is going on about something you find disagreeable and you wish to make them
discontinue speaking, the best strategy to employ is to let them know that they have
a little something on their face.
got a little
something...,” you say. “On your face. Right there,” and you’re pointing to
your own chin, right below your bottom lip. Cringing, half-smile, eyes squint
condescendingly. This is when they stop
speaking and making excuses, but their sputtering isn’t actual words and
they’re dabbing their chin with their napkin in the same spot that you pointed
to on your own chin.
no, yeah, it’s
still there,” and now you’re pointing to a different spot on the lower portion
of your face, smiling sympathetically.
I get it?” is
what they ask you, anxious, desperately blotting their face.
you tell them, dismissively, your hand waving them off. “Don’t worry about it.”
seriously, did I
it,” you reply, deigning not to speak about it any further.
sit across the
table from you now, frantically dabbing and blotting at their face. They have
completely forgotten what it is they were pontificating about and furthermore,
now they cannot remember why they felt so adamantly about whatever it was.
is going on and
on about something he has recently started referring to as Taco Tuesday. Gar is
always going on and on about
simple. I transfer the mydriatic from the original bottle into this one.”
is pointing to a vial
of eye drops, the label on the front peeled off.
declares, tapping the vial. “The doctors used to keep Atropine in the office
which is way more potent than Tropicamide. A bottle of Atropine will close your
throat all the way up. Tropicamide; it'll do it but it'll take a lot more.”
as he plucks the vial of eye drops between his index finger and thumb and
frantically begins to tap it against the gnarled and scratched wood of the
goes on, “those Russian fuckers do the shit to get high. Tropicamide. They rail
that shit. As for myself, I don’t see the appeal. Dysphoria, tremors,
psychomotor agitation, tachycardia, convulsions...”
is listing off
the symptoms of mydriatic eye drop poisoning on his left hand, starting with
his thumb, then index, then middle and so on until he has made it all the way
to the little finger of his right hand and then he stops and says, “did I say
wireless door chime produces the sound of a digital device attempting to
recreate the sound of a natural doorbell and a young woman in yoga pants walks
into the restaurant. Gar looks away for a moment, his eyes following the woman
as she makes her way to the counter.
woman says to
the man at the counter, I ordered online?
and she says it like it’s a question in that distinct way that only
privileged white women from places with shiny, new gentrification-names like
NoMa and SoHo speak. She scrolls through her phone, finds what she is looking
for, shows the man at the counter the image on the screen. The man looks over
his shoulder and yells fifty-six, picking up!
He looks at the woman, smiles, tells her just a moment.
eyeing the counter. “Watch him say it, he always says it.”
man at the
counter puts utensils and napkins in the plastic carryout bag, hands it to the
woman, still smiling. The woman nods at the man, thanks him.
famous pico de gallo is over there on the
condiment table,” the man at the counter says, Gar silently mouthing the words
of his speech along with him. “Along with flour tortilla chips - made right
here in our own kitchen - and salsa; mild, medium or diablo. Please help yourself.”
makes her way to the condiment table. Gar is watching her, focused. He licks
his aubergine sausage lips.
piece of ass
like her probably don’t even eat chips and salsa,” says Gar, sneering.
enough,” I say to Gar and that’s all I say. Three words. This will probably be
all that I say for the remainder of this engagement. I’m not a man of many
words. Never had a need for many words when just as few will do the trick. But
what I won’t tolerate in this one-sided conversation is disrespect or misogyny.
This woman is somebody’s daughter. Somebody’s sister. Perhaps somebody’s
mother, although judging from her narrow waist this would probably prove
unlikely. Fuck! Here I am, focusing
on this woman’s hips like a lecher, objectifying this woman, turning her into
an object, all because of Gar’s insidiously skewed perception of women,
infecting me like some kind of lubricious virus.
deal?” He says, playing innocent.
winks at me,
uses his eyes to draw a line to the condiment table where the woman is
shoveling chips into her takeaway bag.
She’s using the tiny condiment cups, filling them up with different
kinds of salsa, snapping the plastic lids on top. With the salsa all being the
same shade and hue, I can’t help but wonder how she is going to tell the
difference between mild, medium or diablo.
