Excellent, Average & Terrible Things I've Recently Eaten: A Medium-Heavy Story About A Bagel


At the beginning of April everyone on Twitter was talking about how Susan Miller said April was going to be fucked. Some people were scared about it, and other people told them not to bother caring because Susan Miller's usually wrong about everything anyway. I haven't read my Susan Miller in forever, not for any real reason, I just stopped being able to pay attention to it. It became like reading a math textbook or everything Shakespeare wrote. My brain just sends a message to my eyes saying "Glaze over" and they obey. And then I close out of the tab. As far as I can remember, Susan Miller's usually wrong when she tells you something good is going to happen but she's usually on point when she warns you something's going to be fucked. So I was scared to find out that April was going to be fucked, since I knew April was going to be fucked anyway. And then it was. 

To be honest, only the first half of my April was fucked, but it was fucked enough that even its chill second half qualifies as being fucked just by proxy. From April 15th through the 30th, I felt shell-shocked and spacey like a person in the middle of waking up from a vivid creepy dream. April 15th was my last day as assistant manager of my restaurant; I stepped down on April 6th. On April 12th, I ate a bagel.

April 5th was a Saturday. It was a sunny, alright day out. I’d checked the temperature on the Weather website on the streetcar but the real day felt colder than I thought that temperature would be. But people were desperate, and took to the streets. Sure it was a little chilly but hey at least the air wouldn’t make your fingers fall off if you spent too much time in it. People walked down the street one way and then up back the other, doing all the things they do. Ducking into stores to try clothes and shoes on, buying a coffee. Becoming hungry. A lot of them came into my restaurant.

Spring is a horrible time to work at a restaurant. Winter is slow, and in April restaurants will continue to schedule employees like its winter. The employees get slammed and have bad days but make a lot of money. Last year around this time I was new to assistant managing and all that money seemed worth the trouble. But this year I was burnt out and tired of being tossed around and nothing has ever seemed less worth it in my life. I would have paid however much money I ended up making that day to not have to be doing it anymore. Myself and one other server- she was newer at it, weaker, less focused- were faced with an entire restaurant to serve, bus, and bartend. It was brunch service but we don’t even have drip coffee. I stood at our tiny espresso machine, something a rich guy would have had in his kitchen ten years ago, making Americanos until the boiler ran out of hot water. Dirty tables stayed dirty and people sat themselves at dirty tables. By late afternoon I felt like a strong guy’s hand was clasped around my stomach, a rubber kidney bean, trying its hardest to get me to burst. I’m a shitty hungry person. When I’m shitty-hungry I’ll tell people “I’m not a good hungry person,” and they like to be cute and ask me if I’m “hangry” but really I’m more like hanxious and hdizzy and and hunable to speak in coherent sentences. I hate to be the girl who constantly cried recovered anorexic but there’s something really terrifying about having to go back there. I punched in a “mini breakfast burrito” for myself to eat and waited as an hour passed and the kitchen didn’t make it for me. I was almost crying when I asked my head chef to please ask his sous-chef, who was running the kitchen at that point, to make me my food. As soon as the words came out of my mouth I knew I was sounding like a weird and whiny baby but in my heart and in my head I knew it was within my rights to ask for what I was asking for. There is still a part of me that feels ashamed to need to eat. And the hungrier I am, the larger and more aggressive that part of me grows. Anorexia is like a jilted ex-lover who goes out of her way to drive past my apartment on her way home from work. Her heart beats faster when she spots me in line at the grocery store. Anorexia is a crazy-ass bitch who will take whatever rotten scraps of me she can get.

That afternoon I got in a fight with my sous-chef. I don't doubt there are flecks of goodness in him somewhere but by April 5th none had shone in weeks. He would strut around the restaurant like a short broad peacock with his chest sticking out, fix himself meals like ribeye and bacon and chorizo on a buttered bun, which he called “man-meals.” Once one of my female co-workers and I were having a conversation about which Sailor Moon characters we related to most as adolescents, and my sous-chef butted in to let us know that as a boy he’d had a crush on Sailor Venus, because she had a “nice, petite little body. She looked really tight.” His last day as sous-chef of my restaurant was the day before my last as assistant manager. I told him I wished the best and he said “Same to you,” but would not look me in the eye.

