I spent the best and worst years of my life trying to be visible to self-involved cunts with no taste yet somehow accusing me of having none. This desire of mine to be noticed, recognized in some small way by my fellow man (or even woman), started to feel like a parody, reaching a crescendo one day at a bootleg version of Chipotle. It was a taco and burrito chain in Paris stocked with people who treated me invisibly to the nth degree in between condescending to me about my French, at first delivered with complete understandability as I asked simply for some goddamn tacos with poulet. They stared at me blankly, deciding for a half-second if they actually wanted to register what I was saying or if they wanted to proceed with what they did next: give me a runaround about ordering options in what amounted to gibberish for as quickly as they were talking. Telling me about the different meats when, like I said, I just wanted some poulet. In fact, poulet, which usually sketches me out in any other context apart from a taco, was the only thing I could even conceivably eat in that moment. For the thought of any other bifteka seemed repugnant. Like it would make me retch from the expected gaminess of low-quality meat in low-budget settings such as these. But then, it was internal thoughts like this one–“bourgeois logic in a proletariat body,” if you will–that naturally separated me from others. Those so content to resign themselves to slop and filth. To take it as an inherent part of what existence was all about. My refusal to accept this as the rest had so obviously appeared to is what amounted to my wolf biting its own foot off in a trap status.
As they prattled on to my increasingly contorted face, it shook my confidence, which was what they seemed to want. To put me in my place. To remind me of what I was: even if a customer, still at their mercy–not the other way around. Rhett, the male friend I was with looked quizzically from the two servers to me, deciding it best not to get involved. It was then that Juanito (that’s what his name tag said, but I maintain it was a shticky stage name the corporation made him adopt), offered, “Nous pouvons parler français ou anglais.”
I returned sheepishly, as though admitting I was just as stupid and inadequate as they had made me out to be despite my airs of superiority, “Anglais.”
“Okay, you can have a set formula of what you want on the taco, but if you want to add any extras that’s a separate cost from the formula.”
“Yeah, I, uh, know. I’ll just get the formula tacos with chicken.” It was odd calling them “formula” tacos. And it was also odd that it seemed to be causing more difficulty instead of seamlessness for me to order something with built-in ingredients that I wasn’t supposed to need to discuss. Just mutter the single line and be done with it. But no, I had to be spotlighted for my irrelevance and incompetence. For that was the only context in which I could ever be spotlighted by anyone. The male friend, meanwhile–also American–was spoken to in French despite his accent sounding more vomiticious than mine. He was treated deluxely in comparison. Like a complete human being instead of one with half a brain or a Quasimodo face. Quasimodo, in fact, would probably be treated with more reverence than I was in that place. And I couldn’t completely acknowledge that it had to do with the natural chauvinism of Europe in general and France in particular (even when the workers in question were imported from other countries outside the EU).
After saddling my taco with the requisite ingredients of “the formula,” Juanito’s lackey, Marcela, rang me up at the register, her regard for me plummeting even further when I said I didn’t want to add on a drink or chips. I scuttled away with the non-bounty and sat at a table as I watched my friend laugh and talk amiably with the workers. I would never have this kind of dynamic with people. I don’t know if it was because I hated them so goddamn much or the other way around–that they despised me for the unwitting aura I seemed to be projecting. One that connoted self-righteousness and that which held contempt for the quotidian.
Gandhi once said, “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” What did he know? He was delirious from hunger all the time. Maybe he couldn’t be noticed either in that dirty ocean filled with so many fat fucking asshole drops each thinking they were the very fiber that kept the ocean so dense. So worth dipping into. No, likely even he would have gotten service (so long as he wasn’t wearing a wig that made him look like a woman) with a smile that would allow him the ability to properly order a taco without being treated like a retard. Because the world thrives on treating people like me as such. Until stamping me out of existence by making me do the stamping out of my own volition. What place is there for someone like me?
I ask Rhett this after ensuring that he, too, bore witness to my bizarre treatment, and he shrugs, “Have you considered moving to an island?”
Of course I had. But there were no mediocre chains or corporate bastions there that would help me feel as though I was at least trying to stay connected to some thread of my own species. A species that had forsaken me from day one. And I it. So the more I thought about it, the more I wondered why I was even sitting with someone who would suggest I move to an island as opposed to at least feign some attempt at consoling me. If this was humanity, count me out. They with their constant need to belittle the ones who weren’t dickheads with contrived interests. Enraged, I spit out my taco, picked up the “bin” it was in and screamed at no one and everyone in the establishment, “What’s the formula for not concerning oneself with assholes’ opinions?”
The answer, I reckoned, lied in actually being an asshole.