It’s not like she took the time to label the
condiment cups or keep them separated in some way.
you go then,”
he says, and the Honeywell wireless door chime lets us know that the woman has
exited the restaurant.
watch Gar watch
the woman walk out the door, out into the parking lot.
you know,” Gar
says, mouth full of masticated tortilla chips, “that in 2007, a 23-year-old
woman in India, over eight months pregnant, decided to hang herself moments
after her contractions started? A living child was spontaneously delivered,
bursting forth from the woman's body, which—I’ll have you know—was still
suspended by the neck, dangling from the ceiling.”
Gar makes a fist and holds it a foot or so above his head,
arm bent at the elbow; cocks his neck at an angle, grits his teeth together and
pulls his fist up like he’s holding a noose.
was found on the floor, still tethered to the body of the mother by the
umbilical cord, crying and messy with afterbirth.”
I think about the woman, wonder if she has a family.
“I’m Desi. Did
you know that?” he says, food particles spraying out of his mouth. “You
wouldn’t know it by looking at me. Grew up in Mumbai, right next to the Matunga
Road railway station. All my life.”
Not the pregnant woman in India who hung herself. Although
I think about her often because Gar tells this story so frequently. I think
about the woman who just left the restaurant; wonder if she prefers mild,
medium or diablo. When Gar plays Taco
Tuesday, he prefers diablo.
Gar, with his mouth full of food, says, “2005. Hamburg,
Germany. A landlord is always having issues with a particular tenant paying her
rent on time. After weeks with no communication he decides to let himself into
the unit where he finds the tenant, pregnant with her lips blue and brain dead
from a heroin overdose. When officials found her in her apartment, she was in
an advanced state of decay. That’s technical mumbo jumbo for the broad was full
of insects. During
the autopsy, the baby’s head and shoulders were found to be outside the woman’s
vagina, the other half still stuck up inside her. That’s what they call coffin
birth. Have you heard of this
I wish Gar would stop talking.
“The technical term for this extraordinary phenomenon is post-mortem
fetal extrusion. Dead bodies create natural gases as they decay.
Precious, corpse-stink effluvium. When a pregnant woman dies the gases enclosed
in the upper body and pelvic area exert pressure on the uterus. Then pop! The
baby pops right out. Like a
Gar takes his thumb and presses it into his cheek to
create that wet popping sound—simulating what he believes to be the sound of coffin
birth—then cracks up laughing.
He’s slapping his thighs, eyes wet and black like two oil spills.
“I’m German. Did you know that? Ich bin Deutscher.
Street tough, raised hard in Dresden. Wir sind ja nicht aus Zucker you realize.”
The door chime goes off and another woman walks in, this
one with two young children.
“Aw shit,” he says, eyes following the woman as she
approaches the counter. “Prime real estate.”
I hate it when Gar turns people into objects. The woman
and her children stand at the counter, order their food, fish tacos and lengua, sides
of red rice. She orders something else, pollo
con chile guajillo in Spanish.
“Did you know, in 2008, the body of a 38-year-old woman
was discovered in Panama? Plastic bag over her head, duct taped wrists and
ankles, plus they gagged her. Overkill if ya ask me, no pun intended. During
the autopsy, they found a fetus in her undergarments, the umbilical cord
intact, still attached to the godforsaken placenta.”
The son—about five or six—is older than the daughter who
clutches the mother’s legs, peering at us suspiciously, eye-fucking me, then
eye-fucking Gar, back and forth. Back and
forth. Gar waves at the little girl, winks at her with one of his oil-spill
eyes and she gasps, hides herself behind her mother’s legs.
Gar says, “Still intact! Would you believe it?” and then
“Did you know I’m Panamanian? Soy
Panameño. All my life. My family is still in San Miguelito. The fucker at
the counter working the cash register? El
sigue mirando a mi chica. No puedo soportar ese pelao.”
I watch the man at the counter put plasticware and napkins
into a plastic bag. He doesn’t seem to be giving the woman an inappropriate
amount of eye contact - not overtly so—at least as far as I can tell.
“Watch,” Gar is saying, his ocean-black eyes sparkling
with delight. “He’s gonna say it again. Sweet galactic fuck, he’s gonna say it
He’s violently shaking his right leg under the table, the
fabric of his pants audibly chafing the side of the booth we are in, barely
able to contain himself. RLS. Restless
“He’s fucking saying
man at the
counter says: “Our famous pico de gallo is
over there on the condiment table. Along with flour tortilla chips - made right
here in our own kitchen - and salsa; mild, medium or diablo. Please help yourself.”
is in tears, his
face red and swollen as if he has eaten too much salsa. The woman instructs
the older child to go to
the condiment bar, stock up on as much of the chips and salsa as he desires.
