“What do-ya-do while you wait?” Jimmy asked. He was chewing with his mouth open, on a day old garlic knot the chef said he could have. Jimmy had permanent stubble on his cheeks and heavily chapped lips. The oil from the garlic knot turned his lips into small, rushing springs that flowed into his mouth with each bite he took while we sat in an empty booth.
This was the first time Jimmy and I had been scheduled for the same shift. It was the Super Bowl, and the pizza place was certain they’d need both of us.
“Well, ah…” I began. There was a hesitancy in my voice. I’d only met Jimmy a few minutes ago, and I didn’t know if I could trust him.
“What do you do?” I said back. I had felt my tongue get stuck in my mouth and in order to prevent myself from choking on it, I knew I needed Jimmy to start talking.
“I play chess on my phone…” Jimmy took another big bite of the garlic knot, before asking, “You play?” I shook my head. I’d only played a few times as a kid, and I couldn’t even remember the actual names of the pieces.
“So…what do-ya-do? I’m just trying to figure out what the heck I’d ever do if my phone just went kaput.”
I examined Jimmy as he spoke, and wondered, should I tell him? Can he keep a secret?
I hadn’t told anyone, and I wondered if he’d think I was some-kind of psychopath—indulging in an evil so cruel, I would never be allowed to deliver pizza ever again. But then Jimmy let out a big, ruthless burp straight onto my face, and the garlicky scent smacked into my nostrils and mouth. I knew at that moment it was safe.
“I clip my fingernails…” I said, once the smell had subsided. My eyes dived towards the unwashed table in fear.
“Me too, sometimes…” Jimmy replied. He picked up another stale garlic knot and began to chew. His mouth was like a funnel and he was taking gargantuan bites.
“No…I mean, I do it every night. Just enough for me to sprinkle a little bit on each pizza.”
I felt my fingers begin to numb and the anxiety pulsating from my chest. There was a peculiar look in Jimmy’s eye, and I couldn’t believe I’d told someone. I’d sworn an oath to myself to keep this between me and my cup holder—where I kept the clippings until it was time to use them.
“Hm…” Jimmy said back. He was still eating his garlic knot and I prepared myself. He was likely going to tell the chef my secret and I would be fired on the spot. I would be banished without even being able to explain I did this not by choice, but out of necessity.
This was my way of coping with the man who answered the door with his balls hanging out of his gym shorts. Or the vicious dog that sprinted straight towards my ankles when its owner was figuring out how little to tip me.
“But, what if they give-ya a good tip?” Jimmy was licking the garlicky oil off his fingers. He was enjoying each bite and I noticed the odd look in his eyes were fading, as he had the harsh realization he was out of garlic knots.
“I ah…” I stopped myself. I didn’t care if I got tipped a brand new car, life was too cruel to pizza delivery men.
“I’d still do it!” I yelled back. I could feel the blood rushing through me and I wanted Jimmy to know how serious I was. It was my way of revolting against the constant disappointment, oozing out of every single customer. But Jimmy took a moment, and after crumbling up the tin-foil the garlic knots came in, he said, “What-ever-floats-your-boat, bud…”
His voice was calm and collected. He didn’t seem fazed at all, and he confirmed his disinterest by asking, “Wanna play a quick round of chess?” I looked at him with disbelief. I had just spilled my greatest secret and Jimmy didn’t care. He didn’t even bother to understand or appreciate why I did it, and what I believed every single delivery man should do.
“You two!” I heard from the kitchen. The chef was holding two large, steaming pies. I could smell the cheap tomato sauce, and before I had time to say anything else the chef added, “Get to it! We’ve got a busy night tonight.”