Nick hates biting his fingernails but they are long and polluting his ability to properly prepare his favorite sandwich. Sure, lettuce is easy to grip, but the tomato isn’t. Lengthier nails make it difficult to grasp something so smooth and slippery. Plus, the leftover residues and juices get stuck beneath the hangnails, dry up, and, for the rest of the day, feel sticky. So he gnaws his nails to prevent this and his anxiety from settling in again before lunch.
Though, brief and completely worth it, the sandwich remains the better part of his day. Ham, yellow-American cheese, crisp lettuce, Jersey tomatoes, and some light oil and vinegar for seasoning. While devouring the delicious self-created deli treat, Nick forgets about the worldly possessions eating his soul. For those few, brisk moments, he is a person again. He isn’t his phone bill or his finite job selling paper products. He has a pulse and is capable of smiling. Nick is the one eating.
Back in the depths of his mind, he knows that the second he pops the last corner into his mouth he will return to his lethargic decay. So he chooses to enjoy each bite. One reminds him of his fifteenth birthday. He lost his virginity to Veronica Townsend of the twelve grade. She smelled like a garden. The next brings back the memory of his first car: an ’89 Ford Mustang that made a chomping sound when he did donuts in the school’s parking lot after baseball practice. He never fixed that muffler. Another bite reminisces back into college when he was a freshmen rushing Chi Psi at Rutgers. They made him drink beer out of an old, worn-out baseball cleat. It tasted like vinegar.
And before he knows it, Nick is swallowing the last bite. It doesn’t taste like anything, nor does it smell like anyone. There’s never any physical sense that reminds him of something in the last piece. It’s always a swift kick to the stomach and it’s never enough to satisfy him.
He glances down at the empty paper towel, seeing the crumbs and quickly comparing them to the holes in his life. Then he stares at his fingernails, which are still jagged from being chewed on. Anxiety has swollen back into his brain, heart, lungs. Lunch break is over and in another five hours, he has to pick up his daughter from soccer practice. That repeats until the weekend when he has to bartend both nights until close.
He wonders if his nails will grow back by then. He sighs.
Right now, all Nick wants is another sandwich.
GLEN BINGER is a writer and a beach kid. He is a member of The Broad Set Writing Collective, the editor of 50 to 1, and a serial writer for eFiction Magazine. Check out his blog, http://glenbinger.blogspot.com to learn the ways of bro. He is the Lil’ Wayne of literature.