I just wanted some comfort food. I had just emerged from a more-than-usual emotionally draining therapy session. I was spent, exhausted and hungry as if I had just completed a Shaun T T25 workout. I longed for a hot shower, comfy sweats and socks and my favorite fuzzy blanket to wrap around myself as I got lost in TV, or even better, a nap. The latter was not likely to happen.
It’s rare that I nap on purpose. As much as I say “I wanna take a nap,” I don’t actually make it happen. I find other things to do, though they’d be better left undone because of my lack of energy and focus. For that specific reason, my unicorn naps are the best kinds. The ones that sneak up on me. I’ll be lying on the couch, remote in hand, cell phone nearby, sunlight peaking through the curtains. Next thing I know, I’m waking up with a crook in my neck, dry mouth, the cable TV screensaver on display, and it’s dark outside.
Nap or no nap, what wasn’t debatable was that I had to eat. My weary soul and body would not last for the nearly 45-minute long subway ride to Bed-Stuy from Canarsie, plus the walk from the subway to may apartment. Even then, it would take an additional 30 minutes to close to an hour to eat whether I cooked something—not in the mood—or placed an order for delivery or pick up. I also didn’t want to stay and eat in Canarsie. I wanted to be home.
I decided to stop at a bodega near Rockaway Parkway station to pick up a grilled cheese sandwich. I was going to break my rule of not eating in public. I quelled the feeling of guilt and silenced the made-up voice of disappointment of my mother. Memories of my mother are fading, but none of the lessons she taught me at 8 or younger involved not eating in public. I’m sure of it. But I’m also sure she would not approve. Oh, well. I was hungry. I’m grown. And she was not present. Rest in peace.
I ordered the grilled cheese sandwich at the counter and snatched a small bag of original Wise potato chips while I waited. I had water in my purse. After I paid, I strolled the short walk to the train station and grabbed a seat in a far corner of a subway car in the middle of the platform. That car would drop me right at the stairs when I needed to transfer to the A at Broadway Junction. The L train tracks had been under construction for months, causing delays in service, gaps as long as twenty to thirty minutes, so I was happy a train was already sitting at the station waiting for passengers to board. Question was, when would it be departing?
I could hardly contain my excitement as I removed the sandwich from the paper bag was within a black plastic bag. This was before the New York plastic bag ban. In my gluttonous fugue state of unwrapping the wax paper then aluminum foil, I didn’t notice that something was horribly amiss until I reached for one of the halves to bring to my lips.
The freaking bodega dude had cut my fucking sandwich straight down the middle! What the fuck? Everybody knows you’re supposed to cut it diagonally. I saw red. My appetite plunged. I set the sandwich back down on all the wrappings in my lap. I inhaled through my nose and sucked my teeth. Because of my headphones, I don’t know how loud I was, but I vaguely recall seeing other people glance at me.
The train had not yet departed. I considered returning to the bodega to trade my sandwich. What stopped me was that the walk to the exit of the station was about as a long as the walk to the bodega. I had already swiped my card, getting $2.75 withdrawn from my balance. And I wanted to get home.
I bit into the rectangle half, both enraged and saddened that I was missing out on the exquisite feeling of biting into the tip of a triangle. It’s scientifically proven that sandwiches taste better when cut in half and even better when cut into a triangle. Even when rolls are cut in half, you angle the pointy part into your mouth to take that first bite. Wraps are cut in half at an angle to create a pointy tip.
Although I could imagine my mother looking down on me, disapproving of my eating in public on the train, I’m sure she could appreciate the nostalgia I had for eating sandwiches that she cut into triangles for me as a child. Simple grilled cheese, ham and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, tuna fish sandwiches. Sometimes tuna fish sandwiches served as appetizers during special occasions with the crust trimmed off.
The sound of my mother’s voice is fading from memory, but I remember her cutting my sandwiches into triangles. As did my grandmother and my aunts when they made sandwiches for me. When I made my own, I did the same and continue to do so. I carried on the tradition for my goddaughter and beaus when I made them breakfast toast. I was under the impression everyone did. By law. Even on cooking shows, the chefs cut the sandwiches into triangles if they use sliced bread, or at an angle when it’s baguettes or subs. Then they display them by criss-crossing the triangles over each other as the delicious contents spill or out into the plate. Chefs, like mothers, grandmothers, aunties and girlfriends, do this as not only to proudly display their handiwork, but to present it with love. Only monsters cut straight down the middle.