I felt really strange the other day. I started dating this girl that was real sophisticated, and she wanted to open my eyes to new ideas and concepts, so she took me to a place called the Panera Bread. It was such an unusual place. I started sweating the minute I set foot in the building, like some deviant devil in the Holy Land, and saw people on they laptops, eating little sandwiches and sipping soup up with spoons from little bowls.
What was the strange fucking place?
We walked up to the cashier lady and I stared at the menu, not sure what to do. I wiped the sweat off my forehead. I think I was turning white. I started shaking. What the fuck was this shit? Sesame Semolina Bread; what the fuck?
Shit fire, I was out of place, my eyes wandering back and forth, frantically searching for something that seemed real. Wasn’t Semolina what they gave babies when they weren’t drinking breast milk? They made bread out of that shit?
“Jimmy,” my date said, annoyance clearly in her voice, the lady asked you what you wanted.”
“Get me a goddamn turkey sandwich,” I said.
“Do you want a bacon turkey bravo, a turkey sierra, or smoked turkey breast?” she asked.
“GIVE ME THE GODDAMN SMOKED TURKEY!” I said, clutching the counter. I was out of my depth. I could tell by the black plastic glasses everyone was wearing and the clothes. My God, they were wearing clothes I’d only seen in the mall.
“Jimmy, you’re embarrassing me,” my date said.
The lady at the cash register cut me a dirty stare. “What do you want on this?” she asked.
What the fuck? I thought to myself. What the fuck is she asking me? I calmed down a little then. Maybe this shit was like Subway.
“I’ll take lettuce and tomato and black olives . . .”
“He’ll take everything that comes on it,” the girl said, rolling her eyes. “This isn’t Subway, Jimmy.”
The cashier handed us our cups, and my hand was shaking. We walked over to the fountain drinks, and I stared in horror at some of the choices.
“What the fuck is Ass Berry Tea?” I asked. “What is this shit?”
Some bald headed dude with black plastic glasses and a suit looked at me then. I stared right back at that rude motherfucker.
“Oh my God,” my girlfriend said, covering her face with a hand. “People keep staring at us Jimmy. And that’s not Ass Berry Tea, it’s Acai Berry Tea. It’s very healthy for you. You talk too loud.”
Our orders were ready, so I filled my cup with the Ass Berry Tea and walked up to the counter. Two little ass sandwiches, cut in halves and two little bowls of soup stared back at me. I picked up the tray and walked through the sea of intellects getting smarter by the second on their little computers, their little fingers tapping away to some electronic god. The Panera Bread had news on the TV. It was like a nightmare.
“What do you think, Jimmy?” my girlfriend asked.
“I think your ass better put out,” I said, eating a half a sandwich in one bite.
The bald headed man with the glasses, who was sitting beside us, looked at me, a frown on his face. “Sir, can you talk a little lower? I’m trying to work.”
“Sorry,” I said. “I’m just not used to places this fancy. You know how it is, going to these places.”
He shook his head and looked back at his computer.
“This was so not a good idea,” my girlfriend said.
“Why not?” I asked, picking up my bowl and drinking from it. I lowered the bowl, noticing that bald headed sonofabitch cutting me a dirty look out the corner of his eye.
“Say, man,” I said.
He pretended not to hear me.
He looked up. “What is it?”
“What you doing on that computer, man? You act like you looking at porn or something.”
“Naw, he keeps looking at me. Why you keep looking at me, man?” I put the other sandwich half in my mouth. “You look guilty,” I said as I chewed.
“You’re a very rude person,” the bald headed man said, standing up. “Thanks for ruining my lunch.”
My girlfriend stood up too. She walked over to him. “I’m so sorry,” she said.
“It’s not your fault,” he said.
“Do you go to Mercer University?” she asked.
“I do,” he said.
“I thought you looked familiar,” she said. “We’re in World Literature together.”
He smiled then, and I knew what he knew. My girlfriend was no longer my girlfriend. I reached over and grabbed her tray, inching her food over to me as she flirted with that sorry motherfucker.
I ate her sandwich, drank her soup, then took a sip of my Ass Berry Tea. I spit that shit out, stood up and walked out the door, leaving her and the Panera Bread behind.
I had entered into this world a stranger, and I was leaving it estranged. I was a McDonald’s kind of man. Wal-Mart and the Dollar Store were my ideas of shopping trips. The mall, the Panera Bread, and the bald headed motherfuckers in tight suits on laptops…those motherfuckers could have that shit.
I walked to Wal-Mart and hit on a girl, just to make sure the Panera Bread hadn’t affected my superhuman flirting skills.
I said, “If I was a pirate, I’d be all over that booty,” and she giggled at me.
I asked her, “Hey, baby, you ever been to the Panera Bread?”
“What’s that?” she asked.
I asked her for her digits.