As I sat alone in a French restaurant in Berlin, I sneezed for the fifth time that afternoon. A man next to me turned to face my silky blue eyes. An old boyfriend described my eyes as silky. I said, "What does that mean," and he said "you know babe." Four months later I broke up with him when he told my mother that he'd rather kill himself than get lunch with her.
The man locked eyes with mine and said, "never sneeze like that again." He then scoffed and turned back to his plate of quinoa and biscuits. I wasn't offended by the remark, but I didn't stop thinking about it for the rest of the night. I don't want to get into the semantics of sneezing, but a remark like that leaves me no choice. I'm a fine sneezer. I might go so far to say I am a phenomenal sneezer. No snot shoots out of my nose when I sneeze. No gunk flies out of my mouth. Saliva doesn't erupt into the air. And I always sneeze into my arm for safe measures. I'm also not one of those pathetic sneezers who sounds like a tiny mouse when I sneeze. I let it out. I let it known to the world. And I keep it civilized, say "excuse me," and move on with my life. So if you tell me to stop sneezing, you've got some nerve.
I threw my silky blue eyes back to the man. He had half a biscuit in his mouth and two spheres of quinoa on his chin. He definitely was not German, and he sure wasn't French. He wore a toupée that was not the right size for his head. He was thirty five years old and probably bought that toupée at age 12. Some astute bully probably pointed out his early balding on the playground. "Hey look, he's got a hairline like LeBron James, but he shoots like a T-Rex." I'd love to date that bully.
"What are you looking at?" the man says as he looks up from his chili. I hadn't even noticed the chili.
"You have two spheres of quinoa on your chin."
"I'll save them for a mid-afternoon snack." It was already mid-afternoon, which was infuriating. I wanted to be in bed to nap two hours ago because I told a friend I'd go see her band play tonight.
The man kept trying to look intimidating, but I could tell he was so embarrassed about the quinoa spheres. He got up and went to the bathroom or maybe he just left the restaurant. I wouldn't know because I left soon after. I wanted to sock this sucker in the face, but I also wanted to get some sleep for tonight.
I woke up the next morning to seventeen missed calls from my friend, and a text that said, "Wish you were here, biscuits galore." The text was from my old boyfriend. It was time to move to France.
©2023 Jake Schick