At night, a chubby, hairy corner deli guy nervously strokes his cock to a blurry iPhone photo he snapped of my ass one morning.
I’m certain of it. I don’t know his name and I don’t know if he has a wife or kids, but I know that he wants to invade my body like an army of Ottoman Turks invading Vienna. I’ve seen all the signs. When I’m in his store pondering whether to go with the 10-calorie or 0-calorie Red Bull, I feel his stare burning through me with the heat of the Syrian Desert. I’ve noticed the way he nervously giggles every time I approach his counter to check out. He gets really excited whenever I order one of their Halal breakfast sandwiches that’s made with terrible beef bacon. But what seals the deal for me, what makes me certain that he wants to slather me in hummus and slide his kofta into my pita, is all of the awkward shit that he says to me.
The saga of Mr. Enriquez and the unnamed Deli debutante begins with, of all things, my desire to switch from regular cigarettes to those fake toy ones. Rechargeable e-cigs are hard to find in my area, and the promise of 10 different flavors of my favorite brand are what led me into the chubby cobra’s lair. I grabbed a Vitamin Water and started looking at their e-cig selection. After some searching for a while, I settled, oddly enough, on the "Middle Eastern" flavor, a high-nicotine cartridge that simulates the tobacco flavor of a Camel cigarette. Before I even put the pack of cartridges on the counter, shit started getting all desperate and weird.
"You…are big," said Deli Guy, pronouncing it as "beeg" and making a hand gesture indicating that I was girthy, which I am. I wasn’t quite sure exactly what he said, and when I asked him to repeat it, he nervously backpedaled and said "God bless you, man." It was odd, but I’ve found that being called big is not necessarily an insult coming from someone who’s not of our weight-obsessed culture. It’s even less of an insult when it comes from someone who’s smiling and obviously takes a little pleasure in the fact that I’m "beeg." I paid for everything and headed off to work.
The deli is on my way to the subway, and I was curious about the vanilla flavor cartridges, so I went back the next day. I was greeted with an overly loud and excited "Heeeeeeeeeey!" that echoed across the glass doors of the beverage section. "How’s it going, man?" I replied, making my way to the back of the store to grab a drink and the aforementioned pack of cigarette refills. I noticed a breakfast menu and against my better judgment, I ordered an egg sandwich with that shitty beef bacon frequently seen at the establishments of people who think God hates pork.
While I waited for my celestially approved grease-fest, Deli Guy attempted to strike up a convo. "You married? You have keed?" I’m not married; I’m in a domestic partnership, but I wanted to keep the conversation as short and simple as possible, so I replied, "Yeah, but I don’t have kids" and pointed to the ring on my finger.
"Ahhhhhh," Deli Guy said, as if the sad news was slowly making its way to his tender heart. After a few awkward seconds of watching him eyeball me through my peripheral vision, he said, "Life is good then. Why do people make life so hard? Ees easy. Seemple." Thankfully, the egg sandwich hit the counter in front of him before he finished confessing his feelings for me. I paid and left.
With every trip into the deli, the conversations get weirder. I’ve been told that "You should buy this place boss, so I can work for you" and "God gave you a beautiful face." He really likes calling me "The King" and "Boss" a lot, sometimes both in the same sentence.
So what do I do? Do I stop going there? Am I leading him on by frequenting his deli, when he’s let me know in so many different ways that he wants to give me the white sauce and the hot sauce? Is it cruel to keep showing my God-given "beautiful face" when I know we can never be? I think it is.
Deli Guy, I’m never coming back to your store. I’ve given this some thought, and…I don’t see any way around it. It just won’t work out between us. Even if we did get together, whose father is paying the bride price? Plus, I really can’t see myself wearing a burqa. Sure, black would be slimming, but I’m not going to spend the rest of my life seeing the world through a little slit. You really should move on. Somewhere down the line, another chubby, handsome guy will walk into your store and you’ll forget all about me. Really, it’s for the best.
Hey, we’ll always have that time we chatted while I waited for the egg sandwich, right?
—M. DAVID ENRIQUEZ
This is what Deli Guy thinks I look like without a shirt on. He’s right, but he’ll never know it.