Behind the counter, José is fast at work, with an efficiency that I adore. Bagels fly in his hands, as he takes the orders of six people at a time, his hands and his mouth seemingly disconnected. He slathers jelly on a whole wheat bagel while I tell him I’d like my low-fat cream cheese on a pumpernickel.
“Toasted? Next, next, next!”
There is a man talking to him, near him, his sentences loud and choppy. The man is loud, so loud that I hold my hand up to my ear to block out his booming voice. No matter which way he turned, his voice echoed off the counters, the walls, the neat lines of refrigerated shelf.
José turns his back on him and the man turns to me. “Fat is good for you, you know. It’ll fill you up until lunchtime.”
“Mmmn,” I said, not eager to converse with a stranger under the best of circumstances, which the current situation certainly was not. The long night of teeth and milk and interrupted sleep was not nearly far enough behind me.
“No, really,” the man continues. “They’re doing studies on it now. They say all the problems now are with carbs, with gluten.”
“Oh?” I ask, feeling a creeping rage at this stranger. “Change my order then, please. I’ll have the low-carb bagel. With low-fat cream cheese. And some privacy.”
José laughs and turns, his hands pulling out my dark bagel. He grabs a sheet of tin foil, his right hand already reaching for the knife.