It’s hot. Until I am removed from my brick house and put onto a shiny, metal disk. It fits around me nicely. I am carried to an open room with a lot of tables and chairs and booths and voices and people and air. My caretaker loudly speaks, “Jeff? Your order is ready.” She then proceeds to transport me to a corner of this open, air-filled room. The breeze feels nice on my melted, yellow skin. With a soft thud I am passed into the care of a brown table. Four humans stare at me. Three girls and one boy (he must be the “Jeff”). I feel exposed and quite violated. They look at me like I am something they are going to destroy. Next to me sits a cardboard container of waffle fries that these beasts eye mennicingly as well.
Eight eyes suddenly focus their gazes elsewhere. I feel their stares leave me. They all reach to one another and grab the hands of the people to either side. Each eye closes simultaneously and one of the girls starts speaking.
“Dear God, thank You so much for this meal. Thank You for bringing us all together tonight and giving us the opportunity to share this time. Lord, You are wonderful and I am amazed by You every day. I can’t begin to thank You enough for putting all of these beautiful people in my life; my sister, Alli, and my two favorite cousins in the world, Jeff and Jessi. You are incredible. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
The other three repeat, “Amen” and this word serves as a cue for them to open their eyes again. Their grips release and there is minor chaos as they all come at me at the same time. Four arms from four different directions tear apart my flesh. They each take an eighth of my body without even thinking twice. I see my skin stretch as it refuses to let go of the pieces of my being that these animals are ripping away. Finally, I stop putting in effort. They are relentless, hungry teenagers.
“Steph, could you pass me a napkin?” says one of the girls to the older girl that said the prayer. The girl speaking is wearing glasses and is very pretty and petite. The one that prayed, or Steph, passes the petite girl a napkin as she requested. The petite girl starts dabbing at her portion of me with it. She takes away all the oil from my skin, and accidentally leaves a hole, from where my blood seeps gently. Steph copies the petite girl and does the same to her claimed section of me.
“Here, Jessi,” the petite girl says, and throws the greasy napkin at the girl next to her. This girl, or Jessi, has long brown hair and an average looking face. She cringes when the napkin hits her lightly in the head. Both of these girls are so disrespectful, ripping me apart and then further throwing me around. They have absolutely no concern about my feelings whatsoever. It makes me sick.
“Oh, thank you, Alli…So much,” Jessi says. She then carefully picks up the trash and starts a pile at the edge of her plate. All four children have a smile on their face. I can tell that collectively, they’re just a group of four loved ones that enjoy life, especially together. They all seem so carefree and excited to share a night with one another. If I had to ever choose a way and place to be devoured, I think I would choose this over and over again.
The conversation stays light for a majority of the meal. I’m able to deduce through my listening that Jeff and Jessi are siblings, and so are Alli and Steph. Jessi and Alli are, as they say, “ultra best friends,” and Jeff and Steph are obviously really close. Their intertwined friendships with each other are fascinating, and also inspiring. Even for people that are murdering me bit by bit, they seem lovely.
Jeff finishes his piece of me first and quickly reaches for another one. I am still in pain, but knowing who I am going to somehow makes it easier. All night, Jeff has been making jokes and making the rest of the group laugh. He quickly becomes protective when that’s where the conversation demands him. His overwhelming care for these girls is so clear. He is willing and able to give worthwhile advice for any situation that any of them bring up. He is also very open about what he is going through and accepts help gracefully. Then he finds no problem in bringing the conversation back to a happier subject. He seems like a wonderful person.
The next person to take another slice of me is Jessi. She looks around slightly with insecurity and finally decides she wants a second helping of me. Without bothering to wipe the oil off like the other girls, she bites into me. She almost instantly feels guilty and puts me down. She must be really insecure about what she eats. She eventually eats the rest of the piece, just very slowly.
Steph finishes her fragment of my body after Jessi. Again, she carefully wipes away the grease I’m covered in. She is generally cautious with her actions, but has spurts of energy and excitement. I was able to witness this state of enthusiasm she goes through, where all of a sudden she gets extremely determined about an idea or topic and goes crazy for it. Her intoxication with the simplistic things in life is rare and admirable. I wish I could tell her how commendable her heart is, and how everything she says reflects that heart of hers. She has such grace and beauty. She possesses a calming presence without trying.
