After a week in Las Vegas and three days camping on a desert island with twelve other men, I arrived home to have my first serious conflict in more than a month.
I met friends in Chinatown for a face-flaming good time at Famous Sichuan. The dan-dan noodles were nuclear. The cumin lamb was succulent and searing. I cried real tears for the spicy tofu. After my second oversized bite of garlic greens, I froze, wiggled a strange, hard object forward in my mouth and isolated it between my front teeth. It was a staple.
I stood right up. My forehead was on fire. My palms tingled. I was trapped in a frenetic ravine, with narrowing, jagged walls. My shoulders drew up high and tight around my ears. Things looked sharper and sounds sounded louder. There were two other parties dining there, and three employees in various states of alarm, all looking at me. I could feel eyes peering out from the kitchen. I held the staple aloft, "This! In my food!" My dinner-mates, who remained seated, asked me to calm down. "Calm? There is a staple in my food! I nearly ate a staple!" I felt feverish, electric. A waitress ran over and politely asked, "Which dish?" I yelled back, "Which dish do you commonly put staples in?!"
One of our party, not well-known to me, urged me to sit down. I asked him to shut the fuck up or step outside. My closer friends urged me to sit down. The walls were so narrow now I could hardly breathe. "Does no one see anything wrong with this?" I gestured to the other parties, staple held high, "All of you, stop eating! There are staples in your food!" I slammed my hand on the table and the cutlery jumped. My party must have looked shocked, but I could not see them. The ravine had closed in and everything was roiling black. I laid the staple down, gathered my belongings and stormed out, slamming the door with a gratifying boom.
The night was cool and easy and I felt better instantly. I knew they wouldn't run after me, and they didn't. I immediately resigned to never speak to any of them again. On the bike ride home I was able to rationalize my actions, and I felt righteous and indignant when I arrived back in Brooklyn. Why had they not chased me down the street, after all? How could they sit, indifferent, when I nearly ingested a shard of metal?
I texted one of the party, a neighbor, and demanded he return my spare keys to me. I waited a long time, hunched at my window, and ran downstairs the instant he appeared. I opened the door before he could and snatched the keys from him, "How could you just sit there?"
He said, "There are other ways to go about it."
I slammed the door.