p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;"If I were in charge I'd change the menu, I'd take away those little yellow pieces of processed nonsense masquerading as fries and replace them with a healthy helping of did you know? Did you know, I'd say as I handed over their quasi-meat patty on a petroleum tray, that hamburgers are called that because they were invented in Hamburg, Germany, and not because they ever had ham in them? Hamburgers are beef. And did you further know that there was once a time, during the second world war, when American soldiers started calling these beef sandwiches "freedom patties," in an attempt to distance themselves from their German enemy? We change the names of things in order to change what they are, but it never works. Hamburgers are still called hamburgers, and they're still made out of beef - except yours, of course. I don't know what's in yours./p
p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;"Did you know, the ice cream cone you're holding was invented at a World's Fair? There was an ice cream stand right next to a zalabi stand, which is sort of like a waffle, and when the ice cream vendor ran out of cups they took the zalabis and wrapped them into a conical shape and plopped their frozen treat right in the middle. This is how a sudden moment of friendly thinking resulted in something you love. Now they make them in factories instead of fairgrounds and they're made out of glorified Styrofoam and they're shipped across the country in giant trucks until they arrive at our back door and Susan unloads them and they sit in their plastic packaging until I take one out and fill it with frozen something and hand it over the counter to you. This is how a long and deliberate process resulted in something you bought. Now there is money in my cash register and Styrofoam in your stomach. Have a nice day!/p
p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;"I am not in charge, and so I can't change the menu, did you know. I don't serve words, I serve plastic food and heart attacks. I serve not what people need, and not what they want, but what they think they want and know they don't need. I serve indulgence and regret and relief and special occasions. People ask me how I got here. I say, where? They gesture – here. I say, I got here exactly the same way you did. I walked./p
p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;" /p
p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;"If I were in charge, I wouldn't advertise what we're selling as food. "Food" implies nutrition and sustenance, of which we sell neither./p
p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;"A pregnant woman comes in today. She orders a combo double-bacon-cheeseburger-and-fries with a large soda and extra tomatoes. She's eating for two, she explains, as if she's obligated to excuse her appetite with external factors. I tell her I understand./p
p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;"Did you know that you are what you eat? They say this to scare little children, but it's more literal than we'd like to believe. Everything that you eat will one day become a part of your body. All of your rawest materials came into your body through your mouth and will one day be shed and replaced. When you were born, you were made entirely out of what your mother ate – and if you're old enough to read this then you aren't made out of that anymore, because did you know that your body is entirely replaced every seven years? This isn't the body you were born with. It hopefully won't be the body you'll die with, if you're young. If you left someone who touched you over seven years ago, then this is a body they've never touched. One day it won't matter what this mother is eating now because the child she'll be calling her own won't be the one that came from her body, biologically speaking. But when she holds her baby for the first time, she'll be holding what she ate. And if she isn't eating "food" now, then what will her baby be?/p
p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;"I hand over the things she ordered. She takes it. I wonder if she knows that I just held a part of her future child. She says, how old are you? I tell her. She says, have you been to college? I tell her that, too. She says, go live your life. You shouldn't be wasting it in a place like this. I tell her the exact same thing./p
p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;"Since we are what we eat, then you can make yourself whatever you want by choosing what to eat. This is the one true power we have. We all already do this, in a way. When we want to be loved we eat the food from the ones we love. When we want to be feared we eat the food that everyone fears. When we want to be sweet we eat sugar, when we want to be smart we eat food with big words on it. And when we want to be nothing, we eat fast food./p
p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;" /p
p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;"Today I'm cleaning tables. It's a calming job. There is nothing in the world like watching a mess disappear underneath your fingertips to make you feel like you can do anything. Today I'm cleaning tables because I need to feel like I can do anything./p
p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;"Someone on the other side of the room spills their soda./p
p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;"Did you know that Coca Cola was named so because it originally contained cocaine? We drank it and had no idea that the pleasant buzz we were feeling was due to an ingredient that ruins lives. We gave it to our children so they could feel good, too. This type of thing has been happening with humanity for as long as we have been here. We harm ourselves without knowing that we're harming ourselves, and we only stop when enough people have died for us to notice. Did you know, we used to eat off of lead plates? We used to put zinc oxide on our faces. We used to put leeches on our sick and we never bathed our healthy, for fear of blood and fear of water. We used to make soda and candy out of sassafras root until we realized that it causes cancer. And now what do we do? What do we eat? How is this different from the lead plates and leeches and carcinogen candy?/p
p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;"As I clean the soda with my wet rag, one man lifts a tray out of my path. No one apologizes for the spill, which is expected. As I clean, they speak. As they speak, I clean. They think that the two worlds are like oil and water, because they don't know about cleaning. They don't see the magic my fingers are working, making the soda disappear with one solid swipe./p
