I talked to S. on the phone just before my lunch hour kicked off and he told me I should read the book he just finished so we could talk about it. I’m in the mood for this sort of gentle-yet-direct prompting, but when I went down to the shelves, the book wasn’t there. Libraries, man. Nothing’s ever where it’s supposed to be. So I bought a sandwich and chips and took them out to the patio and finished the paper instead. Nobody’s around campus Friday afternoons due to our ‘summer Fridays’ plan (I’d have to get out of bed at 5:15am to participate, so don’t bother) and I had the campus to myself, save for a handful of unobtrusive artsy geek kids here for a high school program of some sort. I can report it is quiet with a sweet little breeze, hot in a sun that disappears behind the clouds just when you’re getting too hot and returns with similar felicity, my feet are up on a chair, and the roof is playing host to small birds that might be baby versions of larger birds, but I just can’t tell from here.

Due to the threat of severe weather, the all-staff picnic was moved indoors to the Pub. When severe weather failed to manifest, we decided to sit outside, and I agreed to hold down a table while MBWF, C., and S. went through the line and grabbed food. My entire chest thudded with anxiety while I waited: There is something about abundance that produces a sensation of scarcity. When it was my turn I snagged a veggie burger, a scoop of couscous, a scoop of potato salad, a cookie, and a scoop of baked beans. We ate and talked (K. had joined us by now), comparing this staff picnic to the last staff picnic, comparing first jobs and last jobs, comparing ketchup and mustard and who prefers what. The revelation that my refrigerator contains not one single condiment beyond the soy sauce I use in just the one single recipe drew gasps from the crowd. Then S. went back inside and grabbed herself a cookie, plus one for me and one for MBWF. We wondered: Is this why MBWF hired an assistant after all?

I was under orders from MBWF to hurry like crazy with my tofurkey on a roll so we would have time to hit the car wash for one last sudsy escapade. (They didn’t quite get the sap off the windows, and I didn’t get to sit in the car while we went through the wash, but it was still pretty awesome. For me.) So I ran to the Pub and ordered my sandwich and looked around for chips but all they had were Doritos so I grabbed a cookie instead and ran back to the staff lounge to swallow lunch in a scant few minutes. S., S., and M. were lunching downstairs too, and it was nice to see everybody together. S. gave me a sample of her mushroom tofu, and it was so good. I’ll miss her cooking. After my first half of sandwich I got up to use the bathroom and when I sat back down there was a huge bite out of my cookie. MBWF made up for it by cracking off a piece of her York peppermint pattie on our way to the car.

Ever since I detected what feels like the Grand Canyon in the back of an upper-left molar (circa noon yesterday), I’ve been feeling pretty nauseous. Teeth! They’re nothing but bones in your mouth! Hence the seltzer to accompany my sandwich and bag of chips out on the patio with S., the new assistant archivist. I’m sorry she had to meet such a very distracted me–there is horror unfolding in my mouth!–and look forward to future, more attentive lunches. I bowed out about halfway through the hour to call Dr. Siu for an emergency appointment. The receptionist put me on hold for a long time while I slowly sipped seltzer and toted up the remnants of my flex-spending account (Who needs dental insurance? What could happen!) and then came back with an appointment for tomorrow. Dr. Siu’s office doesn’t use hold music, and the extended bleak silence on the other end of the line felt most appropriate to the occasion.

I sat out front the Pub under the clear, hot sun holding down a table and four chairs all on my own–a dicey proposition in the face of hovering groups of summer writers. Still, I braved the eating-alone stigma and ate my tofurkey sandwich and chips and talked on the phone to K. while she ordered breakfast at a drive-up window in her car in New Orleans. Finally, T. showed up–he’s doing AV for the program, and is therefore entitled to access the lunch buffet (lucky duck). He’s also a poet, so I shouldn’t have been surprised to hear such beautiful language come spilling out of his mouth: Can I get you anything? Do you want some jello or something? And he returned with a plateful of the stuff, and we regarded it, and we ate a lot of it. It was red and shiny and appropriately jiggly, with that creepy smooth mouthfeel that jello has. I insisted it was raspberry while T. and others who had joined us by now seemed to think it was just red. But really, if you sat with it in your mouth and paid very close attention, the raspberry was unmistakable. I feel a little bit sick.

