I reach for the rye.
This had better be the best damn sandwich I’ve ever made. That man in there, he’s going to be the one, if I can just get the proportions right. If I can make him fall for me, one slice of provolone at a time, I know I’ll be able to walk away from the life, at long last, once and for all. My talents may keep me in organic bread and top-shelf brown mustard, but all I can think of as I’m with these men, these fat-walleted brokers and nouveau riche startup founders, is the sandwiches that I’m going to make with love and care for someone, whoever he is, and bring to bed on a sunny yellow plate, part of the set we picked out on our registry.
Taking a moist slice between my fingers, I raise it to my nostrils to inhale the scent. I shake off the temptation to take a bite, and set it on the cutting board.
There was an extended period of time – the first three decades of my life, in fact – when I couldn’t have afforded this magnificent loaf, a gorgeous pumpernickel the color of mahogany. Things changed, as they tend to do, when I met Cameron, my former boyfriend-cum-pimp, who opened my eyes to a very different world from the one I was accustomed to. College had not paved the way to success, as my high school guidance counselor had promised, and instead of feasting on the fruits of higher education, I had spent the better part of my adult life dumping canned sliced button mushrooms into my “oriental flavor” ramen and imagining it was gourmet. This is how things remained for spell after my first foray into the business, before I had, shall I say, fleshed out the best material in my playbook and found that I was much better with my hands than with my words, which I’d foolishly thought would take me somewhere.
I spoon out the Dijon, saving a smidge for myself, which inevitably leads to another spoonful. I wonder at the ability of any human being to finish assembling a sandwich after a mouthful of arguably the most perfect substance ever happened upon by mankind.
I was astonished to awake one day with the realization that, seemingly overnight, I could now afford to live like one of the over privileged girls I regularly see noshing on overpriced Reubens on the terrace of the latest overpraised café, the one that everyone has been blogging about, but which will be waved off as passé by end of summer. I’ve never been able to convince myself to take a place in one of those elegant wrought iron chairs and masquerade as someone who belongs in polite society. I know what I am. I know what I’ve become. And yet, I still crave those sandwiches.
The key to using prosciutto efficiently is in the sprouts. Layered between each slice, they balance the zing of the ham, and give the sandwich some height, making it both visually and texturally appealing. Cameron taught me this.
Here’s the thing about sandwiches: a sandwich is never just a sandwich. It’s a gift from a mother to her child. It’s a memory connected to a field trip. It’s an exercise in consumable emotion. It’s nourishment. It’s devotion. It’s love. That’s what I’ve been missing, these past few years, wading through this sea of men, not one of whom has ever, not even once, offered to make me a sandwich, though one outside the business might be astonished at how many have asked me to make one for them.
More sprouts. I cut the deep red tomato into thick slices. A sandwich is not complete without an entire beefsteak tomato.
My colleagues in the industry understand my thing about sandwiches. They can understand why, though I’ll sell my body, I celebrate a sort of sandwich chastity. That is, I will never, no matter how charming he may be or how passionately he begs, make a sandwich for a client. I’m saving my sandwiches for someone who will be there in the morning. When I make a sandwich, I want it to be for love. And I think I might love this man, and if he is just able to taste the love encapsulated in this sandwich, I think I can make him love me, too.
Some people maintain this false idea that the cheese and tomato layers of a sandwich may never touch, but when the time between cheese placement and serving is as short as a walk back to the bedroom, the point is moot. One more slice of rye. We’re almost there.
It’s been a long time, holding out for the love that will motivate me to devote myself to only one man and return to my pursuit of a livelihood based in literature, but nothing has worked out up to this point. The truth is, I haven’t invited a date to my home since I changed careers and since Cameron left, partly because I’ve been too ashamed to sleep with a man who doesn’t know exactly how many men I’ve already been with in the past week, and partly because none of the men I’ve met have been remotely sandwich-worthy. Frankly, if a man is not someone I can imagine making a sandwich for upon request without gritting my teeth at the misogyny of it all, he’s simply not someone I can make a life with.
One slice down the center. I’ve always preferred rectangular halves to triangular ones. They’re easier to hold. I transfer my gift to my best-loved plate. The intense brown of the pumpernickel is inviting when juxtaposed with the gray-blue glaze of the stoneware. I’m regretting not having made two sandwiches, but if he is the kind of man I think he is, he’ll offer half to me without provocation.
Plate in hand. Here I go.
Bio: Holly Harrington is a longtime Red Roomer with a deep appreciation for fine bathrooms. A teacher by trade, she enjoys writing short fiction, children’s stories, stage plays, screenplays, tweets, Facebook statuses, blog posts, and photo captions, as well as the occasional e-mail to her mother.