Maria looked up at me and beamed. Maria is such a nice person and always makes you feel like you're the most special person in the world. Fitted out in her starched white apron and chefs hat Maria works at the Custom Sandwich Counter in our company cafeteria.
Maria, who calls me "Meester Beel", speaks at least three languages. I've heard her speak to the manager in Spanish and to a co-worker in Vietnamese.
I speak one language. I should be making Maria the sandwich.
Maria was still beaming, "Tuna?" she asked. She reached down for the boxed lunch she had already prepared for me.
Maria frowned. I don't like to see Maria frown. She looks positively miserable, almost pleading.
"Uh, I dunno," I stuttered, "I've had tuna for, like 300 years in a row. I think today I'll try something new."
Maria stopped frowning and gave me that Spanish Inquisition Look. "Nobody expects NEW!" I imagined her to say.
"What if," I continued, "what if you were hungry, you Maria, what if you were hungry for lunch and made a sandwich. What would you make?"
"I not hungry," she countered.
"Well, what if. Let's say you are hungry," I pressed, "what would you make?"
Maria looked uncertain.
I leaned closer, looked left, then right, then directly into Maria's dark brown eyes. I whispered and she leaned closer to hear.
"I would like you, Maria, to make for me a special sandwich. Your favorite sandwich. Just for me. It will be our secret. Pretend you are making it for yourself. Make me the best sandwich in the history of the world. Make me...your sandwich."
Maria swallowed hard. "You sure?" Her voice was barely above a whisper.
Pausing for a moment as if in deep thought, Maria suddenly brightened and set to work. Her hands were a blur grabbing ingredients, slicing bread, slathering on sauces. She was a demon sandwich machine. I had never seen her move so quickly or with such purpose.
On went the turkey, lettuce, chipotle mayonnaise, some kind of pepper, two cheeses (was that an anchovy?), bean sprouts and a delicate sprinkle of chopped red onion. She turned her back on me and sprinkled on something I couldn't see. She turned around and grinned at me. Her secret.
Maria surveyed her creation. Her brow wrinkled. Something was wrong. Something was missing. Then her countenance lifted, she turned to the food locker, opened the door and disappeared.
Finally, Maria returned with a single sprig of cilantro. She looked at me and smiled. "Secret ingredient," she said. At last she rummaged through the pickle wedge vat and pulled out the two most perfect pickle wedges I've ever seen and plopped them in my sandwich box. And with pride beaming out of every corner of her face Maria presented me with her creation. Her sandwichus magus. It looked fantastic.
"Enjoy," she said.
"Cam on," I said in my best Vietnamese accent which is to say grating.
"De nada," Maria replied.
I shuffled off to my cubicle with my prize. Oh, yeah, babe, this is gonna be good. On the way back to my nest several people in the hallway moved way out of the way as I approached. What? Haven't you ever seen someone drool?
When I got back to my lair with intentions of surfing the net for an hour and enjoying Maria's handiwork I found Larry in my chair.
"Whoa, dude," I exclaimed in my best Surfer Dude accent, "wazzzzup, dawg?"
(OK, so it needs work. Everybody's a critic.)
"Just checking out some banned websites on your machine, man. Hope the company Web Police have a sense of humor."
We both knew that was so funny as not to be so funny.
"Whatcha got there, bud?" Larry inquired, checking out the cafeteria box in my hand.
"Nothing," I replied.
"I didn't have time for lunch today." Larry gave me the puppy dog look.
I held firm.
Larry arched his eyebrows to accentuate the puppy dog look.
I broke. "OK, OK, you can have half a sandwich. But, only half!" I opened the cafeteria box and handed half a sandwich to Larry who chomped into it like a shark on chum.
"Mffph!" he exclaimed. "Mempff fummp smppf," he continued. Larry pointed to my computer screen.
I put the cafeteria box on my desk, scooted Larry out of my chair and checked out what Larry had been reading. It was a very interesting blog site on probability based infrastructure analysis. I was hooked.
Larry mumbled something. Absorbed, I didn't pay attention. Eventually through the fog I heard "bye" and Larry disappeared down the hall.
Finally, I got to the end of the blog and leaned back to mentally absorb what I had read. Cool, I thought. Returning to reality I turned to my lunch and found...
...an empty box.
Wha? Where's my sandwich? Where's Maria's sandwich? I thought back to what Larry had been nattering on about while I was reading the blog site.
"You gonna eat that?"
Slowly I turned, step by step...