Tuesday, July 04, 2006

America at Jolly's

I said put the chicken in longer--
I hate it when it's cold.
Don't you even know how
to make a sandwich?

This was lunchtime at Jolly's
the little convenience store
a few blocks over from
our new house.
It's half imitation 7-11
and half Subway--
both surrounded in
bullet proof glass.

Jolly's is never my first choice
of food. But it was a long day
working in our house.
Jolly's is located in a
segregated black neighborhood,
operated by Pakistanis,
serving a primarily black clientele
and occaisionally a white woman (me)
who has been given, at times,
a 10% discount on food.

I believe this discount is given
because I'm white.

For awhile I had a Jolly's boyfriend
who would ask for my phone number
and give me free veggie sandwiches.
I'm married!
I'd yell through the bullet proof glass
pointing at my wedding band
while the young Pakistani nodded
without accepting any cash.

For these reasons, I try not to
patronize Jolly's.
But today, easy won.

And on this unbearably hot July 4th
the proverbial melting pot--
was running over.

It was the guy in front of me
ordering the chicken sub.
Now put the chicken in the microwave
with the cheese on top.

-We don't put it in the microwave said the guy
behind the glass.

Well I want my cheese melted the customer ordered
his voice raising into a yell
My chicken's always cold and the cheese ain't melted!
Damn! Put that sandwich in the microwave.

-We can't put it in the microwave

Whadda ya mean you can't put it in the microwave!
Put that sandwich in the microwave and
melt my cheese!

I myself wondered why the microwave was cheese resistant
but wanted my fellow patron to chill out and
take it down a notch.

I just kept to myself
and yelled my order
of veggie on wheat
into the security booth.

The chicken sandwich went
into a toaster oven
and came out with melted cheese.

Meanwhile, the guy behind me
started to order his sandwich.
Twelve inch on white bread.

-We do not have white bread,
said the man behind the glass.
We have Italian bread.

I don't want Italian bread
gimme some white bread,

-The white bread is the Italian bread

Damn, just give me the white bread,
don't you all even know how
to make a sandwich.
Gimme what I want.

-Didn't you go to school? Don't you know
the Italian bread is the white bread?

I had now moved over to the beverage case
thinking this white bread guy
was really digging a hole--
nothing like starting a public shouting match
when you're wrong.
And nothing like egging him on.
It seemed clear what bread he wanted.

Yeah I went to school! You didn't go to school
in here makin' sandwiches and you can't
even make a sandwich. You don't know
who you messing with. I'll come back
in here with a piece and then let's see

He stormed out, sandwichless.

This is America.
On our day of celebration
of freedom and liberty.

Here is the consequence
of neighborhoods
segregated by race,
economically isolated
dialogue lost to the streets.

Here the air is thick and tense
Here is the collision of words
smacking against the safety glass
to ricochet in confusion.

Here is America.


Blogger Kathleen said...

jeez emily!
i woulda' been outta there.
all those bad vibes going into your food...it's not right!
next time. call me.
i will make you something to eat.

i have to say that jollys is a funny name for a place that is filled with such bad karma.

5:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a visual poem! I felt like I was right there with you at Jolly's. I especially was taken by the way you expressed the words exchanged.
"Here is the collision of words
smacking against the safety glass
to ricochet in confusion"
Don't ever stop writing - the world makes more sense when i see it through your words!
Love you

9:05 PM  

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