Pity Jelly by Lem Parzyk
June 20, 2013 Comments Off on Pity Jelly by Lem Parzyk
When I was real little, I took interest in that one kid at lunch who brown bagged the same damn thing every day without any variation. Out he’d pull a single ziplocked square of sandwich, crust still firmly attached to the standard white bread, smooth peanut butter safely secured inside. A dime to pay for a little carton of milk was added almost as an afterthought. It wasn’t enough money for chocolate milk, but sometimes he would save up for the extra five cents, for the milk that was so much sweeter by compare, for the milk that everyone else drank.
It was a quiet neglect. Not as if his mother had haphazardly dashed together the sandwich with a little peanut butter oasis in the middle, the pieces of bread all off kilter. Not like she only gave him a nickel for milk. Neglect was sandwiched in the evenly applied peanut buttery facade of lingering resentment.
The best part of my entire day was right before he’d open that bag. Because maybe, just maybe, he’d pull out a Japanese bento complete with shrimp and sushi and rice, or a pungent lamb biryani with curry, topped off with spicy and vibrant masala tandoori naan, or maybe, and here’s an outlandish idea, maybe he’d pull out a sandwich with peanut butter and fucking jelly.
The worst part of my day was when that bland peanut butter sandwich would thump unceremoniously out of the bag onto the table, the dime bouncing after it, and when the despondent look would creep onto that boy’s face because maybe, he too, had been hoping for a bento and a parent who gave half a crap.
I wanted to slip him some jelly on the side, the jelly that comes in little containers at the pancake house I went to with my mother every Sunday. I wanted so desperately to share my vanilla yogurt since, hell, rice cakes would be an extravagant, thrilling divergence for that poor boy. I most of all wanted to give his parents a talking to. Give him a goddamned shawarma, a shish-kabob, a sop buntut — I don’t care — just give him a fucking break.
But I didn’t give him the jelly. He was the odd kid held back in kindergarten, pale, thin, silent. I was on the verge of realizing that I wanted him to be happy, but by no means did I want to be his friend. So I’d take a shame-filled gulp of chocolate milk.
I’d bite into my peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
© 2013 Lem Parzyk
Lem Parzyk has been published in The Molotov Cocktail, DOGZPLOT, and a few others. She’s the editor-in-chief of odd fiction and poetry magazine Churn Thy Butter. She quietly resents the use of semicolons.