A Small Chat, Somewhere

by Yiu-On Li
Art by Chloe Kim
Issue: Metanoia (Winter 2017)

What am I even doing?

I was originally going to call this “Ham Sandwiches and Other Things,” “Everything and Nothing About Ham Sandwiches,” or literally any title with the words “ham” and “sandwich” in it. Heck, I was even going to start it with “this story has nothing to do with ham sandwiches,” just to show you how dramatic I was. But there seems to be quite a few people saying I should cut to the chase. Slice through the fodder. Skim the fat.

Enough talk. I am a ham sandwich, but I’m actually not a ham sandwich. Shocker. Most of you won’t understand what I said or why I said it, which is fine, but for those that did, kudos to you.

Even in this final rendition of my story, before everything is published to the world and I can get on with life for the next two years or so (before I get nostalgic and come back to read this), I still have no idea where to take this. Why do I want to write about ham sandwiches in the first place? After all, nothing good’s getting through to me. I could symbolically relate a cut of pork smushed in between two pieces of wheat to my current writer’s block, but why would I? I mean, what’s the point? You’re just here to pass the time, or have a little chuckle, or be utterly engrossed in an expansive fantasy world. Given the choice, most of you wouldn’t care about intangible connections to abstract topics until it really mattered, like getting a grade (if you do care purely for the sake of caring, then kudos again). Correction: You probably wouldn’t be reading this unless you were proofreading or reviewing it for publication, or however a non-print issue works. I suppose I’m just here to kill space and recycle usable pieces of content from my previous drafts, while maintaining some semblance of a plot.

Oh well. We’re all stuck in a way, aren’t we? You, obligated to read everything that gets sent in, or depending on the case, you, trapped in a spiral of procrastination. Me, rambling on about coming up with an imaginative topic for ham sandwiches, disregarding the basic tenants of this “cut to the chase” thing in the hopes that I’ll keep you hooked until the end. Look at me, having the audacity to have already spent one standard eight-and-a-half by eleven inch sheet of paper, double spaced and title included, just talking about how difficult it is to write something about ham sandwiches while not actually doing it. The best I’ve been able to offer you is something resembling a “fourth wall-breaking thriller,” where the character slowly becomes aware that the world they’re living in is all fabricated. Trouble is, I’m the main character, the main character is the author himself, and he’s already aware of what’s going on. It’s like a blog post masquerading as a short story; at this rate, I’m not getting very far.

Who knows? Maybe you find this entertaining, maybe not. You might be cringing, asking yourself why you’re still here; in any case, that is the case, and that’s the only case that matters. If I can get you to stay for this entire run, I’ll have won.

So let’s mix it up a bit. Perhaps we don’t need to answer these deep, philosophical questions; amusement, in any form, shall be sufficient to keep you reading. What better way to spice up the script than to add some elements of a normal, sane, and traditional story? Think of it, an ice cream truck that sells ham sandwiches… no, rainwater. Actually, a friend of mine suggested that last one, so it wouldn’t be very original of me to use it. A story for another time, perhaps. Unfortunately, this means I’m back to square one, with the hopeless desire to find suitable synonyms for “story.”

I have only one thing left to try, before I run out of tricks and am forced to let you go, something I decried earlier for being pointless: I’ll analyze the symbolic qualities of the ham sandwich for you.

Here goes nothing. So I’ve got a ham sandwich, and for the sake of it, let’s add a slice of cheese. On second thought, cheese is disgusting; let’s change that to a slice of tomato. And this sandwich is no ordinary sandwich; it’s made with whole grain slices, so it’s healthy and tasty at the same time. Now, the liquid of the tomato starts to seep through the bread slices, leaving you uncomfortably holding a soaking wet sandwich as you rush to consume it.

And thus, this reveals absolutely nothing about the overarching plot of this story and life itself. Yet, that’s exactly the point: Where did all the humor go? Why does this story exist? Why are you reading it? What does a ham sandwich have to do with all this?

I was right earlier. Some questions are better left unanswered. Not all of the tropes must be acknowledged. If I were to dictate everything, provide the answers to all the questions posed, think for you, this little tirade would be rendered even more pointless. You should be free, unconstrained by your self-induced limits, and chart your own course. I am but your advisor, and you are the captain of your own ship.

… Perhaps I wasn’t as free as I thought. Confined by the need to please, the need to avoid the footsteps of others and my own.

Perhaps we all need a small chat, somewhere.