Sandwiches for Dinner

I was stretched on the couch with my laptop across my chest – knowing very well I should be applying for jobs instead of watching Twitch streams – when my roommate walked in.

“From now on I’m going to make a sandwich every night for dinner,” he said. A storm passed through that night and it looked like the wind tore him apart.

“I’m serious, and I’m starting tonight.”

“It”s eleven thirty,” I said.

He kicked off his shoes and stared at the blank television screen. “Alright, I’ll start tomorrow, but I’m serious,” he said. He then walked down the hall to his room.

Only it wasn’t his room. I watched videos for another hour before I got up and headed to my room, across the hall from his. The light was on but that didn’t stop Tommy from passing out on my bed. The Mario blanket should have tipped him off but it didn’t. He was a Play Station guy.

“Stevie,” I said. I flicked the light on and off a couple times. I took my sweatshirt and threw it at him. Nothing. I wanted to tell him his ex was in the living room ready to make up but thought better of it.

“You want a sandwich?” I asked.

He lifted his head but kept his eyes closed. “It’s too late,” he said.

“No it’s not, I was just fucking with you.”

He pulled my Mario blanket up to his head and scrunched into a pillow.

“Okay, a bacon sandwich.”

“We don’t have any bacon.”

“Okay, a grilled cheese.”

I walked into the kitchen and made a grilled cheese with cheddar. I then made another for myself, using the last two strips of bacon in the fridge. I placed then on their own paper plates and walked back to my room.

“I smell bacon,” he said.

“You’re just drunk.”

He sat up and took the sandwich I set on the bed. I leaned on my dresser and ate.

“Tomorrow night, bacon sandwiches for dinner,” he said.

“Sure thing.”

“Tuna melts the day after.”

“Sounds good.”

“Tuna melts the day after the day after.”

“I guess you had a good first day.”

He stopped eating and wiped his hands on his jeans. “Everyone bought me shots.” He leaned back onto my bed.

I nodded and took the half-eaten sandwich. I finished mine and I felt full, but I ate the rest of his anyways.

I stood up, walked to the doorway and turned off the lights.

“I didn’t finish my sandwich,” I heard him say.

“Yes you did,” I said and closed the door.

Thoughts on a Smoke Outside the Bar

“And what does all this mean?” he asked me before taking a long drag. His voice was calm and contained and I suspected he asked this question to most people he walked outside the bar with.

“How should I know,” I said. I tapped my cigarette over the ashtray because it was next to me. We were the only two outside, the only two that much in need of some smokes. It was ten degrees or so and I remember the way my teeth rattled between drags and spoken words.

This was the first time I smoked a cigarette. I was twenty-three and alone and started speaking with some people at the end of the bar that looked my age. We bought each other rounds of Fireball. Then one of them asked, “You wanna go out for a smoke?” I was drunk and I knew about my father and my grandfather but at that moment I really didn’t give a damn about any of it.

People aren’t kidding when they say cigarettes can make you feel like a man who belongs. This man and I were outside of a sketchy bar in downtown Denver. The kind where all the letters in the sign didn’t light up but that somehow made it more inviting. Simply put, I didn’t feel like myself.

I’m fairly certain the guy told me his name, I just don’t remember. I also don’t remember what we talked about. Only that one question and my answer. I’m fairly certain I talked about Angie and how I needed to get out of New York. I’m fairly certain I mentioned that I got lost and found this bar by accident. He likely said something similar.

Twitter Feed

Because some people get all the engagements…

Stevie was standing on line at the coffee shop, checking his twitter feed. He saw a YouTube celebrity he followed posted a photo. This celebrity posted ten seconds before. The tweet stats were as follows:

54 likes
22 retweets
9 comments

Jesus, Stevie thought to himself. He refreshed his feed. The tweet stats were as follows:

122 likes
78 retweets
23 comments

Jesus, Stevie thought again to himself.

“Sir can I help you?” the cashier asked.

Stevie ordered his sixteen ounce cup of black coffee, paid the two dollars – plus another fifty cent tip – and found a table. He refreshed his feed. The tweet stats were as follows:

224 likes
104 retweets
58 comments

All of this in just over two minutes. What the fuck, Stevie thought. He clicked into the tweet and scrolled through the comments.

“Looks lovely”
“OMG so jelly”
“Wish I was there”
“Jelly”
“I know where to have bae take me”

The coffee burnt Stevie’s lips so he pushed the mug to the side. Hotter than usual, he thought. He then continued reading, forgetting that the coffee ever burned his lips at all.

So many symbols! Stevie never used symbols in his tweets and prided himself on that. He recalled one of his followers commenting on this in a good way, back when he only had twenty-something followers. Stevie was now up to fifty-two followers with tweets that didn’t use symbols. He chuckled. The symbols he chuckled at were as follows:

Smiley faces
Birthday cakes
Thumbs-up
Ghosts
Devil faces with little devil horns.