I was about done with my tofurkey on a roll–enjoyed out front of the Pub with L.–when I got a phone call with some very sad news and was reminded just how fleeting and blessed is the chance to eat a meal at roughly the same time in the middle of every day. How instantly the patterns of our mealtimes can change. So I walked over to this bench that was recently put out on the lawn as a tribute to another kind of life-changing moment–“On this spot in 1965 S. first met P. Married in June 1968, this bench celebrates their lucky encounter.” I took off my shoes and stuck my feet in the grass and got hot in the sun and finished reading the newspaper. Bees were flying back and forth low to the ground amid the clover, but I did not get stung.

All-campus picnic! I had something I needed to finish, so I walked over with MBWF about twenty minutes after the scheduled start time, prompting choruses of “Wait. Aren’t you going to the picnic?” from confused coworkers passing through my office. I loaded up my plate–taking the tofu dog largely because I wanted a platform for a slice of American cheese–and joined MBWF, B. from ACD, and folks from the student affairs staff at a picnic table next to the new dorms. We discussed whether the food was better overall than usual or just the chicken, whether a politically radical person can date a liberal and either way does anyone stand a chance at tonight’s homosexual singles mixer, how long it takes to get from LAX to Anaheim, and which of the cookies were soft enough to eat. I went back for seconds and grabbed a veggie burger, but only ate half and threw the rest in the garbage can. There is apparently a relationship between excess and waste.

I espied the remnants of a free lunch buffet for the Westchester Vocal Institute just inside the Pub but decided in the face of a few sad-looking lettuce leaves and a stack of chopped chicken to go ahead and pay for a tofurkey sandwich on a roll and a couple of cookies. C., C., and I had a ‘working lunch’ with the folks from Yonkers Middle/High School and A., the stone-fox-iest public librarian I have ever met. B. brought us all monogrammed golf shirts celebrating the school’s new Newsweek ranking and we set up the schedule for the coming year. I was totally distracted by a squirrel lunching away out of the trash bin on the back deck. It kept scrabbling away, shaking the bin a little, and emerging with remnants of sandwiches and unidentified gray bits in its scrabbly little claws which it would then chompchompchomp before diving back in for more. At one point it leaped onto a low-hanging branch holding a big piece of a spinach-flavored sandwich wrap in its scraggly little mouth, shaking the tree with much vigor. Such acrobatics!

I’m having one of those days where I fear I might upset the apple cart because the oranges have been driving me crazy for oh my god you do not even know how long, so I hauled myself over to the campus fitness center for half an hour of fat-burning intervals on the Precor, like any other suburban middle class professional woman in her 30s. This was the right call. Then I grabbed a sandwich at the Pub–I just couldn’t face another dish of lentils after last night’s dinner. Due to the nationwide tomato recall, Flik had only a handful of tiny cherry tomatoes for sandwich use. I asked for “a couple,” thinking I’d just mash them into the sandwich, but the woman behind the counter cut them into little slices, giving my entire meal a sort of elfin feel. I also grabbed a bag of chips, ‘smokehouse bbq’ flavor.

They were all standing at attention, a clutch of bright red gingham squares beckoning from a table on the lawn just across the street from the library: box lunches! Like Christmas! MBWF, hard at work all reunion weekend, took a box for herself and snaked one for me too. We took them inside the Pub and unwrapped them like the glorious presents they turned out to be: grilled chicken sandwich, little dish of coleslaw, apple, bottle of water, bag of chips, two chocolate chip cookies, a plastic utensil and napkin sack, and a bag of trail mix! I felt like a giddy little kid. We ate with C. (who skipped the box for a small plate of vegetables) and shared stories of unlikely bird visitors–MBWF and I saw a falcon perched atop a McDonald’s in the Bronx last night; C. welcomed a lone white dove to her garage who was still there this morning. At some point about halfway through the bag, I lost interest in the salt and vinegar chips and I just threw them away. If I get hungry later, I still have the trail mix. Such abundance! Such waste!