Lunch in the Time of Cholera

“MELISSA!” My eyes are all run through with wild, glued to the face of my phone with a fanatical focus. I’ve got goosebumps. My heart stammers in my chest.

“Did he leave?!” She says. Her voice is the flash of blue light between two conductors. Pure, live, energy.

I take my eyes off the screen long enough to nod once, slowly.

“He just left,” I say.

There is some dancing. Nothing shameful. Little action in the hips, mostly hands. Still though, dancing.

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“where is he?” she says, her voice still throwing arc flashes.

“26th and Pine,” I say. ” App says he’ll be here in 17 minutes.”

Her brow furrows and she goes to her computer like an ensign on the bridge, fingers flying at the keys.

“17 minutes? From 26th and Pine?!” Shaking her head now. She spins the screen to face me, shows me the Google Maps readout. “This says 8 minutes. Tops.” she pauses dramatically before she says ‘Tops” and it’s super badass.

I turn to stand at the kitchen window. Outside, the sun falls behind the Olympics, shining brilliantly through our Rhododendrons, casting shadows across my face as I fold my hands behind my back. It is a very General Patton move. I say, “Godspeed, Kevin. Godspeed” and it is super badass.

5 minutes of drama and stoicism pass.

“Melissa,” I say, “There are officially zero traffic lights between Kevin and our house.”

A wicked grin knifes across her face and she says, “17 minutes my ass!” and I do a very Robert Redford chuckle as we move to prep the airlock for receiving, by which I mean laying out old paper bags near the door, priming the Lysol. While we’re doing that, the muffled whump of a car door shutting, a rustling on the stoop. Dear God, it’s here.

I yell a frantic thank you through the window at the back of Kevin’s head as he’s sliding back into his Passat and my voice sounds unhinged even to me. During different times, with different stakes, I might have been embarrassed. But this a global pandemic and I’ve got a bag full of burritos on my doorstep. Shame is a luxury that (much like delivery burritos every day leading up to this) I simply cannot afford.

In the airlock, we carefully remove the food, plate it and nuke it for a few seconds in the microwave. We wrap the containers in old paper bags and toss them in the outside trash and then we sit down to the first meal that I did not personally prepare in weeks.

And there is some dancing. And it is shameful. Then we eat. The food is as good as it ever was, but the moments leading up to it, the ordering, the waiting, the receiving, are positively transformative. It is a view of a time when things were simpler and safer through eyes better suited to appreciate it. When I was in basic training, we would sit around in tents in freezing weather, clutching frozen rifles to our chests and we would talk about all the trivial things we took for granted before this. We would stand guard, staring off into the woods with nothing to do but pontificate on how crazy it was that we used to have cellphones in our pockets full of all the entertainment that man had ever conceived of, and that we would complain about being bored. And later, much later, when we were back with the world, our appreciation for those things would fade and we would forget how stolidly we had promised to never take them for granted again. But there was a sweet spot. A time right between the nostalgia and the undervaluing. In that sweet spot, we are really, truly, present. Really, mostly, happy. Wrapped in the warmth of that moment like beans in a weekday burrito.


Special shout out to Brewers Row for the burrito and to Melissa’s wonderful mother for the Doordash gift card. And to Kevin. Godspeed Kevin. Godspeed.

Written by:

Kellen Burden

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