Love and Hunger
I order the five-strip meal, but I only want three. The extra two are for my fiancé Becca. She says she isn’t hungry, but I know that’s a lie. Every time she refrains from ordering she ends up eating some of mine. Usually, it’s only a couple of bites, but still, it’s annoying.
At first I tried to talk to her about it, let her know that it bothered me. Unfortunately, talking proved a fruitless endeavor. Sure, she stopped for a couple of weeks, but her abstention didn’t last. Within a month she was back to her old ways, picking away at my meals. After that I decided to seek a solution that relied less on her and more on me. As it turned out, it was a pretty simple fix. I just started ordering more. Now when I want a medium fry I order a large, when I want a regular candy bar I buy a king size, when I want a tall latte I get a grande, and by increasing my order size I have effectively decreased my frustrations. Ever since I started employing this tactic, my meal times have proven far more enjoyable.
As I merge onto the highway, Becca reaches over from the passenger seat and snags a chicken strip. I smile to myself, pleased with the accuracy of my prediction. I knew she wanted something to eat.
Feeling good, I pick up a strip of my own as we pass the Millersville exit and strike up a conversation about Becca’s new friend Ally. I listen as Becca shares Ally’s insights into the thirty-something dating scene. Having been with Becca for the last six years, I find it interesting to hear about the triumphs and travails of those still fishing the dating pool. It’s been so long I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like.
Doing what Siri tells me, I get off of 30, merge onto 222, and accelerate toward the turnpike. Both Becca and I grab another strip as I pass a beige Camry on the right. I shake my head a little as she bites into her second piece.
Not hungry my ass, I think, still smiling, my third chicken strip resting comfortably inside the box on my lap.
In between bites, Becca tells me about Ally’s concerns regarding the introverted nature of her current beau. I inquire as to whether or not shyness is a deal breaker. It seems like one to me. I’ve always appreciated Becca’s sociable nature.
As we near the turnoff for the turnpike, I reach down to grab the last strip and come up empty. I return my hand to the box and feel around its confines once more as Becca elaborates on her friend’s apprehensions. I’m certain that the chicken strip is in there somewhere, hiding in a corner underneath some fries.
I just happened to miss it the first time, I tell myself. But I soon discover that my certainty is misplaced. The third piece of chicken is not in the box.
Where the fuck is my chicken, I think. Then it strikes me. Becca must have it.
Afraid of what I might see, I hesitantly shift my gaze toward my fiancé. My suspicions are immediately confirmed. The third strip—my strip—is in her hand headed toward her lips. Before I can say anything, she stuffs half of it into her mouth.
“What the hell Becca!” I say in my legitimately angry voice. “You said you didn’t want anything and now you’ve eaten over half my shit.”
“Relax, it's just chicken,” she replies, her tone defensive, free of remorse.
“I know its just chicken, but it’s my chicken and I’m hungry. If you wanted some you should have ordered some.”
“Calm your ass,” she retorts. “You’ll be fine just get off at the next exi—” Becca stops mid-sentence and points at the road, a fearful expression takes over her face.
I quickly shift my attention away from her and back to the highway, but it’s too late. We’re inches away from the metal pole at the corner of the exit ramp. There’s no time to react. We hit the obstruction going full speed. Our car caves in, spins to the side, and then starts to roll. As we flip the world slows. Happy thoughts of Becca come flooding into my mind, replacing the petty anger that resided there moments before.
I think of her smile, broad and bright, able to disarm and warm even the most callous of individuals.
And we roll.
I think of her feet, tiny and perfect, and the way she rubs them against me at night. I insist that I don’t like it, but I lie.
And we roll.
I think of her tongue, sharp and sassy, always ready to defend those that she cares for against those that hurt them.
And we roll.
I think of her mind, keen and insightful, never willing to take a moment off.
And we roll.
I think of her heart, compassionate and loyal, always looking out for those she loves.
And we roll.
Eventually, after what seems an eternity, the car comes to a stop, resting on its hood. Gradually my eyes come into focus, slowly taking in the disastrous scene that surrounds me. It’s a mess, blood and broken glass everywhere. Struck by the severity of the situation, my mind awakens to the moment. Urgently, I turn toward Becca, anxious and eager to check on her health. Much to my relief I find her unharmed. A minor scratch on her forehead, nothing more. Despite her injury free status, Becca wears an expression of grave concern. Looking down I realize that the look on her face isn’t for herself it’s for me. A large piece of glass is sticking out of my chest; blood squirts from the edges of the wound in short bursts that coincide with the beating of my heart. It’s bad and I know it.
With my final breaths I stare into Becca's eyes and speak.
“That third chicken strip was mine."