April 24, 2010 § Leave a comment
Bacon. Eggs. Sausages. Hash browns. Beans. Mushrooms. Fried bread. And toast. They call it the ‘Big 8’ around these parts, and you’ll still get change for a fiver. But, boy, you better be hungry. They even do a ‘Big 16’, which is exactly what it says on the tin, but even I’m not that insane. I’ve only seen it done once, by Tom ‘Tubbs’ Tiverton, but he was physically incapable of moving for a whole half hour after he’d shovelled that last rasher of bacon into his gob. And he never wasted an opportunity to tell us how it ‘repeated’ on him for days. Yeh, I know; not a pleasant image.
I’ve taken to eating the ‘Big 8’ every day this week. It’s become a ritual for me, an almost meditative state. Each morning, at around half nine, I head to the Frank & Beans Cafe on Wheeler Street, a copy of the Guardian tucked under my arm. I nod to the cashier, whose name I forget. She fixes me with a hateful stare every time though, the old witch. Would it kill her to raise a smile? Actually, judging by those wrinkles and hair whiter than Santa’s beard, maybe it will.
I then sit down at my favourite table – the one right in the back. It’s not a large cafe, so it’s not as if I’m in some far-flung darkened corner, but it does allow me to survey the entire cafe over the lip of my paper. The chair I sit on has its faux-leather cover torn from each side. The stuffing is clearly visible, and even that is turning black with dirt. I’m probably not helping that much; I swear I’ve worn this pair of jeans day in day out for perhaps a month. Never have they seen the inside of a washing machine in all that time. In fact, they even have a large hole in the groin area from repeated use. To those that point out the offending opening, I crassly joke that the large girth of my penis is responsible for tearing a hole in the fabric. Rarely do I get laughs in return, even polite ones.
So this morning I was tucking into my fifth ‘Big 8’ of the week. I inherited my Dad’s metabolism – I could eat crap every day for a year and still have a 30″ inch waste. I claim that it’s a curse to those who stare incredulously at the calories upended into my mouth, but who are we kidding? It’s one of the greatest gifts my old man ever gave me, and that includes the white suit with flares he got married in. The less said about that gift, the better. About halfway through the first sausage of my breakfast, dunked in the runny yolk of one of the eggs, I remembered what I was supposed to be doing today. After a week of lounging around after being laid off from work, today was the day I’d earmarked to work out what the hell I was supposed to do next. Easier said than done. I’ve always been pretty wishy-washy when it comes to my own career path. I just can’t decide what to do, you see. I have grandiose plans, half of which are inflated pipe dreams. But this morning, well… this morning everything changed.
I had glanced up from my breakfast, the sauce that the beans had been swimming in was smeared over my chin. As I wiped it away with a napkin, I noticed the old lady sitting in front of me, resplendent in a dark brown leather cap. It seemed a strange fashion change, totally at odds with my admittedly stereotypical views of what I imagined old ladies should be dressed in. It stirred deeper, more sheltered memories; unspoken half-truths that comprised a darker side of my cheerful mentality. Prejudices that really hadn’t been examined in the cold light of day, but hidden behind locked doors in my character. As you can well imagine, having such deep thoughts whilst halfway through a fry-up, and triggered by something so trival as a fucking leather cap, was more than my mind could realistically compute at half nine on a Friday morning. I reached over for my cuppa, as if the bottom of a mug held some further clarity.
It dawned on me this morning, as I placed the mug back down on the plastic veneer of the table, that I’m old before my time. I’ve been shutting myself off from my own life, erecting barriers to everything around me, desensitizing myself to the pleasures of company, of compassion, of life. I’ve been made redundant because I’m lazy; my endeavours are started in some burst of frenzied passion, extinguished in minutes like a sparkler going out on Bonfire Night. Half-baked ideas discarded with only nominal effort expended into them, whilst big opportunities are shrugged off in a haze of apathy. It was a sobering thought to digest, even as the ‘Big 8’ was slipping down real easy. The woman in front of me had gotten up by this point – she had obviously finished her breakfast. I smiled to myself, imagining she had just polished off the legendary ‘Big 16’ without thinking about it, scoffing at the young whippersnappers who heaved and struggled through it; pretenders to her crown. All morning, my mind was turning over ideas like that, examining them for the first time, outdated prejudices abandoned in favour of fresh perception. It all sounds like so much bullshit now, but it’s exactly what I needed.
It was enlightenment, or ‘satori’ as the Japanese say (I’ve been studying Buddhism lately) – at least it was as much enlightenment as a guy wearing month-old jeans could muster anyway. I rose from my feet and slapped down the princely sum of a tenner, and then practically skipped out of the cafe. On the way out, I gave the cashier a salacious wink and my biggest shit-eating grin. And, wouldn’t you just know it, the old witch actually smiled back.