If I Knew Him Better (a Micro Memoir)
A tiny piece of nonfiction that was in an early draft of my book.
We were stuffing insulation, but now we’re breaking for lunch. My boss assigns everyone a task: my task is to cut up the tomato. It is one of the few colorful things in a dust-filled house, with transparent sheets hung up in almost every room. As everyone disperses, I am left alone with it. I dislike tomatoes, never ate them growing up, certainly never cut them. When I was younger I was a really picky eater, surviving for years on stacks of white bread. “The fly,” my grandmother called me. I avoided fruits and vegetables, anything healthy, like they were plague. I still am not sure how I avoided scurvy.
I scan my brain for any memories of anyone ever cutting tomatoes, but nothing comes. The slices are for sandwiches, but I’m not sure which way to cut. How big the pieces need to be. I announce to no one that I should wash my hands. I stay in the basement for a long time. No one’s down here, but I let the water run just in case. If I knew him better, I would’ve just asked.
How do I cut it?
Can you show me?
When I reemerge, the sandwiches are ready. There is no more tomato.
No One You Know: Strangers and the Stories We Tell is out now from Outpost19. It chronicles my deepest, weirdest, and most memorable encounters with strangers, all revolving around the question of what it means to really know someone. Snag a copy here.
An epilogue: many years later, I have indeed learned how to cut a tomato. Funnily enough, I like them, now. Even love them.