The other night I was involved in a game of Foosball with what appeared to be an attractive couple, or at least two people on a date. He had blond hair, and what—despite possible faulty memory on my end—I’m obstinately remembering as a pastel colored Ralph Lauren Polo shirt. His date had one of those expensive handbags with ostentatious adornments, often purchased by women who have little to hold. She also had blond hair. Halfway into the game, at a critical moment requiring intense concentration from the girl, who was struggling at the goalie position with a non-ambidextrous left hand, the guy abruptly asked “so where’s your boyfriend?” without curiosity; that is, in a passive-aggressive tone aimed to imply that their “date” was rendered not just absurd, but a little pathetic, by her emotional and/or sexual unavailability.
In Foosball, the ball will often wander into an existential “sweet spot,” untouchable by either team. Here, as it is agreed upon, one may blow the ball into partisan territory, the inherent entropy of pulmonary wind unbiased toward any particular side. When strangers convene at the back of a bar, a game is usually involved, of polite competitiveness. Before I could inhale, the guy—in alpha male auto pilot—vehemently launched his face towards the table, miscalculating his depth perception, and accidentally slammed his mouth into the wall of the Foosball table with the full weight of his earnestness. Now stoic under the pain of a split lip slowly secreting blood, with maybe even a loose tooth, he hurtfully waved his date off, whose face, for the first time that night, softened with affection.
Today I looked down at my salad and noticed its palette was a Cézanne—of yellow ochres, subdued umbers, and vernal greens, all under the soft haze of summer in Provence—and quickly accepted my broccoli as distant trees, my edamame and corn as the loose scattering of modernist marks, finally arranging the croutons—as some omniscient propagator of an eternal vanishing point—into the infamous Mt. Sainte-Victoire, around which Cézanne’s late-preoccupation revolved. The long arugula bent in the breeze, overlooking the valleys, the saved populace of sunflower seeds perhaps raptured in an imagined tornado. I even made, in the foreground, the small path at which our artist arrives to paint the scene.
When I expressed to my co-workers, also having salads, that one’s shredded cheddar and jack were thick paranoid grooves in a Van Gogh sky, or that a sole cherry tomato was a flaming sun, or that one’s ranch dressing was a Pollockian explosive orgasm, they looked at me with precise nausea. We stabbed our paintings with bio-degradable forks, barely getting enough protein, convinced that if we starved ourselves, our abs would eventually show, along with our ribs. This was not anorexia, but fear of love handles; or simply, fear of love. Fear that someone might not see past the costume of fat into the real us. But here, the collective first person faints, and disappears. It is only I standing, on some invented path, overlooking quiet hysteria.
This morning I fed the cat and went back to bed because it’s Sunday and there’s nothing for me to do. There’s a large music festival happening this weekend in the city I live in, and for any of you to whom such a thing has also happened, you know that such collective patronage has made me feel “left out,” despite the fact that Paul McCartney—whose middle-aged douchbagosity has long eclipsed his innate talent—is the main act. Every facelift tightens the devil inside. I eventually got out of bed (sadly imagining this very piece as being one of my goals), spoke condescendingly to the cat out of misguided resent, and here I am next to who I can only imagine is an Art History major, given the History of Modern Art textbook—whose cover seems imprisoned behind the very reproduction which adorns it, a Mondrian painting—to which she refers occasionally while writing what I can only assume is a “paper” on the subject. When I sat down at this communal table, she recoiled her public radius, bringing the book closer towards herself, even placing some papers on top of the book, as if embarrassed by the subject of her concern. Piet Mondrian painted trees whose branches were, over a decade of consideration, rearranged into a grid-like pattern, until finally reduced to the intrinsic matter of visual representation; namely, the primary colors dedicated to their timeless positions through the rational lattice of a black line. I want to tell her this, over coffee perhaps, but we are already drinking them.
Jimmy Chen is an Asian-American administrative analyst at a public health institution living alone in San Francisco. His writing can often be found at Thought Catalog, HtmlGiant, Portable, McSweeney’s, Splice Today, and Bygone Bureau.
* Lunch is a 2014 Editor's Favorite.
* Lunch is a 2014 Editor's Favorite.