This week I’m using a prompt from Flash Fiction Friday:
“Give us a peek into the life of someone with a form of OCD and tell us how it plays into an event in their life.”
The pre-wrapped sandwiches in the cooler were falling down into the yogurts in the lower level and I had an uncontrollable itch to straighten them as I waited for my food. I took all the ham and cheese sandwiches out and put them on top of a row of lasagna in plastic containers and started stacking the turkey clubs in the far right corner. The problem, I quickly realized, was that the curved bottom of the baguettes they had used didn’t stack neatly onto the equally curved top. However, if stacked in a tight enough formation, they could balance.
“Tim?” the woman behind the counter called, and it took me a few seconds to realize that had been the name I’d given to them. I never gave my real name to food people.
“In a second,” I called, shuffling the peanut butter and jellies to make sure that the diagonal lines of their cuts down the middle were all facing towards the bottom left corner of the cooler. Satisfied with my work, I looked up and realized the counter person was staring at me, the smudged line of her neon blue eye shadow wrinkled with confusion. I slowly took out the hand sanitizer I had in my pocket and dolloped out a double pump.
“Here you go,” she said, trying to regain her cheerful facade as she watched me briskly rub the gel into my skin. Satisfied, I took the plate, careful not to let our fingers touch under the lukewarm recycled fibers, and inspected it. The gelatinous drip of the gravy they’d poured over the thin slices of roast beef had soaked into the porous roll and infected the green beans and carrots, which were horrifying mingled on the far side of the plate. My stomach roiled. I put the plate back down.
“No. No. I’m sorry, I can’t eat this. I explicitly told you that the food groups were not to touch.”
The counter girl looked down at the plate, and back up at me.
“I’m sorry?” she asked. The smudge of her eye shadow extended from the top rim of her eyelid out across the top of her cheek. I felt sick to my stomach.
“You’ll have to redo it.”
“I ain’t redoing it. It’s fine how it is.”
“I’ll have to see a manager then.”
“I am the manager,” she replied coolly.
We stared each other down across the fingerprint smudged metallic surface. She was pretty-ish, in an unkempt, asymmetrical kind of way, like someone who was on the fringes of popularity in high school, just popular enough to think that she could get by on it in real life, but lacking in the easy grace and charm of the really popular kids. She looked like a person who had applied to college several times and failing that, applied to several ambitious jobs she was denied from, and eventually reconciled herself to the idea of working as a manager at the same fucking place she’d been working at since high school, eventually drawing from her title the smarmy self-satisfaction she’d been denied in life by everyone and everything else. In short, she looked like a huge bitch.
I decided to give it one more shot.
“Listen, I know it sounds weird, but I really can’t eat it like this. I’d much prefer if you could please redo it so that the food items are not touching. I am physically repulsed by them touching on the plate. I cannot eat it as it is.”
She laughed. The bitch laughed at me. I re-sanitized my hands in annoyance as she stood there gasping for breath like a dying horse, double chins vibrating, upsetting the whole atmosphere with her staccato chirping.
“Are you serious, buddy, or is this a prank?” she asked.
I pursed my lips.
“Well then,” I said, leaving the plate on the counter. I took a step back.
She looked momentarily dumbstruck, as if the realization that I wasn’t kidding had finally permeated her thick skull into her presumably tiny brain.
“You really aren’t going to take it?”
I shook my head.
“Lunch is on me, sweetheart,” I replied, and casually flicked the pile of sandwiches I’d meticulously arranged so that they fell in a glorious cascade from the top shelf and settled in the dairy section, a chaotic tangle of meat and vegetarian options. Resisting the urge to sanitize my hands, I turned on my heel and walked briskly out, leaving the manager staring fish-faced at my back.