Stevie then remembered something from the only anthropology class he took in college. Something about how symbols were used to convey meaning, before letters and an alphabet.

So that where we were headed, Stevie thought. Our society’s regressing back to a time of signs and symbols and pictures.

Stevie brought the mug back to himself. He took a sip and his lips didn’t burn. He knew none of that was very important to him, at least not at the moment. Stevie refreshed his feed. He liked the tweet, retweeted the tweet and then left a comment, asking the YouTube celebrity to follow him.

Leg Cast

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 I sat at the back of the bus because it was empty. Almost all the seats toward the front were taken. I wanted to be alone. I wanted to play my Nintendo 3DS for the twenty minutes to work.

Three stops later and the bus was filled with college students. Three stops later, Ian spotted me.

“Travis,” he yelled and then pushed through the standing passengers because all the seats were then taken. I nodded.

“You should sit,” I said.

“I’m good.”

“How’s the leg?”

“Better. I’m going back to the doctor’s next week.”

“So no operation?”

“We’ll see when I go to the doctor’s next week.”

The bus stopped at the university and almost all the passengers hopped off. I stood up with them.

“You really should take my seat,” I said.

Ian shrugged his shoulders and sat down. I then realized that almost all the seats at the back of the bus were then empty. No more college students.

“Playing anything good?” he asked.

“Pokemon Alpha Sapphire.”

“Cool cool. I played Omega Ruby in the hospital.”

I shut my 3DS and shoved it in my bag. Travis shifted in his seat and stuck out his left leg. The cast was thick and had names scribbled all over it.

“If I had a sharpie I’d let you sign it right now.”

I smiled and looked straight ahead. The bus started to fill again with workers headed downtown just like the two of us. Some wore suits and others wore jeans and flannels like me. No one else seemed to have a broken leg.

“I’m surprised we haven’t run into each other more,” Ian said.

“I usually grab a later bus.”

I sat down next to Ian and pulled out a sharpie. I kept markers and pencils and a sketchpad in my bag because I recently got into drawing. Or rather, I got back into drawing, after a fifteen year hiatus.

I leaned over and looked for a spot to sign my name. Only the bus driver slammed the break and I toppled over. I stood up and looked down at my flannel and saw a black streak across the top.

“It’s not that noticeable,” Ian said.

I signed and put the sharpie back in my bag. “Let me sign the cast another time.”

“We should grab a drink after work. It is Friday.”

We said nothing for the next minute and waited for the bus to stop in front of the building where Ian worked. Only a few small companies worked in the building and Ian’s was in the process of relocating to the larger building across the street.

“I’m serious. I haven’t seen you since you left.”

“I’ll text you,” I said.

“You better.”

He then got up and hopped off the bus. Literally. He balanced on his crutch and used his good leg to hop down the two steps. I pulled out my 3DS because closing the system only put it in sleep mode and I wanted to save the battery.

Two stops later I got off the bus. I then removed my flannel shirt, stuffed it in my bag and walked to the cheapest coffee shop in town.

I suppose I could tell you how Travis broke his leg. I was there. We went to a bar to celebrate my last day. But that’s a story for some other time.

Coffee Shop Tease

“You order an egg sandwich every day,” I said to my roommate Charlie. I walked with him to the coffee shop near the house we rented. We both understood the need for routine and adopted this as our morning office space.

Charlie said nothing and started eating. I didn’t mind the smell of the eggs and cheddar cheese. I would’ve ordered one everyday too. But seven dollars? That would have been thirty-five dollars a week, assuming I didn’t go to the coffee shop on weekends, which I almost always did. Thirty five dollars equaled a week’s worth of groceries.

We shared the table and kept to ourselves. I wanted to send thirty or so emails, but I was distracted. Distracted by a goddamn egg sandwich. Honestly, it was more about the money than the sandwich. I started calculating in my head the cost of cheddar cheese, a dozen eggs, and a loaf of bread. Fifteen dollars, tops, depending on the quality of each ingredient. If every sandwich contained two eggs, one slice of cheese and two slices of bread, I could have had six sandwiches a week.

Charlie left around eleven to our house for some scheduled Skype calls with his boss, who was based in New York City. I stayed because I still had twenty emails to send. Then I wanted to do some writing. Or watch YouTube videos.

“Is this seat taken?” this guy said. He was tall with a man-bun and a few day-old stubble, much like myself.

