I lift an empty Starbucks cup from the trash and that’s how I get a fifty-cent cup of coffee. I take it to the patio and feel like god damned royalty. I’m tripping pretty hard, and the sun is a soft, ripe plum suspended in the early morning sky.
I’m a girl so I never pay for drugs. Not on Broadway in Seattle, not at a drum circle in some alley in Eugene where I dumped methadone into my forties, and not this morning in San Diego when some cult leader dosed me down in the downtown exploded meth lab motel that I’m currently calling home. Hopefully one day I’ll have a house and kids and everything but for right now I just need some fucking food.
A woman dressed like an Annie Hall hangover sits at the table across from mine picking at a bacon gouda sandwich. A stabbing tableau.
I pull out my Schopenhauer. A tall, handsome man approaches me from the street. I see we have a philosopher. He says. He prefers Kant, he says. Schop’s too cynical, he says. I haven’t read Kant, so I don’t know what he’s talking about. We jaw on and he’s funny and charming and clever. He’s significantly older than me but not in a creeper way, more like a Paul-Rudd-is-Daddy sort of way. We are already married in my mind, him smoking a pipe by the fireplace while I’m in the kitchen baking cherry pies from scratch. They’ll bleed so red and alive like our life together. I’ll feed my husband my perfect pies and we will laugh forever with the ferocity of lunatics.
The breeze switches and I get another whiff of gouda, distracting me from my maybe-beau. The woman is still babbling loudly at her friend while picking at the sandwich, pushing tiny rat pinches of bread into her mouth. The best part, the oozy cheese, and pink bacon remain untouched. I need to get my hands on that sandwich. It belongs with someone more responsible.
I turn back to Daddy. Through the thin patio partition bars, I look down and see he has no shoes on his filthy feet, his toenails are long and yellow, and have those stains been on his pants the whole time? He’s discussing the parallels between Buddhism and Pessimism when I realize his fly is unzipped. I can see the pink of his dick. Like the bacon. Then, like a miracle except the opposite of one, he starts pissing his pants. Right there in the street. In front of me, Annie Hall, and everybody he pisses his pants. Our house and kids and cherry pies disappear. He continues waxing as I stand to leave. On my way out I grab the sandwich from the woman’s plate. She hollers at me. She hollers for a manager. It’s the sound of all the women in all the world who can afford to pick at their food and take their lives for granted. The sandwich is spongy and bland, the sun is a prune. But they are here, and they fill me up.
Jenny Stalter is a writer and former private chef. Her work can be found in print and online in Longleaf Review, Typehouse Literary Magazine, Maudlin House, perhappened mag, Tiny Molecules, Cease, Cows, and elsewhere. She is a Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, Best Microfiction, and Best American Short Stories nominee. Twitter: @JennyStalter.