I am a committed vegetarian. I do not, will not, cannot eat meat. I choose not to, my choice. I hate it when people ask me the big important question, looking at me like I have two heads or twelve toes or five fingers, in that wondering, questioning, disapproving way, ‘Why don’t you eat meat?’
Hate it hate it hate it.
Sitting at an outside table of the restaurant I wait at, at last enjoying the leisure of my break hour, I order the grilled fish and tomato, boccacini and avocado salad, full of omega-3, vitamins and minerals, low in fat, salt and sugar. Healthy and happy. Happy and healthy.
The gorgeous waitress, slim, smooth and tender, young and supple, sits down next to me with that girlish grin on her face that inexplicably makes my heart flutter and stomach murmur. What is that? I didn’t even think I liked her. She doesn’t get me. She doesn’t even seem to like me. So why did she sleep with me? Was it a pity fuck? Am I that much of a misery. I even think the girls that fuck me don’t want me.
“So why are you a vegetarian?” she pouts looking at my plate.
I swallow my mouthful of salad, the rich, greeny taste so natural and nice in contrast to the fatty, sinewy texture of meat.
“Well lots of reasons really. I was at a time in my life when I wanted a change, I wasn’t going to become religious, ha!, no way, and I‘d been reading a lot about the meat ‘industry’, remember there’s no farms anymore, it’s a meat- processing – factory, not your friendly local farmer raising cattle with his family, sorry I’m rambling, cause I’m not even an animal lover, it’s not only the way the animals get treated which is disgusting, but the treatment of the human workers. Working in the meat processing industry is the worst job on the planet, full of low-income highly-illegal immigrants, with the worst record of workplace accidents for any job but that’s hidden by the bosses and supervisors. Read Fast Food Nation! It’s by a guy called Eric Schlosser. Then there’s the FDA in America, they’re not even looking for mad cow disease; they don’t want to find it. They test something like 1 in every 100,000 cattle. They know if they find it the beef industry will be decimated, I mean look at Britain in the nineties after they found it there. They’re still recovering from that shock. That’s not to mention the faeces, beaks, hoofs and horns that make their way into the mix. Once I knew the facts I just couldn’t consciously eat meat again. It’s not that I didn’t like meat, I loved bacon, on anything, but once you know what goes into getting that meat onto your plate or in your bun, it’s hard to put it in your mouth. It’s been two years now since I ate meat and I haven’t regretted it for a second. I’ve never been healthier and I feel great. I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do it.”
“But it tastes so good!” she almost squeals in her Aussie droll.
I look at her, appreciating her thin waist, brown eyes and button nose. I like that she reads fantasy fiction. That she reads. And doesn’t cake her face in make-up.
I see the made-up barmaid in the background behind her pouring drinks. From a distance she’s almost fuck able. Almost. But up close it’s like someone shot her in the face with a paintball gun. I try to imagine what she would look like in bed after a heavy night out, tired and naked. A wistful smile grows across my face as I think of her rolling over in the morning to look at me and seeing half her face still on the pillow. Two-face ha!
The Waitress doesn’t have her hair in some mangled do like a lot of these stupid young girls do, that looks like they spent a day in a beehive than any kind of fashion statement.
She’s natural. And smart and funny.
But she doesn’t get me.
She doesn’t laugh at what I laugh at.
Believe what I believe.
Like the same music, shows or authors.
Is this what settling means? Why do I like her?
“And it’s good for the environment. Do you realize how much the feeding and transport of cattle contributes to global warming. Not to mention the methane that they, ahem, excrete, shall we say, that’s 21 times more harmful than carbon dioxide as a pollutant”.
She delicately cuts into her steak as if to tease and taunt me, slicing off a sweet, juicy tender piece and seductively placing it in her mouth where she chews and swallows it.
“I did think about eating meat maybe once a week on a Sunday. I’m not against eating meat per se, I think it probably contributed to our rapid development over the last few thousand years, and there’s been tribes found in Asia that have the healthiest diet in the world who eat only a little meat, mostly having fish, beans, peanuts and plants. But any time a society becomes civilised and affluent they begin to raise cattle, and eat more meat, meaning more fat, then comes commerce, then McDonalds and KFC and before you know it you have an obesity epidemic on your hands. I mean I know none of us are going to last forever but vegetarians have a lesser chance of heart disease and lots of cancers and generally live longer.”
“Ok, ok I get it”. She looks at me with a smile that I can’t quite read. Then again I can’t read anything about her.
She doesn’t say anything though. Nothing new. And continues eating her steak.
Am I not man enough for her. Does she need a true, red-blooded, silent but violent type who’ll show her whose boss? If she does then I’m not the man for her and I shouldn’t take it to heart. It’s her loss.
I decide to leave her hanging and make my intention to leave, maybe make her want me more if I don’t seem interested, the tactic that seems to work for most guys but one I can never seem to quite execute rightly. I enjoy the chase too much. Having Scottish roots I enjoy the glorious failure too much. Coming close but never close enough.
I excuse myself, return my plate, and leave the restaurant to clear my head and gather my thoughts, heading for the tree in park I like to read under, crossing the normally quiet road.
I turn to look at her again, what’s going on with me?, why does just seeing her smile make my stomach flutter…
SKID SKID SKID!!!
PAIN PAIN PAIN PAIN!!!!
The Waitress jumps up knocking her steak on to the ground but she doesn’t notice and dashes to him, food still in her mouth, unable to swallow. She cradles his broken body, fighting for its life in a battle that can’t be won.
The driver of the truck staggers out his cabin, unable to believe what just happened, how his life will never ever be the same again, because of that stupid stranger looking in the other direction.
The Waitress looks up at his navy uniform as he approaches wild-eyed and disbelieving, reading the company badge she looks at the cargo he’s trailing,
Fruit & Veg
as her unsaid feelings of love seep into every part of her body, never now able to be released, held in forever by pain and regret.