From Vol. V #4
By David Arthur Kay
“The early bird catches the mother-fucking worm,” the pea coat–covered Ed Lover look-alike says stoically as if to no one, as if to everyone in the Brownsville bodega around the corner from the walk-up apartment from which you departed with just one mission—to get your girl an egg sandwich—but not just any egg sandwich. Your mission is to bring her back an egg sandwich with runny yolks.
Now, this is the kind of corner store where please and thank you are luxuries few can afford, where the guys behind the counter that you think are Arab actually are Puerto Rican and when you ask for a croissant, the chubby gruff guy manning the grill asks you to grab it for him. It’s in a plastic bag right by the cheese doodles. You toss it to him and he asks you again. What do you want? Two egg sandwiches. Both with runny yolks.
She has warned you that you must make it clear. Be explicit. She has described one time when the yolks were medium and she brought it back to him and asked him to tell her what she ordered and then told him that she would wait until he got the order right. She would leave when the yolks were runny.
You want to avoid all that. You’ve seen him fail before and you’re worried that hard yolks would serve as a negative reflection on you, your proverbial hunter-gatherer skills and thus your masculinity. You really want to avoid all that. He could not fail because you cannot fail.
You make up your mind that you will ask twice for the yolks to be runny. First, when you place the order and once again when he puts them on the grill. Two egg sandwiches. One on a bagel and one a croissant.
“On the croissant, I’d like honey turkey and provolone,” you say “and on the toasted bagel, I’d like turkey with cheddar jack.”
He nods, cracks the eggs and you hear them sizzle on the griddle as the Dominican mom talks shit to her teenage daughter in Spanish about the loquita who entered the store talking to herself—no Bluetooth—and trying to cut the line. Madre e hija code switch frequently from English to Spanish and then Spanglish to make it plain to the counter guy which ham and cheese sandwich should have onions and Swiss and which has pickles and hots.
Just then, a caramel-colored teenage boy with a wisp of a mustache enters the store and demands that the skinny dude at the register give him a blunt. As you contemplate how everyone at the store works out their inner class conflict with the phrase, “Give me!” you realize that about thirty seconds have gone by and you think it’s time to say it again, before it’s too late. Can you make sure the yolks on both sandwiches are runny?
“I gotcha,” he says nonchalantly.
And you believe him. Well, sort of. You know that asking three times would just be too many and perhaps he would leave that shit on the grill extra-long just to spite you. But you’ve asked only twice and you think to yourself, I should be good…right?
David Arthur Kay is an artist, writer, community development practitioner and gender violence prevention facilitator with a keen interest in aesthetics, art, and athletics.