Not that I struggled with eating since October, but meals are somehow generally more purposeful now. I forgot to eat all day at work. Today, I went to Acambaro on College Avenue. “No, I don’t want to sit down. You’ll tie me to the chair. Again,” I told the helpful worker. A waitress from a previous visit nodded at me, undoubtedly remembering how insistent I was that she bring me an inhuman quantity of pico de gallo. “What can I get you, then?” She asked. “Ten orders of pico de gallo,” I confidently said. “Ten? Are you sure you want ten?” I waited, pretending to consider it. “You’re right, I better get eleven.” I smiled. “Okkkkaaaay,” she said. “Wow, that’s seventeen dollars after tax,” she added. “Did I set a new world record here? If not, I have another forty dollars if necessary. Pico de gallo affects national security, so let’s not do anything negligent here.” I smiled. She smiled, saying, “Are you going to eat all that pico?” I nodded. “But for reference, what other uses for pico de gallo do you have in mind?”
I waited by the register, pretending to read one of those promotional magazines that look like they are produced by overimaginative marketers who also suffer from a lack of a sense of humor. The woman who rang up my purchase placed the big sack of pico de gallo in front of me. “They didn’t put them all in one container,” she said and shrugged. I shrugged dramatically, too, and pirouetted, bowed, and turned to walk out the door. She probably thinks I’m on drugs, which is ridiculous; I don’t do drugs when I’m drunk.
(If I triggered anyone with the joke about being high or drunk, I would apologize. But you’re pretty much asking for it by reading what I write.)
I drove down to Evelyn Hills shopping center and parked facing the VA and College Avenue. I sat in the car, watching traffic and a parade of interesting people coming and going. I ate all ten pico de gallo cups, sprinkling Tajin on each container and dipping PopChips into them. It’s exactly what I wanted. The pico was fresh and delicious. My shirt and lap probably looked like they belonged to a third grader by the time I was done. Tomatoes, cilantro, onion, chip pieces, and Tajin seasoning covered me. When I finished, I hopped out of my tiny car and brushed myself off furiously. A man who seemed to have fallen out of the unhappy tree stood by his black Mustang and shook his head in my direction. Because I didn’t know what he disapproved of, I turned to face my car and started doing jumping jacks. When I turned back around, he was in his car and definitely no longer worried about expressing his opinion of whatever he thought I had been doing.
I entered the store, one I’d never before been inside, and walked around. It was interesting and a little unsettling, the mixture of products and clientele, as if a strange retail reality show were being filmed on a very limited budget. I found a dozen mylar balloons and wandered the aisles with them. Because I’m sure I looked a little goofy holding a dozen balloons, twice I pretended that the balloons were pulling me slightly off the ground. I repeated the trick at the register, much to the amusement of the cashier. “Yeah, you guys should be careful. You could lose a customer with this much helium in the balloons,” I told her. “You do know it’s not Father’s Day, right? she asked me, looking at the balloons. “Not in Venezuela, where I’m not from,” I told her. She failed to notice the extra ‘not’ in my reply. “Oh? That’s interesting,” she replied.
I went to my car with the twelve balloons and did the impossible magic dance of getting them inside and tying them firmly – and in a way that wouldn’t unexpectedly blind me while I drove. Not that it matters. Driving on College Avenue in Fayetteville is like sticking your hand in a horse’s mouth. I hopped into the car and exited the shopping center. Immediately and without cause, the balloons became a little loose, so I hooked a quick right into the first parking lot. I went around to the passenger side, opened the door, and pulled the middle of the excessively long balloon strings away from the parking brake. As I did so, all the balloons pulled up way faster than I expected. Seven of them sailed away. Five remained loyal to me and in the clutch of my left hand. I stood and watched the seven escapee balloons fire into the sky. The people on Highway 71 watched too. I saw more than one point at them. I love releasing balloons – I just prefer a controlled release. I’d forgotten the #1 rule of balloons: they are never as tightly tied as you’d presume. (This is one of the principal rules of handcuffs and restraints too, but if you’re reading what I write, you already know that.)
I left the remaining balloons where they needed to be, talismans of unusual composition, to remind those who find them that the world is meant to be enjoyed.