Maybe, God’s tired of my agent and friends praying that I’d just get it done already! I pull into the spot and breathe for a second. I know how weather affects my mood and I don’t have time for any dip today. Things are fine, I’m not going to let my broken brain convince me of anything else.
As I expected, the place is packed, the line to order stretches into the second set of double doors. I don’t know how many “Excuse me’s” I tossed around before I made it all the way into the restaurant. When the smell of food hits me, my stomach grumbles a reminder that we’ve only had ice today. I tell my stomach, “That if she wants to stand in line for 30 minutes, she’s welcome to but I need to sit down.” My stomach weighs her options and steadies herself momentarily. I need to find a table. I see the regulars already commandeering their spaces. In Panera, it’s all about outlets and windows. Today, they can keep their windows. Staring into a soggy and dull parking lot was not going to help me get any work done. All I needed was an outlet.
Actually, after surveying the landscape, all I need is a chair. The outlet can come later. I see people, trays in hand wandering around the restaurant like the first day in a new school. I make my way to the middle of the restaurant and like a delivery from Jesus, a small table just sitting there. Nobody even looks at it. For a second, I’m not sure it’s real. Why is everyone in this busy restaurant ignoring that table? What’s wrong with it? Is the chair broken? The table? Is it too loud? When did I get so cynical? It’s a place to sit and a table, Bass, take it and sit down.
I thank the heavens and shoe sales for the table. There’s no outlet but beggars are losers or… however that saying goes. After I unpack, and start my laptop. I sit down and notice that 3 feet from me is another table and half a booth with an outlet underneath. There is a group of women, nursing smoothies and water, sitting and talking. Three of them, two Asian and one white. The older woman looks like one of the younger ones. I let my brain accept that they are mother and daughter. Anything to stop myself from obsessing. Sometimes all I need is an answer, it doesn’t have to be the right one.
The group is spread across the both tables at the half booth. I watch them out of the corner of my eye, hoping that all they are are those smoothies and will be finished soon. My laptop is fine but my phone’s battery is drained. I need that outlet. No sooner do I start sending them a “You must leave now.” message with my mind, two men return. One older and Asian; the other younger and white. They’re carrying trays of food. My heart sinks momentarily until the younger Asian woman scoots over, allowing her “mother” and friend to slide in closer as well. The men sit down. They begin to talk. I’m not interested in their conversation, I’m interested in the now vacant single table the one with the outlet underneath it. I rise to grab my bag and toss it on the table. Claiming it.
That’s when I see him, this older white man who appeared to be wandering around for ages. He has that look on his face. That “I have to be back at work in 20 minutes. I need to sit down. The floor is fine.” look on his face. He catches my eye and I motion to my lovely outlet oasis. He nods a thank you and sits down. I sigh and try to keep my bottom lip from poking out.
I watch him out of the corner of my eye too. He shuffles a bit, deciding between the booth side or the chair. He settles on the booth side and sits. You can almost hear him breathe a sigh of relief into his soup before he eats.
The group next to him doesn’t notice him. They’re too busy talking and laughing amongst themselves. He bends himself into his bowl, one false move and his entire face will be in that bowl. I picture this and laugh. He looks up slowly and finds me watching him. I pretend that I’m staring off into space and fake a cough. I’m not sure why. I turn back to my laptop, pull up my proposal and smile at the awesome title of my awesome book.
I still watch the man out of the corner of my eye. The battle has not been forgotten, I need that outlet. He eats quickly and purposefully. I’m not sure he even tastes the food. He moves from soup to sandwich in one fluid motion. He takes what feels like four bites and then lifts himself from the booth. Grabs his tray and disappears around the corner.
Wow. I’m impressed for the full 5 seconds it takes me to grab my computer bag and place it on the seat probably still warm. I transfer my belongings from table to table. I plug in my laptop and spend a few seconds smiling to myself. My stomach grumbles, before I shush it again, I look up and realize that the lunch rush has died down. There are only a few people milling about the cashiers, heads raised trying to decide between The Pick Two or the full meal and if they Pick Two which two? Soup and sandwich or Salad and sandwich?
“And what’s this about macaroni and cheese,” a woman asks
I decide that food is necessary before I can begin. My stomach rumbles a co-sign.
So before I can sit down, I’m in line and I order. I get the same thing every day.
Pick Two. Mozzarella and tomato on cibatta and strawberry, poppy seed and chicken salad. Hold the chicken.
Today, I begin, “Pick Two. Mozzarella and tomato on cibatta and…”
I remember the grey and wet outside. Remember the tendency I have to quit things at the 4th quarter. Remember this inexplicable sadness tugging at my otherwise solid corners. Remember the names I vowed to forget. Remember how I need something to warm the center of me. Remember how much the universe is on my side. Remember the man and his soup and his can’t slow down to enjoy it.
“…the garden vegetable with pesto soup. Please.”
I will eat it slowly.