Now, I preferred to sit at a table by myself and only made exceptions for a couple people. But the coffee shop was popular and most people had to share tables. I avoided this, and a couple times made some excuse that I was saving a seat for my girlfriend. One time I said I was waiting for my grandmother, and the man next to me traded his seat for the other at my table, which had a shortened leg. No one wanted to sit in a chair that tilted, especially an old woman.

But this morning, I let this guy sit with me. I didn’t want to feel like a dick.

“You’re certainly busy typing away,” he said to me.

I nodded and smiled. “I have a deadline to meet,” I said, which I suppose was true. It depended on the deadline. The emails had to go out by end of day, that was true. But the other deadline I imposed on myself, that one was three days away. This guy I didn’t know didn’t need to know that.

I sent off another couple emails before I was distracted again. I wasn’t really a dick, I thought. I just didn’t like to be disturbed. I was a guy who was easily distracted, and if that meant not wanting strangers sharing a table with me that should have been alright.

But then, I thought, why did I go out to coffee shops in the first place? Didn’t I just invite myself to be interrupted? And the people here are typically friendly, otherwise they wouldn’t spend their days at coffee shops. Was I a goddamn coffee shop tease?

The waiter came over and served this guy an egg sandwich.

“You ever have one from here before?” this guy asked.

“Nope.”

“They’re freaking awesome.”

“Good for you.”

The guy let out a small laugh and returned to reading on his tablet.

Alright, now I really felt like a dick. He was probably regretting that he sat at my table. But it wasn’t my table. I chose to sit here just like the person before me, and the person after. Nothing at this coffee shop was mine.

Another hour or so passed and I finished sending off my emails. I was hopeful that I’d hear from someone this time. An interview was all I wanted.

“I’ll try the egg sandwich the next time I come here,” I said to the guy.

“You won’t regret it!”

That night I spent forty dollars on whiskey, greasy fries and a Lyft ride home.

The Room You Rent

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The room you rent comes with an abstract painting on the wall – a canvas painted red with a single white streak through the center. The room you rent comes with a queen-sized mattress with blue and gray stripped sheets. The room you rent has a single window, too small for watching the neighbors or just looking out to the quiet street you now live on.

The room you rent comes with a dresser, end table and lamp left behind by the room’s former occupant. He moved back to Pittsburgh to help look after his mother, or so you were told. These are now yours, though to you ownership is a tenuous word. You’ll leave them behind when you move out.

Placed on top of the bed that isn’t yours is a Mario cotton comforter – a gift from your parents for your high school graduation. That was ten years ago, class of 2005. Your parents forwarded the invitation to the reunion but you never responded.

Placed on top of the dresser are story anthologies, essay collections and Rabbit, Run. You’d be if lying if you said you’ve read them all. Even if you did, you wouldn’t admit it – you’re the kind of person who doesn’t believe one should be cocky about those things.

Placed on the end table that is now yours are journals that you’ve brought wherever you’ve gone. The oldest one is filled with lists – favorite songs and favorite countries and favorite words. As a kid you were obsessed with lists. “Learn to Fly.” Mozambique. Aviator.

The journals are different now. You use them to keep a record of the bars you get drunk at and the strangers you meet and the rooms you rent. This room will only be yours for another couple days. You’re leaving for another town, but here you are, writing everything down.

Zachary With the Perfect Hair

It was windy that day, though not too windy. At least, not windy enough to keep Zachary and Tom from sitting outside of the sandwich shop for lunch. Zachary ordered a turkey club. Tom ordered a BLT.

“Some party last night,” Zachary said.

“Yes it was,” Tom said. Tom would have said more, but he was distracted by the way Zachary’s dark hair waved in the wind. Pretty awesome, he thought.

“I gotta have people over more often,” Zachary said with a mouth full of sandwich.

Tom nodded and thought about the party Saturday. Zachary’s apartment on 55th Street was small but had enough room for Tom and their other co-workers. The night involved beer pong and a bong. They thought about going clubbing but decided against it and Tom was relieved.

“I don’t really remember everything that happened,” Zachary said.

“You kept texting and calling this girl but you never told us who she was,” Tom said.

“Oh, I knew who she was, ” Zachary said.

Tom started to think about Zachary’s hair at the party. It was gelled back and looked like a polished helmet. The last time Tom put gel in his hair was back in the fifth grade. The gel caused so much dandruff everyone in his class thought he had lice. Childhood trauma.

“I’m surprised Jessica didn’t schedule a one-on-one with you this afternoon,” Zachary said. “It is review time.”

Tom shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know, it’s probably good news for you.” Really, he thought to himself. How the fuck could someone’s hair be that goddamn perfect?

That afternoon Zachary resigned. He told Tom they would meet up for a drink so he could tell Tom about it. He never did.

For the next several years, until Tom moved his family to San Diego, he always talked about this guy Zachary with the perfect hair.