Finally, Alli moves on to her second portion, which she says she doesn’t even know if she’s hungry enough for. Gently, she removes a napkin from the metal holder and stabs me with her finger, the napkin acting as protection from direct contact. Everyone else is at least half done with their second serving before she even finishes cleaning my skin off. She slowly raises my corner to her mouth and tears off the first bite. Throughout the dinner, she has been striking me as a usually soft-spoken girl, but with these people, she feels comfortable. This content version of Alli is a very enticing girl, and I am actually quite curious about her back story. I would love to know what makes her up as a person. She strikes me as someone with depth. She has the most genuine love I could ever imagine and the way she behaves with these people, her real family, reflects an image of pure tenderness. A tenderness that could neither be made up nor replaced. Everything about her builds her up to be a wonderful person and a perfect friend.
“I don’t know if I want this.” Alli fusses.
“Well if you’re not going to appreciate it to its fullest then don’t eat it,” Steph commands. I get my hopes up. If any of these children would be the one to save the rest of my hopeless life, it would be Steph. “If you hadn’t already taken a bite then we could’ve given it to a homeless man!” Or not. She was just planning on going behind my back and feeding me to someone else. So much for her having heart.
“Or I’ll eat it,” Jeff suggests. Alli starts to hand her plate over to him, but he quickly interjects and says “No, eat what you can! Just don’t throw it out. That’s such a waste.” Now they’re even referring to me as “it!” They are so contemptuous. As humans they just automatically assume they hold a place higher in society than I do. Slowly but surely, Alli makes her way to my crust.
Steph thrusts her now empty cup at Jessi and holds it in front of her face. Jessi is sitting in the seat closest to the openness of the restaurant. Everyone else is confined in their place by another booth, a small space, or another person. With a sigh, Jessi says “What do you want?”
“Surprise me,” Steph says after some contemplation. “Just not Coke.”
Jessi takes hold of the cardboard cup and dances her way over to the soda-machine. She looks back at the corner and notices Steph isn’t looking. Taking that as permission, Jessi starts putting Coke into the cup. She stops soon after she started and starts adding in more flavors of soda. The end result is a delightful concoction of eight different types of drink, mostly evenly dispersed. Jessi pops the cap back on and takes a quick sip from the straw sticking out of the middle. Her face seemed to say that it wasn’t as disgusting as she had suspected.
She walks it back over to her table and hands it to Steph. She takes a careful sip, and she probably assumed that Jessi was going to create some sort of compilation. One soda seems to boring for this group. “Mmm! This is actually good!” She declares with surprise.
“I know,” Jessi brags with joking pride, and flips her hair behind one of her shoulders. At once, Alli and Jeff both violently hold their cups out to Jessi. She groans, but takes them both. While she is over once again at the soda machine, Alli and Jeff both sip at Steph’s drink. They both seem to enjoy it, so Jessi gladly produces another medley like Steph’s for each of them. They both have different proportions of each flavor. Jessi pops both caps back on and brings them back to her family.
My life disappears a little more with each small, sporadic bite that Alli takes. The other three nibble at waffles fries, covered in way too much ketchup. Casual conversation continues and they all just seem so happy. Each of them provides another aspect of greatness, and all together they fit like a beautiful puzzle.
I am happy that this is the first and last experience I will know of life.
Alli is finally nearing the end. There is almost nothing left of me. “Okay!” Alli says. “I’m ready.”
“Should we go to Big Lots?” Jessi asks.
“Well we should go to Cumby’s first and get slushies,” Jeff suggests.
“Sounds perfect,” Steph concludes.
They all start to stand up and gather their various belongings. Jeff grabs all the trash and Jessi moves the tray that I came over on. Steph moves all the condiments back to their respective places and takes the rest of the trash that Jeff couldn’t hold. Then she looks at Alli and her eyes move to the final piece of me still remaining.
“Alli, really?” Steph says. “Just eat the rest!”
“No, I don’t want it,” Alli insists.
“Fine,” Steph says, and she steals the last bite of me and plops me in her mouth. She swallows.