August 3, 2015
Rat Race
October 28, 2015
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There’s always tomorrow

It’s 3am. I said I wasn’t going to do this. But I have said that before. How many times now? I don’t want to count.

The restaurant is almost deserted, bar a drunk couple in the corner, deserting their meals and supersized Cokes in favour of each other’s tongues. They are falling all over each other but they don’t bother me. So long as they are distracted they won’t take any notice of the fat bloke at the counter.

“Large Big Mac meal deal thanks,” I say to the braces-clad, acned girl behind the counter, dumping the cash in her hand. “Add a Quarter-Pounder and another large fries.”

My hand is almost double the size of hers. I am conscious of my billowing presence before her and how I must look. I wasn’t really thinking about how I might be received when I answered the late night urge for the Golden Arches, rolling out of bed in the shorts and t-shirt I have donned for three days now. I know I can’t smell good but it’s too late now.

The girl doesn’t seem to care too much, she’s probably just happy I’m not drunk like the couple in the corner. I guess they get a lot of that on the graveyard shift.

“Eat in or take-away?” she asks.

“Take-away.” I can’t bare eating in public at this hour and in this condition under the glare of the fluorescent lights while some other teenager in uniform mops the floor around me.

She busies herself behind the counter grabbing the burgers off the assembly line, scooping hot fries and filling the Coke cup.

“Enjoy your meal,” she says with as much authenticity as Maree did when she said everything was fine. The girl hands me the package.

But that was a while ago. Maree. She doesn’t say everything is fine now. She hasn’t talked to me much at all since she left. It went from fine to apparently I made her sick, those were her parting words anyway.

I grab the package and head for the door, confronted by the chill of the dead of night. I won’t eat in, but I won’t go home either. That way, if I stash the rubbish in the bin here I can go home and almost pretend I wasn’t here, that I never weakened. I can start afresh tomorrow.

I always hid my eating from Maree but it got worse after I was made redundant. Then, while she was at work during the day and I was home alone, things got a bit out of control. At first she started dropping hints, such as: “Maybe between job interviews you could go to the gym, get in shape a bit.”

I would agree with her but not do anything about it. Me in a gym? Imagine. I can’t stand gyms. All that hufffing a puffing and looking at yourself in the mirror. Vain arseholes.

When she asked if I had done anything about joining up I went on the attack: “If you actually knew me, you’d know that a gym is the last place on earth I would want to go, what were you thinking.”

Maree got frosty. It wasn’t long after that when if I asked if things were ok between us, she’d come back with “Fine”.   

The burger sits hot and heavy in my hand. It’s warmth seeps alluringly through its cardboard box. I can sense the softness of the bun and my mouth salivates in anticipation.

Sitting in the dark in the driver’s seat of my car, I sink my teeth in for first bite, the mix of hot juices, melted cheese, mayonaise and ketchup are what I have come here for. I chew and groan. I stuff handful after handful of fries into my mouth and ingest. There is no savouring, the whole thing is over in minutes. After my gorge by belly feels full, but I am empty.

I wipe the tears from my cheeks, screw up the rubbish, open the driver’s door and shove it down the bin chute.

Tomorrow. I’ll start again tomorrow.

Karina Grift
Karina Grift
I am an artist and writer living in Melbourne, Australia. Professionally I am a freelance journalist, editor and media consultant. I paint and write for sanity and the challenge.

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