Pub date June 3, 2009
WriterL.E. Leone
SectionCheap EatsSectionFood & Drink


CHEAP EATS A lime green flip-flop on the shower floor of a gym I don’t go to … Somebody stole my compost pile. The old woman I am not was rehearsing what to say to her doctor. "I have an eating disorder," she rehearsed, in the waiting room. Her husband was sitting, she was standing. Both were 80. "Anything else?" she said.

The husband mumbled something I couldn’t hear.

"I can’t wait to see him!" she said, and kept saying, to the receptionist, to me, to her husband. "After all this time! I can’t believe I’m going to see him." She actually said that. She was way too excited to sit down. There were pictures on the wall of all the doctors who shared this office, and she excused herself for climbing on my lap to get a better look.

But I don’t think he was up there. I know my doctor wasn’t.

Her doctor, I gathered from something else overheard, had retired and recently unretired. "I hope he notices that I lost some weight," she said.

I sneaked long looks at the husband, who was playing his part perfectly, part trooper, part crank. What could he say?

What can I say?

"There are restaurants around here," she said, apropos of very little. Her husband nodded.

I smiled and felt very healthy, and very confident in the health of the old woman I am not. To be honest, I might have under-overheard her, initially. She might have said "reading disorder." That was what it sounded like, but my brain must have substituted "eating disorder" because it didn’t know what to make of a reading disorder.

But really I should leave these matters to the medics.

For example, I was fully prepared to describe to my doctor not only the symptoms of my ailment but the diagnosis, the prognosis, and the cure.

It’s too easy.

The old woman’s time came and her husband, for better or worse, followed her in. I opened my book.

Me? My pulse, temperature, and blood pressure were, as always, pathologically normal. My cholesterol? Low.

For my birthday everyone made me bacon cupcakes, and pulled pork, and mac and cheese, oh, and a Rice Krispies cookie cake shaped like a roasted chicken. But even before any of the above indulgences indulged my palate, I had a stomachache.

Stomachache is not the right word. I had nausea, no appetite (or a lot less than usual), mild dyslexia, pins and needles in my legs, a slight spin to my head, sleeplessness, and the giggles. I was way too happy for my own good.

When my doctor walked in I broke it to her: "I have a writing disorder."

She lit up. Young, unjaded, unhurried, and beautiful, she seems to actually like it that I come see her once or twice a year for no good reason. "Tell me about it," she said.

"A lime green flip-flop," I said, "on the shower floor of a gym I don’t go to."

"Mmm-hmm. Mmm-hmm." She nodded, wide-eyed. Mind you, this is a general practitioner, not my therapist.

"That wasn’t a dream," I said. "This was: somebody stole my compost pile. I went outside and it was gone. Who would steal compost?"

"I wonder," she said, wondering with me. And the rest was academic, easy questions with obvious answers.

I’m a bad Italian. I can have too much garlic. It gives me anxiety attacks, whereas raw white onions calm me down. I had a cousin visiting from Ohio, and she and my nephew wanted to go to the stinking the Stinking Rose, so I went, to be sociable, but held back on the eats.

After Vesuvio, I hugged them goodbye and walked toward my car. They went the other way, toward more beer. Once they were out of sight, I ducked into a cute little downstairs-upstairs Thai restaurant I’d never noticed before, probably because it wasn’t there. Ton Yong. I’d much rather eat duck soup than over-garlicky overrated Italian food. As you know, it’s medicine to me, and Ton Yong had it, $8.25.

It was good, a little salty maybe, but a lot of ducky, and good noodles. Still, it was not exactly what the doctor ordered. I said this already, before I knew what it meant, but not even duck soup can save me now. I’m in love. Pass the Ativan.


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(415) 986-6218

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L.E. Leone’s new book is Big Bend (Sparkle Street Books), a collection of short fiction.