by Chelsea Sieg
THE JIMMY JOHN’S POEM
immediately after i lost my virginity, my partner and i went to jimmy john’s, and they didn’t have ranch dressing, and that was when i should have known that it wouldn’t work out. standing at the counter like, fuck, i guess mustard is fine, but it’s not the same. i always have ranch on my sandwiches, you know? but i guess this time i just have to go with mustard. that’s fine, right? mustard is fine. mustard is a perfectly good condiment. i should just stop freaking out and be okay with mustard, because there is no ranch and this sandwich is in front of me right now and the guy who took my virginity is right here, waiting on me, and what else can i do but accept a handful of mustard packets and say—thank you, for this chance. thank you, for giving me the opportunity to be a normal person with a condiment on my sandwich. thank you, for the mustard.
it isn’t actually about the mustard.
it’s about the sour taste in my mouth that i keep pushing back down. it’s about the way my partner insisted i go sleep in my dorm room that night. it’s about the way i looked at myself in the mirror when i was alone, not sure who i was seeing. it’s about the first person in the world who made me feel like i was beautiful and sexy and wanted. it’s about every bright red flag i am willing to ignore to feel like i might be a girl worthy of love, a girl worthy of a precious space in someone’s heart.
my partner was not thinking nearly this hard. he was sitting across from me eating a normal fucking sandwich with no mustard on it whatsoever. he was not thinking about the six years we were about to spend together, and for that matter, neither was i. it wasn’t the kind of epic, torrid love you write poems about, yet. it was just a guy and a girl eating at a jimmy john’s. it was what i really wanted when i asked for mustard, or when i asked him to fuck me. it was a simple, quiet, two am kind of happiness, the kind you don’t have to think that hard about. it was a small, soft hope. and I would have eaten every sandwich on the goddamn menu, mustard and all, to keep it alive.
THE SECOND JIMMY JOHN’S POEM
so jimmy john’s has ranch now!
i mean, it’s several years too late.
i can’t go back and help that poor awkward girl who had to settle for mustard.
i can’t go back and tell her that she should have listened to her gut and accepted that it was definitely not going to work out
but no, the problem here
is that jimmy john’s has SPICY ranch now. KICKIN’ ranch, they call it.
the problem is, me and spicy food get along about as well as me and my ex.
that is to say, we’re just not right for each other.
i mean, maybe i just can’t handle the heat
maybe the KICKIN’ ranch deserves the chance to spread itself over whatever sandwiches it wants to, and fuck my input for existing
but in the interest of fairness, i did in fact try the spicy ranch. and here’s why i hate it.
you eat it, and it tastes like regular ranch at first,
and you think maybe there’s hope after all.
but then a raging fire creeps up on you
like a red hair left in the shower
like “i’m not coming home tonight”
and this whole life that was supposed to taste good hurts instead
your throat burns with the realization that you are a boring eater
you and spicy foods are not compatible
“i need to be myself,” he says
“i need her,” he says
there’s this bitter taste in my mouth:
this thought that the cost of love is turning to ash in someone’s hand.
it’s three am and every piece of my body is floating away in the wind while i wait for him to come home.
i asked for the kind of epic love you write poems about and i got a sandwich with spicy ranch on it instead and suddenly i don’t know how to eat food anymore.
i want to tell someone that this is not what i ordered
i want to throw every cup of spicy ranch on the planet into the garbage
i want to know what happened to mustard at two am
i want the bitterness in my mouth to disappear.
suddenly, nothing tastes right.
THE THIRD JIMMY JOHN’S POEM
sometimes when I’m high
i really want jimmy johns.
and i know i shouldn’t.
i know jimmy john hunted big game
and i know that’s horrible
and i know no sandwich makes that okay
and i also know that
somehow this sandwich chain has
become really, really meaningful in my life
and that’s probably weird.
i can barely remember my first trip to jimmy johns,
where i learned that they didn’t have ranch.
more than once i brought my very own bottle of hidden valley
because i didn’t see why that was weird.
maybe i was just being stubborn,
stubborn like how i still want a bootlegger club, no mayo, add bacon, and a pickle, cut in half
leave delivery at the door.
pretend a sandwich magically appearing out of nowhere
will solve anything.
pretend that i’m not actually holed up in my dorm room
before I flunked out of college,
eating nothing but these
that i didn’t call my grandma the night she died?
i was going to,
but then i didn’t,
and then that night she had a heart attack.
i say that i miss having ranch on my sandwich
when i mean i miss her
i mean, it’s been years.
i should be over that by now, shouldn’t i?
shouldn’t i feel whole by now?
i thought i left behind
the pieces that were weighing me down.
i say that i miss having ranch on my sandwich
when i mean that i miss my ex
even though i shouldn’t
even though i don’t
even though i’m honestly doing pretty well,
considering the current state of the world.
i loved you,
but that didn’t make what you did to me okay.
i don’t want to be treated like that ever again.
no sandwich makes that okay.
Chelsea Sieg is a slightly queer, often sarcastic author of poems, zines, interactive fiction games, game reviews, essays, and a whole bunch of other random things. She can be found at http://www.somestrangecircus.com