The restaurant was overrun again the next day, and I had to call in my boss to bail me out. It was her day off, and she was wearing workout clothes. The air felt fresh, the world smelled like laundry. Once service calmed down we sat upstairs on the empty second floor and I told her I didn’t want to have to do this anymore. “You’re only here for another two months,” she said and I said, “Suck it up, right?” and she shrugged “No.” And in that moment the entire world opened up to me. In my head I pictured myself digging into a patch of dirt with a silver shovel. I imagined a flower growing up and through the dirt.

April 12th, six days later, I worked the last dirty double of my life. I’ve never called them “dirty doubles” before I typed those words down this second, those Saturday brunch-through-dinner doubles that ruined my life for an entire year less the three months I spent as General Manager- when my boss asked me to general manage Queen Street, the first thought I thought was, “Oh my god, I won’t have to work Saturday doubles anymore”; the second, of course, was “Yes.”

“Dirty doubles” is the perfect and maybe only way to describe those fourteen-hour Saturdays, days that started out not great but at least sort of fresh, nights that ended with my once maybe-cute outfit limp and damp and creased, my achy toes white and soggy, my core and eyelids burning from what would have counted as too much coffee three coffees ago.

I ate a Tim Horton’s egg-cheese-tomato bagel on the morning of April 12th because, in a rage a week earlier, I’d sworn to my sous-chef that I would never bother him for food during a brunch rush again, and had thrown together a semi-pathetic snack of dried papaya chunks and R.N.S (roasted not salted) almonds in Koreatown Tupperware to get me through the afternoon. I needed to get the day started with something heftier, brawnier, than my usual bowl of yogurt-with-a-bunch-of-shit-in-it.

I remembered about Tim Horton’s egg-cheese-tomato-bagels because of the way the sun was shining when I walked out of my front door, because the air smelled like something, and because when I turned on my iPod it was already cued up to Blonde on Blonde, and- because of the way the sun was shining, and because the air smelled like something- I listened to “4th Time Around.” Suddenly, it was four years ago again. The first of two springs I spent working overnight shifts dressing baby mannequins at a GapKids/BabyGap in a weird mall in north Toronto that was always weirdly busy because it was built in a grey and golden spot where four major highways converged. I took caffeine pills to get through it and the air-conditioning dried my lips out and I’d lick them til they burned. I’d come home still hype on crappy uppers and remember writing sentences about how my lips felt like I’d just eaten Sriracha ice cream. I remember writing those sentences and thinking, sighing, “It’s only a matter of time before Sriracha ice cream becomes a thing,” but it’s four years later, and it depressingly still hasn't.

After getting off work at 7, I’d walk down Bloor Street at 8:30 in the morning, my achy toes white and soggy, listening to "4th Time Around," which sounds like something opening up, an aperture widening, like at the beginning of the song you can only see one leaf but by the end of it you're looking at a picture of the entire tree. I'd stop into the Tim Horton’s that is now the Guu, where I’d buy myself an egg-cheese-tomato sandwich on a 12-grain bagel, with salt & pepper, which you have to order separately, and the cashier punches them into the POS like they are real ingredients. You watch them come up on the screen: << salt and << pepper. They cost $0.00. I used to get just the egg and cheese because four years ago I didn’t eat meat. It’s crazy to think about. I remember my old boss at the GapKids/BabyGap asking me, “LJ, you’re a vegetarian?” incredulously, and wondering why she couldn’t make any sense of it, but I understand it now. It’s not that I came across as being a person who didn't give a shit about anything; it’s that I came across as being a person who didn't give a shit about anything except not giving a shit about anything.

I used to make egg-cheese-tomato bagels myself, at home, in my kitchen. These days I’ll just fry an egg over-medium in red palm oil and then eat it with nothing on a slice of multigrain toast. I can do that now, eat eggs that aren’t a part of a breakfast burrito, because I made a chill choice in stepping down as assistant manager of my restaurant. I have a lot of time to devote to frying eggs to a perfect and unflappable over-medium, and the other day I successfully medium-boiled an egg as well. All I want is that gooey gel of a spirited yellow yolk. April is over as of yesterday, and I feel like the easiest possible version of myself. A spirited yet unflappable LJ cooked to medium perfection.

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