By Jeffrey Zable


I walk into this sandwich place I’ve been to once before
and notice immediately that all the tables are taken except one
near the back. So I quickly walk to the counter to order a sandwich
so that I can get that table before anyone else.
I order my sandwich and pay for it along with a small bottle
of orange juice. I sit down at the table, which faces a table in which
a very large woman in her forties is sitting with a little dog at her feet.
The dog, which I believe is a Pomeranian, stares up at her while she
slowly eats her sandwich.
I’m sitting there for no more than a minute when I observe her do
the following: She bites off a small piece of her sandwich, sucks on it
for a moment, and then, taking the piece from her mouth, hands it down
to her dog to eat.
She does this about ten times continuously, sucking on each piece,
taking it out of her mouth and then handing it to the dog.

At some point while she slowly continues to eat her sandwich, one of
the workers delivers mine: a nice thick hot pastrami with melted cheese
on dark rye. Looking down at it, I realize that I’m no longer hungry. I’m
also feeling nauseous to the point that I all I want to do is get out of there.
I look at the woman and then at the dog who is now lying there with his
legs spread out like a frog.
I get up from my seat, pick up the sandwich and bottle of orange juice,
and head to the counter.
I ask the guy for a piece of tin foil and a little bag, which as soon as he
hands me, he says, “I hope the sandwich is okay!?”
“I’m sure it is!” I respond. “It’s just that I’m in a bit of a hurry.”
While walking out, I look to the back and see that the woman is putting
a leash on the dog as it wags its tail excitedly. . .

Walking by the neighborhood café on the corner, I recalled that many
years ago it was a Laundromat in which I washed and dried my clothes.
I then remembered the owner who was a Frenchman named Fernand.
I would get into short conversations with him as a result of being there
at the same time he was collecting money and checking to see that the
machines were in working order.
One time while speaking with him, I asked if he was married, and his
answer was, “I was married, but my wife was murdered!”
After he told me this, I expressed that I was very sorry to hear it, which
made him want to tell me how it happened.
He said that sometime during the night, when everyone was asleep, his
wife must have heard a noise in the kitchen. Without waking him she went
down to investigate.
When he was awakened by a blood curdling scream, he rushed down to
the kitchen in which he saw his wife lying on the floor face up with a knife
in her chest. At the same time he saw a guy quickly backing out of the
kitchen window.

Immediately, he called 911, but by the time the ambulance and the police
arrived his wife was deceased.
He informed me that they soon caught the guy, who turned out to be just
fifteen years old. Being a minor, the kid was only sent to reform school and
was out on the street when he turned eighteen years of age.
At this point I was feeling really upset because Fernand was such a nice
guy. He was the kind of person who genuinely cared about people.
When he told me he was raising his daughter on his own; that she dearly
missed her mother; that he thought about his wife all the time, and suffered
from nightmares, I felt terrible.
From then on when I spoke with Fernand I always felt a bit awkward—
never knowing quite what to say.



Several years ago I was in a process therapy group that included a woman
named Melissa who often thought that other members weren’t listening to her
closely and responding appropriately a good deal of the time.
She would say things like, “You’re missing my point completely, which makes
me angry and frustrated as well!”
She would sometimes interrupt people and say that she thought she made it
clear during her ‘check in’ that she had something very important that she needed
to address.
Most of the people in the group were patient with her but this one woman would
often roll her eyes and sometimes confront her, “You know, Melissa, no one can read
your mind. Plus we all have issues that are just as important!”
This would sometimes lead to a fight between them that the therapist would have
to diffuse.
As to yours truly, I mostly tried to be supportive of Melissa as an opportunity
to practice tolerance and patience, something that I needed to work on. But also,
at times I found Melissa to be interesting, thoughtful, and entertaining. I also felt sorry
for her because a few years back she had accidentally killed a homeless man with her car,
and she had a narcissistic father who was always threatening to cut her completely out
of his will if she didn’t do such and such.
Melissa definitely had some very positive qualities, and wasn’t bad looking, but she
had difficulty maintaining relationships because she was too high strung, angry, and
I remember that at the beginning of one session the therapist announced that Melissa
had quit the group, though he had tried to dissuade her.
I stayed on for a couple of more years, working on issues that I improved on a bit,
but continue to struggle with to this day. . .


Jeffrey Zable is a teacher, conga drummer who plays Afro-Cuban folkloric music
for dance classes, and a writer of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. His writing has appeared  in hundreds of literary magazines, more recently in Sein Un Werden, Former People, Hypnopomp, Alba, Corvus, The Stray Branch, Third Wednesday, Pensive Stories, Smoky Blue, and many others.

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