p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;"She doesn't care, one of them says. She knows, yeah – she thinks it's sexy. Another says, she does? Oh yeah, really. Adds a little factor of risk into the bedroom. She's the sort of chick who really goes for that./p
p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;"I reach for another towel while they don't move. How long do you think you can keep this up without Sarah knowing? Oh, indefinitely. She never notices anything. Hey – hey, can you be a doll and go refill my soda for me? I say, in a moment. I'm almost done with this spill./p
p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;"He says, man, Sarah just doesn't get it. She just can't satisfy me in bed! I'm a emman/em, I have emneeds/em – and isn't it natural for me to find other women who can fulfill those needs? Absolutely. Absolutely./p
p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;"I kneel down to sop up the carbonated sugar that's fizzing on the floor. I hear, where was Sarah when you were with Carmen yesterday? Working, at the elementary school. She works from seven to five – I only work from nine to five, which gives me the perfect time for my daily fix. It's just enough time to see Carmen, or Nicole, or maybe just go someplace and pick up a new one before work, you know? And Sarah really never notices? No, no, of course not. We've been married for five years and she still thinks that I'm happy as a clam. And how long have you been having these things on the side? I'll let you in on a secret. Okay. There isn't a man in the whole goddamn world who doesn't start lusting after other women the emday/em after he ties the knot. The happy, faithful husband is a myth. That's just how it works./p
p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;"Soda is like leeches. Leeches are like people. People drink soda, and spill soda, and other people clean it up. I take his cup to refill it and he doesn't look at me, but I can feel him looking at the backside of me as I walk away, and I don't go refill his cup. As he returns to his meal I return to the counter and I pick up the phone and I call the elementary school./p
p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;"Someone says hello, and I ask, may I speak with Sarah please, and she says, this is Sarah speaking, what can I do for you?/p
p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;"How is what we do different from lead plates and leeches and carcinogen candy? The difference is this: we know exactly what we're doing as we do it./p
p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;" /p
p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;"Sometimes I clean the bathroom. Here I see the other end of the services we provide. It starts at the counter, and ends in porcelain./p
p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;"It always ends in porcelain, even if it has to come out the end it came in. Today is one of those days./p
p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;"Hey, I say. The girl turns around, apparently startled that she didn't lock the stall. When she sees me she takes her fingers out of her mouth and sighs deeply and says close the door, which I do not do./p
p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;"Please go away, she says, and I don't do that either. Instead I say, tell me why you're making yourself throw up, and she says, why? I say, did you know that bulimia leads to hair loss, weak muscles, gum disease, miscarriages, permanent infertility and death? And the look she gives me is why I wish so badly that we could add these to the menu./p
p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;"She says, why do you care, and I say, why don't we get out of this bathroom./p
p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;"We sit in the parking lot. Her parents are inside and we are outside and it's because of this that the words flow out of her from where they've undoubtedly been trapped for years. She tells me, I purge because I want to be a protagonist. I say, explain, and she says, you have to be thin to be a protagonist. I've read a lot of books and seen a lot of films, and I purge for the same reason that I relax my hair and put bleach in my bathwater. If you want to star in any story, you have to look like a protagonist looks./p
p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;"I ask, how can you tell if you're a protagonist?/p
p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;"Well, when you're a protagonist, you're living an amazing story. Your whole life is an adventure. People want to hear about it, because you have fantastic tales to tell. Take you for example. You're obviously not a protagonist./p
p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;"And why not?/p
p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;"Well, look at you. Look at where you are./p
p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;"I look, and she looks. I'm in the same place you are./p
p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;"Yeah, I guess, she says. I'm not a protagonist either./p
p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;"Did you know, parking lots are a lot like fast food employees? We both go unnoticed until we're gone, or unavailable, and people have to make do without us. Food is like that, too, you know. You never think about it until you're hungry./p
p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;"I ask, do you want to know something? And she says yeah, so I say, protagonists are made of words on paper. Either that or they're made of thousands of dollars worth of professional trainers and dietitians and makeup artists and camera angles and Photoshop. That's what they're made of, and that's why you don't want to be one. I think you want to be a person./p
p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;"And she looks up at me and she asks, what are people made of? And I say, did you know – people are made out of food./p
p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;" /p
p style="font-family: BergamoStdRegular, Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px;"People yell at me as much as they ignore me and do both far more than they talk to me, and when they do talk to me it's usually in questions. Can I have a drink with the combo discount if I'm not getting fries? Can I change my chicken tenders to nuggets? Why is my order taking so long? How did you get here from where you were? No, I mean – how did you get so low? What do you mean, what do I mean? I mean, why don't you go use all your potential and get a real job? Why are you so lazy? Why don't you make something of yourself? To these questions, I ask one in return: would you like fries with that?/p