Monet P. Thomas
Fuck Barry Morrison. She deserved this sandwich; every bite would piece her back together. When Gino opened his Italian delicatessen in a small town in North Carolina he couldn’t know he’d saved her life. His Super Supreme on a white bread roll with extra hot peppers was the only thing that got her through each week. And since the arrival of Barry Morrison, she’d doubled her visits adding in Wednesday, completely shaking up her Friday evening routine.
Lifting the sandwich carefully like a newborn from the wax paper, she transferred it to a white dinner plate. The wax paper shone with the olive oil and mayonnaise left behind – even this received her attention. She took her time licking all the spots she could see, tasting the tangy flavor of pickle juice, hot peppers, oregano. Then she folded it precisely into quarters and set it aside.
Barry Morrison was new to her team, a group of actuaries in the local office of a giant insurance company. He was younger than his name implied, she guessed, just a year or two older than her. His string bean frame could be seen bouncing above the low cubicle walls. His hair, a rich deep brown, had cost her countless hours trying to describe it. And he was kind.
Moving into the bedroom, the plate in one hand, a glass of water in the other, she considered her outfit choice. Earlier that week, on Wednesday, she’d worn a blood red bustier – cinched tight – nude thigh-high stockings, and kitten heels that matched the bustier. Tonight she was feeling more subdued, less anxious. Maybe two sandwiches per week was the right course of action. Setting the items down on the table she moved around the single chair to go into her walk-in closet.
Barry Morrison didn’t need to speak to her directly. His arrival brought the team up to ten and meant projects could be broken down to workable subsections. She worked with Quiet Kyle on their section until it was ready to combine with the final product. She’d been feeling less like a drone in the hive and more like an actuary because of Barry. He made a point to lean his sharp nose over her cubby wall to ask about her day.
Deciding on black as a color choice, she shifted bits of frippery back and forth on their hangers. She wanted to give a little cleavage, but she didn’t want to feel confined. Maybe a babydoll – black, but sheer and light as spider’s web. She kicked off her Hushpuppy loafers, let her loose business pants fall and stepped out of them. Unbuttoning the starched white shirt, she slid it off and hung it carefully on the hanger in easy reach for Monday.
Barry Morrison had asked for her number, had wanted to take her on a date. It was un-fucking-believable. Sure, there weren’t any other women in their department beside her and Doris, and Doris was at least 65 and had been married since birth, but there was a whole world on the other three floors of the building. They weren’t on Mars for fuck’s sake. One had only to take the elevator up or down to encounter women who wore high heels and bright tightly-fitted blouses.
Putting on the nightie, she felt the familiar anticipation that came with this ritual. For a long time now, Gino’s Super Supreme sandwich had become synonymous with orgasms. The first time she’d eaten in the tiny restaurant stuck on the end of strip mall, she’d had to leave abruptly. The lingerie had come later when she’d finally accepted her desire. She didn’t think she’d ever be able to date a man, let alone have sex with one, but she could make do with salami, ham, pepperoncini, ripe tomato, and provolone cheese.
Was that the doorbell? Glancing at the Super Supreme, she covered herself with a long terry cloth robe, made a thick knot at the waist. A visitor was unexpected, in fact she could not remember anyone coming to her house she hadn’t invited, and they’d all been repairmen or the cable guy. Sidling up to the window nearest the door, she peeked out and barely contained a scream. What was Barry Morrison doing here, at her home? How did he know where she lived? She couldn’t decide if it was exciting or creepy to see him standing on her front stoop staring expectantly at the door. She could see he was still in work clothes, though his tie was loosened, and hanging askew.
He moved to knock again and she reacted before she could stop herself. She flung open the door, so fast, it banged against the wall behind it. Barry Morrison stepped back and then stepped forward again, passed a hand through his deep brown hair.
“Janet! Hi. Oh. Did I interrupt something?” He took in the robe, actually blushed. Barry Morrison was standing on her doorstep and blushing.
“Barry, is there something you need? I didn’t know you knew where I lived.” She was proud of her tone: professional, friendly, but not inviting, and in no way indicative of the reason she was wearing lingerie under her robe.
He shifted on his feet, the sun was behind him and she squinted into the light.
“Uh. Well, PJ says partners are changing around on Monday and, well, we’re to be partners.” He let that sit out in front of them for a second, took in her blank expression.
“So, I just wanted to make sure you knew that I can be completely professional as your partner. I’m sorry if my asking you out made things, you know, weird.”
“Oh. Right.” She didn’t fidget with the knot of her robe, though the effort cost her. “Well, thank you for telling me. You didn’t have to stop by for that, but thanks. See you Monday.”
With a wave, Barry Morrison was already moving away, being swallowed into the evening sun. She thought of the Super Supreme sitting on a white dinner plate upstairs, the bread gone soggy with waiting.
“Maybe, on Monday,” Barry Morrison stopped his retreat at her voice, “We can go to lunch, to get to know each other. I know a place, Gino’s. You ever been?”
“No. I’ve never been. I’d like that. See you Monday.”
Monet P. Thomas is a writer & poet from North Carolina. She holds an MFA from the Inland Northwest Center for Writers at Eastern Washington University. She spends too much time on Twitter (@monetwithlove) & too much money on books. If you’ve ever had a sandwich so good you came, you should check out her other writing, which can be found online at such places as Split Lip Magazine, Hobart, & Nailed Magazine. Even better, here’s her website: www.monetpatricethomas.com.