Bwog takes another step towards becoming the erotic fanfic blog of Columbia University.
It was a Thursday and I was beyond gone. The previous four hours had been a blur of empty cups and imposing men asking me for identification. Things ended early when I handed a bouncer my student ID. It probably didn’t help that I’d dropped it a few times first. “You’re done,” he said as he pointed back out into the cold. “Maybe tomorrow night.” Whatever, dude.
I wove my way through empty sidewalks, grinning at my numbness like an idiot. After what must have been only a few minutes, I found myself stumbling along Riverside Drive. I seem to remember seeing a sign for 162nd Street, but that can’t be right.
I needed food. My first thought was HamDel, but I only had five dollars and my debit card was a casualty of the night. Halal, then. I scurried over to the first cart I saw and demanded lamb over rice. The man seemed not to hear so I asked again, louder this time.
“We’re closed,” the cart’s operator said, keeping his back to me.
“Who’s we?” I asked, impishly. I chuckled at my joke.
“You’re funny. This cart is closed,” he said, finally turning.
“I really need lamb over rice,” I said, trying my hardest not to slur my words.
“I won’t want it then.”
“Just be a pal.”
“Everything’s packed up. I want to go home.”
“Like you have anything important to do.”
At this point he rolled his eyes and got back to packing up his cart. Something about silence breaks booze’s spell. The music had stopped and I was left holding the bloody end of the conversation.
“Hey dude, I’m sorry…” I trailed off, not quite able to recall what I was apologizing for.
“I’m not your ‘dude,’” he said. “But it’s cool.” He looked at me for a second. “You should get some sleep.”
“I need to eat first.”
“I only have five dollars.”
“Oh, so you’re only here because of the price?”
“Nobody’s here because of the food.”
“It’s okay. I was gonna get Hamilton anyway.”
“Isn’t that like sleeping with the enemy?”
“Gotta keep your enemies close, man.”
“Wanna split a sandwich?”
In under ten minutes I was, rather improbably, leaning on a car and working through my half of a Lewinsky. John, as we’ll call him, had already finished his. “I haven’t eaten since breakfast,” he explained.
“You really don’t eat your own food?” I asked between bites.
“People buy halal because they forget that it doesn’t taste or even look as good as it smells. I never forget this,” he explained, smirking.
I balled up my half of the wrapper and binned it. “I think it tastes fine.” I think I meant it, but it might have been the booze or exhaustion talking. It’s doubtful that he believed me either way, but gestures matter infinitely more than truth in situations such as those.
“So now that you’ve bought me dinner…” I began, but broke into a laugh before I could finish the sentence. Not that I knew where it was going.
“We split it, remember?” he said, apparently uncomprehending.
I don’t know what put the thought in my head. I was drunk, sure, but I suspect the vodka opened me up to suggestion more than it put me in a particularly sultry mood. Maybe there was something in his aggressive vulgarity that played like flirting in my hazy mind. Blow me. Why shouldn’t I? He was handsome enough, he wasn’t busy, he might even teach me a thing or two.
I reached across and touched his shoulder.
“Are you cool?” he asked, shifting as if to be ready to dodge a sudden spray of vomit. Naturally, I interpreted all of this as downright inviting and went for his mouth. He was ready to dodge spew, but a sudden burst of affection caught him off guard. I thought I could feel him beginning to reciprocate the kiss, but that might have been my imagination. Whatever his reaction, it didn’t last long—it couldn’t have been more than two seconds before he was stumbling backwards, wiping his mouth with his sleeve. “What the hell?” he sputtered.
I knew I wouldn’t be able to make a coherent response, so I kept my mouth shut. Rare prudence. John shook his head, got into his truck, and drove off, food cart in tow. I collapsed against the car behind me, my expression shifting from shock to absolute calm. I closed my eyes to block out the street lamp above me.
I’d been a drunken fool, and I knew it. Still, he’d made some gestures, hadn’t he? I can’t have imagined all of it. He must have made some misleading sign; maybe he’d even done the whole thing intentionally, as a sort of power play. The whole thing suddenly seemed so silly, so naïve: had I really thought that splitting a sandwich with a halal cart operator was the first step in a new sexual journey? The hope was embarrassing, even with the excuse of insobriety.
“Hey,” a man’s voice echoed down the street. I looked around, but there was just a middle-aged woman walking her dog a few feet from me. I returned to my reverie.
A few seconds later came another shout. “You, on the car!”
