Reaching A Limit, Then Breaking Through

Reaching a limit, then breaking through (The Third Movement)

No Comments 18 October 2011

In what seemed like hours his hands finished sliding down his face, then his arms flopped to the sides as he stared at them. I’ve never seen a look like that before. Dejection, anger, misery, rage all supported with a lingering sense of motivation.

“I don’t know” he hissed. “This is a deli. You come here, tell me what you want, and I cut. End of story. How do I know what is sausage spicy”. As he said sausage he fingers went up indicating quotation marks.

“I’ve got customers waiting, and you’re holding up the line”. As he mentioned the customers he looked at me and nodded. I nodded back acknowledging I hated this bitch and her antics as well.

We had bonded.

Sally Shithead and her bonehead boyfriend were mortified. Mouths hanging open, they were scared stiff. Not to mention that the girl had been gnawing away on something that was now sticking out of the side of her mouth. It took a few seconds but they came to.

“Fine, forget it. “ she said in a huffy way as she shuffled away. In the distance I could hear them talking about how rude he was and how offended they were. There’s a ridiculous notion…being offended by someone telling you what is actually happening. Being offended when the reality you have created is actually brought to your attention.

Here I was face to face, eye to eye with the man that had haunted me for months, completely in awe of his moxie. He looked at me for a second.

“These people. They come here and have all these questions. How the hell am I supposed to know? You tell me what you want and I cut. I’ve got customers waiting that know what they want. Do you want to spend an hour at the deli counter waiting for someone to make up their mind?”

I shook my head.

He looked off in the distance as the couple made their way past the frozen meat section then looked back at me. In that look we shared a sense of communal suffering that comes with the march of life. We connected. I knew that suffering and felt it often. My hatred melted away. I realized that he and I were the same. He’d just been worn down a little more by life’s erosion. Who’s to say I won’t either?

I ordered my turkey breast and when he heaved it at me I didn’t even want to order a half pound of American cheese even though he lingered.

Reaching A Limit, Then Breaking Through

Reaching a limit, Then breaking through (The Second Movement)

No Comments 14 October 2011

When he finally heard your order he’d take his sweet ass time getting it. And he never remembered how much you wanted.

“How much d’ya say?”
“A pound”
“What!” cupping his hand.
“A pound”.
He grunted.

I wouldn’t say he was deliberate because he definitely did a half-assed job. But it seemed like every movement, every breath, contributed to his collective, ever-growing misery. When he was done with the order he’d walk up to the counter and throw the package up there, often times forcing you to catch it as it slid over the front. In an uncharacteristic move, after he launched your order, he’d quickly dart to the back of the deli before you could order anything else. My cheese intake has slowly waned based solely on the fact that I couldn’t get the order in. So I would just eat bread and turkey for lunch. Every day. Every time I took a bite out of my cheese-less sandwich there he was, in all his squatness, lurking in my mind. The miserable prick.

I hated him. I hated how I had to think about him every day. Even if I was having a good day, I’d get to lunch time take a bite of my sandwich and exhale sadness as I chewed. The stringy tendrils of lunch meat holding my life together unraveled with every cheeseless bite, even if my digestion could have used the lack of dairy.

I tried going to other grocery stores in the area but its not the same. I had a routine. I had a system. Toilet paper, paper towels, chicken breasts, bread, rice, fruits then the deli counter. With a new market there’s a new order. Even a new odor. It’s like having a great pair of pants that fit in all the right ways. Then, one day, you get a new pair of pants and, yes, all the parts are there – pockets, zippers – but there’s a pervasive sense of dissonance. So I went back. Besides, I wasn’t going to let this douche disrupt my routine.

Screw him! I’d go toe to toe with him just to see who folds first. Then it happened.

Yesterday I was on my weekly trip to the market. I’d gathered my things and made the final march to the deli counter. I was second in line. Ahead of me was a girl who possessed that amazing ability to piss off her entire surroundings simply by her presence. I was pissed off she and I had to breathe the same air. You know the type. Self-perceived entitlement, severely overweight yet somehow finds a way to justify spandex pants and a tight tank top. She talked  obnoxiously loud to her moronic boyfriend that was just happy to be there. I heard all about their weekend plans. They were having a get together with so and so, and fuckface from the cape was coming up for the party. Real annoying shit. The great part was they were picking up some lunchmeat for the shin-dig and she wanted to sample before she bought.

