San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

Steak and potatoes at 2 a.m.

I was lying low in a Red Roof Inn on the edge of some Midwest town, keeping the shades pulled down and watching a show with men and horses on a television that didn’t hold in the color right. Like so many men my age, I wanted to find myself, which really only meant I needed to accept and be responsible for my own vulnerability, rather than share it with a woman whose wounds I found alluring.

The couple I shared a wall with were in pretty bad love. I could hear them blame one another then fall silent, as though voicing their apologies was enough to threaten the authenticity of forgiveness. It was enough to make your own loneliness seem worth it. It was enough to make a person hungry. I was so ravenous, I wanted a couple steak dinners.

I don’t remember how the movie on TV ended. I fell asleep to the sounds of gunfire pinging against rock and bone. The main character—a familiar actor—got shot in the gut and was riding back into town, bracing the wound with one hand. With the other he tried to steer his horse but was having trouble staying in the saddle. I wanted to root for him, but it’s hard to cheer for a hero who hasn’t fully championed his promises.

At some point in the middle of the night, I heard my neighbors’ door slam. It shook the plated glass window adjacent to my bed, waking me up from dreams of a great, hungry monster descending on us.

A moment later someone knocked on my door.

When I answered it, my neighbor was leaning against the railing and said, “Let’s grab something to eat.”

I decided I wasn’t tired enough to go back to sleep. I knew if I turned him down, I’d probably have to hear another fight. “The restaurant’s probably closed,” I said.

“You and me, we’re the only people here. It’s 2 a.m. Everyone’s hungry at this hour. They’ll make an exception.”

I closed the door behind me. Outside, the cold snapped against the pavement. “Where’s your wife? Isn’t she hungry, too?”

“Wife? I’m not married.”

“Well, whoever you were sharing the room with.” We walked downstairs.

He turned to me and said, “Sharing? I’m alone in there.”

I told him I heard him shouting with some woman in his room, but he denied it.

Sure enough, the door to the restaurant was locked. “What now?” I asked.

“Get outta the way,” he said, and ran his shoulder into the door, causing the deadbolt to rip through the cheap doorframe. Inside, stale grease and coal-smoke lingered in the carpet.

He followed me into the kitchen. The lights switched on automatically.

“Do you know how to start the grill?”

I pulled a few knobs until one of the stove top’s lighters snapped, and the familiar blue flame corona circled to life. I found a skillet.

“What’ll you have?” he called to me from the fridge further back.

“I want a steak. Actually, I want two steaks.”

“Alright,” he said, “Four altogether. Where do you think they keep the salt and pepper?”

“Check the cabinets.”

“What goes with steak? Potatoes? They oughtta have potatoes, right?”

“Yeah. And green beans.”

“Sure and pie. À la mode.”

He found dried potato powder, I threw in the measured amount of water and stirred.

He found the green beans. I thawed them in the microwave.

He found some pies and three flavors of ice cream. We set them on the counter.

When we’d finished cooking, we sat in a booth and ate nearly everything, even the pies, then piled the dishes.

“Thanks for cooking,” he said as he sorted through his teeth with a toothpick.

I nodded and told him to think nothing of it. “Should we leave them some cash?” I asked.

He looked up at me. “I’ll tell them to add it to my bill tomorrow. Let’s go back,” he said, and lifted himself from the booth. I followed him.

We reached the front door, but we’d become so fat we couldn’t fit through the opening. He tried anyway, and got a bunch of splinters lodged in his stomach. I helped pick them out.

“What’ll we do now?” I asked him. It’s the same question I’ve asked my entire life, and he gave it real thought, the way a question like that ought to be considered.

After a while he said, “I don’t know. Maybe … throw up?”

“What a waste.”

“What choice do we have?”

I nodded, but that was difficult with my extra chins.

First the ice cream and pie came up and splattered heavily against the cheap carpets. Then the steak and potatoes, and the green beans. Everything looked so shameful the second time around.

But we couldn’t stop, even after all our stomach bile came up.

That’s when I saw his own feet fall out of his mouth.

Then his shins and knees passed—next, his groin. He couldn’t stand up anymore without his legs, and pretty soon all his organs were kicked up too, then his hands and arms.

Eventually he was nothing more than a bunch of disconnected human parts.

And now, I’m unravelling, too—I feel it deep inside of me.

But this is what I wanted. Here I am, halfway to disappearing.

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San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913
Steak and potatoes at 2 a.m.