And just like that, life became very difficult.
I had yet to leave Great Britain. And I needed to. It stunk. But I had nary a nickel to my name, so there I remained, stuck for the time being to just maintain, conserving my energy while seeking out an exit.
I was trying to buy passage to Norderney by cleaning pots for the kitchens at the Mablethorpe Resort in Skegness. There is a statue here, the Jolly Fisherman, of which the locals seem to me to be much too fond of. It was a festive place, when the sun was out, festive in a county fair sense, a certain open-air quaintness. The booths hawking whipped ice and crepes alongside roller coasters and riverboat rides.
I stopped in at a charming diner in the center of the street called Fat Mo’s, watching the Ferris wheel slowly rotate through the window. Only one carriage was occupied. I sat long enough to notice the lone rider went through twice.
These were sad days, warm but lonely, and the chill winds of autumn occasionally rose up to send shivers through me as I walked to and fro from work. Scrubbing gigantic cast iron cauldrons, and copper stills for fermenting, never getting answers as to what they were for. I just scrubbed and asked no questions, and took home the British equivalent of three dollars every day. Such was the compromise, me being an undocumented worker in a nation growing increasingly hostile to that sort of thing.
I needed every penny. Recent setbacks had left me without access to any of my stashes of guns and capital around the world, so the only way to get off of this island was the old-fashioned way, through grinding. I briefly teamed up with an aspiring white female rapper named Mei-A-Wana, selling mixtapes out of the back of her beat up Citroën DS 3. And this was going pretty well, until I started to outsell her tips with a shabbily produced chapbook of my poetry, titled How to Fix a Sandwich when Your Heart Was Broken First. She didn’t take kindly to my success, so I was back at the hardscrabble life of scrubbery in a matter of two weeks.
To save money, I ate intelligently, using food as fuel and nothing more. There would be great meals again, one day, but for now, I had a mission. I had focus. I needed to get to Norderney, and the quicker the better. I was beginning to become complacent with the utter averageness of my days.
For couldn’t I eke out an existence here forever? Could this not be what I do, who I decide to be? All it would take is staying. Staying in a peaceful life, with few challenges, no bad surprises.
Unable to afford the alcoholic beverages and other vices I prefer, I have been living spartanly, seeking my calm through meditation. First I approached this development with resignation, but now, I feel a certain contentedness. I live according to meager means, everywhere I lay my head my own Walden.
Which naturally leads me to the sandwich. This, I’m almost nervous to reveal. This, I once would have turned my nose at. Are my tastes devolving? Am I doing more for less? To what end am I eating these? Big questions we’ll ignore for now. First, we dine. My friends, please enjoy with me, on this picnic bench at sunset, our day’s reward, a freshly-made toast sandwich.
The recipe is a simple thing. Take three pieces bread. Toast one. Place the toasted bread between the regular. Augment with butter, pepper, salt—and then nosh. The outer bread is soft and cold; the inner slice, crunchy and warm, slick with melting butter, mildly spiced. It is a comfort. It is inexpensive. At around 300 kcals, it will get us through the night.
Sometimes we find ourselves in spartan times. In these times, we must learn to find happiness in the simple, not the grandiose—to seek satisfaction from the very act of being alive. It’s harder than it seems. In times like these, each toast sandwich is a blessing. It’s a sandwich for when life is trying.
Perhaps it’s because of the situation I am in. Perhaps I’m ripping off the end of Ratatouille. Regardless, I have no rude words to say about this sandwich. As a matter of fact, viewed through a certain philosophical lense, it may perhaps the greatest sandwich of them all—a sandwich for the hard times, egalitarian and true. A sandwich that promises a better tomorrow after the struggles of the day. A sandwich for the Sisyphus in all of us. A sandwich for the dreamers. A sandwich of the mind.
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Photo Credit: FoodsofEngland.co.uk