by Shauna McClemens
(north bay, ontario, canada)
She had started with the apple. She munched it while she played on her laptop, let the juice go down her face and wiped it with her sleeve. And every time he thought the endless parade of crunchy health foods had ended, she'd pull out something new. The trail mix wasn't that bad, until the end when she held the bag above her face and shook the last remnants into her mouth.
She tap-tap-tapped away at the laptop, crunch crunch crunched away at the food.
He wondered if she knew that the second button down on her tight, patterned dress gaped open and that everyone could see the place on her bra where the cups joined. She must not know. No one just leaves her top open like that. At one point, back when she was eating the apple, a piece had fallen on her breast, and he thought for sure she'd notice the unbuttoned top, but she merely located the hunk and popped it back into her mouth.
After a while she put away the computer and took out a big, dictionary-style book. Some sort of philosophy text, he thought, from the picture on the cover. She sat on the floor in front of the couch, reading it for some time, and eating, eating, eating. Some kind of off colour, oddly shaped crackers, maybe homemade. Who made their own crackers?
She stopped eating for a moment and took a metal thermos out of her tote bag, which was black with a picture of The Clash on it. From the flask, she poured an amberish greenish liquid into the attached cup, and tried to sip it, only to jerk the cup away from her mouth. She put her lips to it and blew on the liquid until it cooled enough to drink. This ritual happened each time she poured another cup of whatever, though he assumed tea. Why didn't she open the thermos and let it cool rather than spend all that time blowing on each individual cup?
She got up from the floor and lay on the love seat with her shoes off, the soles of her feet towards him. Her toenails were painted magenta, with most of the polish chipped off and grown out. She had the computer on her lap, so that it covered her from thigh to waist. She lay like this despite the fact that she wore a dress, though admittedly with leggings beneath. Between the loudness of the food and her outfit, he didn't think he'd get any homework done today.
Finally, she pulled out the carrots. She jabbed them into her mouth between sips of tea and typed on her laptop, a too-trendy MacBook covered in dust, dirt, some kind of animal hair, and miscellaneous spills. Clack, Clack on the keyboard. Slurp, Slurp on the tea. Crunch, Crunch on the carrots, worse even than the apple. She stopped only for more tea, and paused when she got into an especially good part of whatever she was doing, he assumed, as her typing got more violent when she resumed. Or perhaps she typed faster so she could get back to the important things, like eating.
She looked up at him, mid-chew. He didn't know what to do, and just kept looking back at her. He hoped this was the first time she had noticed him staring.
She looked back down at the screen, swallowed her mouthful, typed a few words and glanced back up at him. He summoned every fiber of his being to look away from her, but he couldn't. Her thick-framed glasses were dirty. Surprised she could see him, he expected her to make some sort of self righteous comment about him staring, or ask what his problem was, or give him a dirty look at the least.
She smiled, held out a zip lock bag that looked like it had been re-used: "Wanna carrot?"