“Whaddya want? Whaddya want?” The short order cook’s voice rang out through the crowded delicatessen. Gabrielle wondered for what felt like the millionth time if she would ever get accustomed to the noise and crowds of New York. The swirl of activity left her dizzy.
The tattooed woman ahead of Gabrielle, her red engine red hair twisted into a vertical tower on her head, sang back “I’ll tell you want I want, what I really really want!”
“No!” yelled the short order cook. “No Spicy Girl music in here!’
“It’s The Spice Girls!” the woman shot back, uncowed.
“Stupid. Should be spicy! Who says something spice? It’s spicy. Now, go pay!” The cook turned to look at Gabrielle.
“I didn’t tell you what I want!” the woman protested.
“I know what you want. You want attention, now go pay!” The woman moved obediently forward, leaving Gabrielle confused. Had the woman even ordered?
The cook looked at Gabrielle. “Whaddya want?”
“Is there a menu?” Gabrielle knew she was being rushed, but she took her time, making sure she kept the Louisiana out of her voice. She knew her drawl almost classified as exotic here, and she didn’t want to stand out.
“No one gets a menu! You tell me what you want in this life! Right now!” The cook looked her expectantly. Other customers looked at her, amused and expectant.
The man behind her whispered in her ear. “Tell him, what you want, the feeling you want, right now. The first thing that comes to your mind.”
Gabrielle turned to stare him. “What?”
“Whaddya want? Lady, let’s hear it.” The cook was snapping his fingers.
“Home. I want to feel at home.” Gabrielle felt her face grow hot, yet something loosened inside her as she said it.
“Of course you do. What we all want! Smart lady. Now go pay.”
As she moved down to the cashier, wondering what she was paying for, she strained to hear the order of the man behind her.
“To be unique.” He said.
Of course, thought Gabrielle, as he looked as ordinary as a man possibly good. Medium height, medium built, medium brown hair.
“I knew it!” said the cook. “I’ve got you! Go pay!”
Gabrielle paid $10, got her number for her table and sat at the last table available. A moment later the man behind her in line approached.
“Do you mind? There’s nowhere else.” He said, placing in his number on the table beside hers.
“It’s fine.” She saw a waitress coming bearing a plate. “What is the deal with this place? I don’t get it.”
He smiled. “You will.”
Before Gabrielle could reply, the number was scooped away, and the plate set in front her. Her lumpy sandwich was stuffed with Italian meats and cheese, with a tiny bit of olive salad squeezing out from the cut sides. A Muffuletta. The iconic sandwich of New Orleans. Of home.
She looked up, laughing.
“Welcome to New York,” he said.