Olivia had a ham sandwich that day for lunch. Most days she stuffed into her mouth a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, or, less often, an everything bagel. The last time she’d eaten a ham sandwich was seven years before. So the idea of having a ham sandwich for lunch enticed her.
She had planned to make one by herself, but her best friend insisted she buy “one of those fancy packaged premium ones” sold in supermarkets.
“Why would I want to lose an arm and a leg just to eat something I can already make?” Olivia asked.
“Look,” replied her best friend, whose name was Ashley, as she put her arms akimbo, “if you’re going to be so resistant, might I offer the alternative that I make the sandwich for you?”
Olivia’s eyebrows twigged. “But–but I can do that . . . myself, you know.”
“But mine are special.”
“You can find out by having one of my sandwiches.”
“Or you could tell me,” Olivia said. She wanted to roll her eyes after everything Ashley said and had to order herself not to.
“Do you want a sandwich or not?”
“Maybe I’ll just make myself another PB&J.” Olivia turned in her kitchen and made for the fridge. “You always do this. Making everything either/or.”
“No, you always do this. You won’t ever let me help you.”
Now Olivia let herself roll her eyes.
“I mean, if you just see things from my POV,” Ashley continued, waving her hands about, “you’d see I’ve got, like, the world’s biggest people deficit with you.”
Eyes bugging, Olivia asked, “‘People deficit’? What the hell is a–“
Ashley explained her system of awarding points based on how those she knew helped her and vice-versa, and also how their situation in life affected how many points they got.
“So, like, you’re taking fifteen frigging credit hours, and you’re working at the bank, and just the other day you bought me tater tots, so that’s a hundred and twenty-five points. You know how many I would’ve gotten if I’d done the same thing?”
Olivia shook her head.
“Just seventy-five. Because, you know, I don’t work. But I didn’t even buy you tots. So my deficit for yesterday was one hundred and twenty-five. Oh, but you’ve got to include you saying you liked my scarf. So that makes the deficit a hundred and seventy-five. That’s just for one day, mind you.”
Unsure how to respond to this, Olivia stammered for a few minutes before saying, “Okay, if it makes you feel better, why don’t you . . . I don’t know . . . make us even if you make me this sandwich. Since you’re so insistent about it.”
“I couldn’t do that! Making a ham sandwich isn’t worth twelve hundred points.”
“Fine. Make it enough to make us even for yesterday. One seventy-five.”
Chewing her lip, Ashley replied, “Okay, I guess if that’s how you want it to be.”
Olivia had a ham sandwich for lunch that day. Of the two slices of bread comprising the sandwich, one felt wet and the other as if something had sucked any moisture it ever had out of it. Fat dollops of curdled mayo fell from the sandwich with every bite onto Olivia’s jeans. There was a slice of lettuce, too. It had some dark spots in it. Finally, there was the ham. Olivia swallowed–or tried to swallow, anyway–whole most of the ham she ate because there was so much gristle that the meat became impossible to chew. For the most part, Olivia thought, eating the sandwich was an exercise in gnawing and preparing her gastrointestinal system for the horrors to come.
“So hows the sandwich?????” asked Ashley via text a few moments after Olivia finished as much of it as she could before hurling the rest in a nearby trash bin.
“It was a . . . sandwich,” Olivia texted back after a good deal of consideration on just how to word her remarks.
“Um yea i know it is bc i made it i’m asking you how did you like it”
“Okay you know what you could do to close that ppl pts deficit even more?”
“Clean out your fridge and haul your ass over to a freaking LPC”