Gar wipes the wetness from his cheeks, still smiling in the corners of his
eyes. He follows the boy’s movements with his starving wolf gaze. The boy
pauses in front of the salsa, contemplates whether he wants mild, medium or diablo.
a big boy
aren’t you?” he says to the child with a conspiratorial wink. “Then get the diablo. You’re not afraid of a little heat now are you?”
boy does that
deer-caught-in-headlights thing with
his lips parted in an O, cartoon eyes
wide with confusion. I watch him watch Gar; see the boy try to make sense of
what he’s seeing. Gar is a very large man. Unnaturally so. The way the child
wears shock all over his face, you can tell he’s been told never to talk to
strangers. Especially strangers who look like Gar. Although he is still young
and hasn’t seen the world for all of its chaos and unpredictability, some kind
of evolutionary fight-or-flight instinct buried deep inside his bladder informs
him that this large man sitting in the booth is an imminent threat. Something
about this man is making the hair on the back of his neck stand up. Palms
clammy, his stomach feels larger than usual and hollow, as if he has too much
empty space inside of him. Gar smiles at the boy, sticks his tongue out and
crosses his eyes.
shouts. “Bryson get back here now. Wait with Mommy.”
little boy is
still frozen in terror; one hand ladling the salsa, the other holding the
condiment cup. His tiny hand shakes, spilling tomato mush onto the floor.
hisses, “Listen to your mother Bryson.”
his own name
makes the boy comes alive. Eyes bright with awareness, he darts over to the
woman, joins his younger sister in the safe space behind his mother’s legs.
woman says, “Do
not speak to my child?” and the word child
has that familiar insecure question mark at the end of it, turning what
should be a demand into a pusillanimous request.
is still smiling
with his inkwell eyes. He licks his lips. They look like two fat worms.
says the man
at the counter, putting a little bass in his voice, “I’m going to have to ask
you to leave.”
Gar waves off the man at the counter and doesn’t move.
I’ll call the
you now?” Gar
asks, his deep space eyes never leaving the boy at the mother’s legs. “And what
will you tell them? Did I not pay for my meal?”
man at the counter says, the last hint of bass leaving his voice with the word please.
I run off on my
bill? Does this piece of paper with your company name and address printed
across the top not indicate receipt of payment? If my money is good enough here
to take, then am I not also good enough to enjoy the use of your dining
sir, I don’t
want any kind of trouble.”
is waving his
receipt in the air and the man at the counter is retreating. I watch as his
primitive animal brain does the cost-benefit analysis of what would happen if
he engaged Gar in a physical confrontation. I watch him measure the distance
between Gar and himself, wondering if he can reach the phone in time to call
911. I watch him as the Cortisol floods his brain, watch the moment of
realization when he determines that the cost of approaching the threat is too
high and that retreat is his only option for survival.
Tuesday!” Gar whines. He pulls in one of those thick purple worms that he calls
a lip, juts out the lower worm—presses it out—and I realize that Gar is trying
to pout. Hellhound black puppy dog eyes.
get up from the
table together, scoot out of the booth at the same time. I take one last look
at the salsa; mild, medium or diablo.
got a little
something,” Gar says, pointing at the man. “On your face.”
man at the
counter’s hand comes up to touch his face, reflex-quick. He’s wiping and rubbing,
trying to find that stray piece of whatever
not there,” Gar
says, pointing to his chin. His swollen purple worm-lips spread into a grin
until all that’s left are teeth.
Shiloh Simmons was born in
Washington, D.C. during the crack epidemic and spent his childhood within the
juvenile justice system in various institutions and holding facilities. His
work has been praised by D. Harlan Wilson, Brian Evenson and Snoop Dogg.
He has been featured in the Washington Post, Don Diva Magazine and the
Washington City Paper. Shiloh lives with his wife in Baltimore where he spends
his time writing and cultivating Teonanacatl (psilocybin mushrooms.)
You can connect with Shiloh
on Instagram at @ToppDoggHill