Jessica Hoard

Chicken and Cheese

 

teeth

I don’t respond.

eyeballs

I don’t respond.

I don’t know if these are attempts at compliments, threats, or if they are simply random words stuck in his brain, bouncing around like balls in a pinball machine.

buckets of blood

He texts me these things as if I am privy to his secret maniac language. As if I know exactly what he is saying but am just pretending not to be a bitch.

Inevitably, the phone rings.I don’t need to look at the caller ID. I never do anymore. The sound of my phone ringing might as well be the sound of his voice. (Goddamn, I have to change that ring tone.) Like a four-year-old whose mother is on the phone, he must be given his due attention. I think of not answering, but I know he will only call again. And again. And again. And so I answer. The minute I hear his slurred “hey” (who but him can slur the word hey?), I know he wants me to meet him at the bar, or at least be his taxi ride the three blocks to his house.

Fresh from vacation, bright and new, I walk into the bar he asked me to meet him at. He slumps, sways, exhales heavily. He looks old. His dim-witted expression betrays how long he’s been sitting where I find him, at the dark end of the bar, teetering on a stool, deep in concentration over attempts to light a cigarette. He hasn’t spoken, and already I feel the return to the same torturous routine I left ten days ago.

“Chicken and cheese! Chicken and cheese!” he yells at the bartender. He’s not ordering, he has simply gotten more words trapped rattling around his brain. Or perhaps he is referring to us. Is he the chicken and I am the cheese, or is it the other way around? I have my own opinion on the matter. Or maybe that’s what his brain is made of by now, chicken and cheese. The bartender parrots him, “Chicken and cheese,” laughs, as do the rest of the people around the bar. It doesn’t escape my recognition that I am dating the guy that even the barflies laugh at. I wish that I could have the satisfaction of his embarrassment when he sobers up and remembers, but I know by now that he never remembers.

“Didjamisszme?” he asks putting his arm around me in farce of a hug that is really meant to stabilize him for a moment. “Of course,” I lie, because I can’t manage a definitive “yes.”

“You’re with him?” the bartender asks in disbelief. Only for as long as it takes me to drag him out of here, drive him home, and get him out of my car, I think to myself. “Yes,” I answer.

“Well would you get him out of here?”

 

And to think, my mother had liked him.

 


Jessica Hoard is a writer, editor, actor, and photographer whose work has appeared in numerous publications, including Karamu, Breath and Shadow, Tiny Lights, 55 words, Pear Noir!, Miss Guided Magazine, and Greatest Uncommon Denominator. Follow her on Twitter at @jesshoard.
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