What I love about this story is the extreme concern the narrator has for what others think, yet most of the concerns stem from his or her own prejudices and opinions about weight and others. Also, I was careful not to expose the gender of the main character, but how fascinating that most readers will assume it is a female. Enjoy and please tell me what you think!
The little cardboard box is small enough to stay on my lap during takeoff but large enough to be a nuisance. When it is clear the box will not fit the seat pocket under the tray table, a tradeoff occurs between the newly deadened cell phone and the absorbing book that beckons, “What will he do next? How will he live?” The book wins and, before the plane finishes its taxi to the runway, the story resumes its previous bombardment. This makes the eventual task of opening the little box and erasing its need to exist a carnival of, “Everyone’s watching. How can this be done to avoid looking gluttonous and fat?”
Inside the box is the almond croissant the Library Bistro was pushing this morning before the light rail trip to the airport. None of the other passengers on this puddle-jumper are endowed with such a little culinary treasure. The tiny bag of honey mustard pretzel mix will be the extent of their gourmet experience. That and a little plastic cup with limited choice of beverages will be the only “food service” this hour flight has to offer. But the box must be deposed, its internal croissant dissolved without waste. So the plane rises, and the show begins.
Among the plastic utensils, the spoon can be dismissed. The fork and knife are essential to avoid smears of orange marmalade on clothes, hands, or worse – the face. Armies of napkins are strategically positioned. As if this feature is not distracting enough, the Library Bistro provided black napkins – a clear message that to dine there is to join in the artistry. In a “to-go” kit for plane travel, however, the message is, “Look at me! No really, look!”
While the knife is barely a match for sawing the hefty pastry into three manageable sizes, at least it stays put in its box like an assistant in a magic show. The passenger to the right is a saint. She ignores the whole debacle. This still leaves the entire left flank on the isle as spectators, not to mention the bustling stewardesses. A premonition of their opinions, clay sculpted judgements of this spectacle, buffet the air. But drink service has ended and the clock is ticking before trash service begins. The show must go on.
Ever so gracefully, a little dab of marmalade here, a poke with the fork there, leaning in for an attempt at a humble bite of the thing. Oh, how this must appear. “Doesn’t look to be hurting for nourishment.” “Don’t think that qualifies as diet food.” Fully formed ceramic thoughts whiz past and smash into the seat back as I plod on. Half gone, nearly finished!
What else must they see? The new wedding band on my fork hand sparkles in the fake light. At least they piece together, “fat and lonely.” The latest shower gel assures a pleasant smell, so there’s that. The last little corner of the croissant flakes apart and fingers are forced to deploy to ensure delivery of the rebel to its doom. Sticky fingers result and black napkins aren’t ideal for cleanup in this particular scenario. Praise the airline management (or whomever makes such decisions) for their distribution of little white cocktail napkins. A couple dabs of Sprite does the trick, and the mission can be resumed.
The little cardboard box is handy for repackaging the napkins, the plastic utensils, the small ramekin of marmalade, and the last remnants of crumbs. A few swishes and two gulps finishes off the Sprite and finally the tray table is ready for the approaching attendant. A relief settles as the box drops into the rolling trash receptacle. It occurs to me that I don’t even recall how the thing tasted. But a clear area and a book to escape any leftover remnants of pottery tastes like survival. The croissant is dead. Long live the croissant.