So there she was asking for a taste of this, or just a thin slice of that. I watched him behind the counter. Blood boiling and rage seeping out of his pours like stale beer smell after a decent bender. He was a powder keg ready to blow and there Sally Shithead was asking the difference between capicola and salami. This was going to be good. The final straw came after this line:

“ I want something spicy. But not like spicy spicy. Something like sausage spicy. Do you have anything like that?”

With his elbows up on the counter he let his head drop and released an exhale of category 5 hurricane proportions. He took a step back and put both his palms over his face. As they slid down his face, excess pieces of cut lunchmeat caught in his stubble. He let out a groan like I’ve never heard before. The gross couple took a step back from the counter. I was watching intently.

Reaching A Limit, Then Breaking Through, The Written Word

Reaching A Limit, Then Breaking Through (The First Movement)

No Comments 11 October 2011

Each time he pulled back the handle of the deli slicer, I watched his rhuematic elbow brush up against his hip.  Silently, I observed the way his eyebrows reacted and knew faithfully that he was a miserable little prick.  He just had that look to him. Distant.  Arrogant.  Mechanical.  Nearly-broken. Regret followed him everywhere he went.  Not a look that scared me, per say, I just knew that I shouldn’t piss him off because he controlled the lunch meat.  And lunch meat was somehow holding my life together.

He was a stout man, with an undefined, squat quality rarely seen since the Paleolithic period.  I could imagine the mats of curled hair that forested his back.  I tore a number from the red machine, this time 36, which sealed my fate in line behind an elderly woman with her eye on roast beef prices, and a young mother juggling two unruly minions.  The old woman’s indecision and price-needling gave me time to watch the man behind the deli counter.  He began to fume as she haggled, a red blush of anger began to show through a face that had been five o’clock shadowed since the day’s first coffee break. If his complexion were a white shirt, that shirt would have to be trampled in dirt for a few hours then gently massaged over a piece of used coal to get the look right. Not to mention his jagged, insect-like teeth jutted out, spewing sadness and half masticated food.  Not that he would ever do this, but if he ever had a zen moment and bent down to smell a flower, the poor plant would wilt from the sheer grandiosity of his grossness.  A miserable little prick.

He was the bane of my existence every week. He made my visit to the deli counter as awful and uncomfortable as humanly possible. I’d try to time it right so I could get the other deli guy, but there seemed to be some type of cosmic magnetism driving us together. Every single time he waited on me. And he REALLY let me know he was waiting on me. I can see him now, just finishing up the previous order putting both elbows on the counter, head hanging down, and exhaling a sigh that must have contained the weight of the world.

“Next”, he’d cough as he looked up in some type of desperation and anger.

I used to say ‘hi’ and try to be nice, but I sensed that just agitated him more, so now I just go right into my order.

“ A pound of the Shaw’s roasted turkey breast, the one that’s on sale”, I’d say.

I don’t know if this was by design or maybe he just had some immense build-up in his ears but he never heard anything I said the first time.

“What!” he’d bark as he turned his head and made that cupping gesture around his ear.

“The Shaw’s roasted turkey breast, the one that’s on sale, a pound”

“You’re going to have to be more specific, I’ve got a lot of turkey breast here”, he’d snap.

“The Shaw’s roasted turkey breast…… the one that’s on sale….a pound”

The only acknowledgement I ever got was when he would waddle off grumbling, half nodding his head. This was on a good day. There would be some days he would ignore me completely. If I ran into the market within a half hour of closing?  Forget it.  I’ve literally stood no more than 10 feet away from him while he was packing up for the night and he wouldn’t even look in my direction. I didn’t want to speak up either. Those deli counters are high and you really can’t see behind them. I sure as shit didn’t want to find out what he’d do when he was out of my eyesight with the right motivation. So I’d just walk away dejected and without deli meats.

The Second Movement due out Friday and brought to you by I Love Sweater Vest Inc.


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