I looked around a second time, and this time spotted a man almost a block away waving dramatically. I shouted something incoherent back and he started to make his way towards me. “One wrong step and I’ll wake up in a bathtub with my kidneys in a bucket,” I muttered to myself, set on standing my ground. “Maybe he just wants to share a sandwich. That’s been a thing tonight.” To my relief, he stopped more than a few feet away. Friendly, but not intimate.
“Hey there,” he said, smiling warmly. “I saw what happened. Sucks, man.”
“Oh, yeah,” I replied weakly.
“Friend of yours?”
“No, we just met.”
“Oh, good. He’s kind of an asshole.”
“You know him?”
“Yeah, we all know each other,” he said, gesturing over his shoulder. I peered around him and noticed a gleaming halal cart down the street. The man went on to introduce himself—Chester, for the purposes of this story. I wanted to ask him why he was talking to me, but I couldn’t think of a polite way of phrasing it, so I went with a bland “Nice to meet you.”
We chatted for a bit, trading stories of unruly customers and adolescent antics. He was charming, if a bit offbeat. Now and again a joke of his would flop and he would stare off into the darkness as if he’d just heard that his childhood dog had been hit by a bus. He’d recover quickly, though, and after maybe fifteen minutes I was hopelessly enamored.
“Have you ever kissed a halal man?” he asked—out of the blue, maybe; I hung onto his every word but processed none of them. Almost automatically, my fingers curled around his sinewy arms and our lips met. The kiss was passionate, but something was strange about it—a texture, a taste, something was out of place.
“Is that…white sauce?” I asked, as if I’d found the body of his aunt in his trunk.
“No, don’t flatter yourself,” he replied, suddenly serious.
“I mean in your mouth,” I amended. “The ubiquitous halal condiment.”
“Oh, yeah, does that surprise you?” he said, cracking a smile.
“You eat your own food?” I asked.
“Of course!” he said, “I eat everything.” With that, he winked and strolled back towards his cart. I almost called after him, but words failed me again. Instead, I stumbled back towards my dorm, exhausted and unsatisfied.
A few days later, I found myself on what I later realized was the same block. It was the middle of the afternoon, and this time I was just a little tipsy. I don’t remember what brought me there, but I was once again alone and hungry. A familiar smell greeted my nose as I turned the corner. Halal.
I walked up to the cart, Lincoln in hand, and ordered lamb over rice.
“Ten dollars,” the man said, turning to face me.
“What?” I exclaimed. “Wait—“
“Hi again,” Chester said, grinning.
“Hey…ten dollars?” I asked.
“Yeah, maybe we can negotiate it down a little,” he said. “Step into my office.” With that, he nudged open the door to his cart. I hesitated. Was I about to end up over rice? No, it was the middle of the day. Nothing to worry about. Plenty of witnesses.
Well, not too many witnesses.
It can’t have been a minute before I was on my knees, taking the grand tour of the cart. Chester pointed out various features of the portable kitchen—a compact vent here, a sanitizing hose there. I was almost interested, but I had trouble responding for some reason. Customers came and went, but I was as steadfast as Chester. He kept talking; I kept exploring.
When I’d finally made my way through every nook and cranny, I asked if I could have a turn at the grill. He thought for a moment before telling me to “help myself.” He went on cooking.
Five minutes later, I was back on the sidewalk. I started to drift back towards campus, but Chester called me back. “Don’t you want your lamb over rice?” I wanted to be indignant, but I was still hungry. I reluctantly walked back towards the cart.
“Which sauce do you want?”
I replied that I’d had enough of the white.
I wandered over to a nearby bench to enjoy my meal. I wasn’t drunk enough for it, in the end, and threw half of it away. As I wiped the red sauce off my mouth, I noticed that a guy in another halal cart was watching me. Could it be? I quickly looked away. Why would he be staring me? I chanced another glance. Yep, still staring.
Some unthinking part of my brain took hold of me then and half dragged, half pushed me towards John’s cart.
“I hope you had a nice time,” he shouted as I drew near. I thought I detected something hostile in his tone, but it might have been humor on his part or paranoia on mine. I gave him a quizzical look, pretending not to understand. He rolled his eyes and continued pushing around a pile of meat with his spatula.
We passed a minute or so in silence. He suddenly wiped his forehead vigorously. “Do you want coffee?” he asked. “Do you want to get it, I mean. With me. Not at my cart.” He looked incredibly stressed. Pity swelled in me like vomit and I blurted out a “yes.” We set a date for the weekend and I slunk back to my bed.
The next twenty four hours were a haze of food, sleep, and masturbation. I almost googled “hot halal guys,” but thought better of it. The last thing I needed was a new fetish.
Midnight snack via Shutterstock