Word Salad

By Alex Lalic

With a heavy thump I set down my load. That overwhelming noise of a hundred conversations fills my ears as I journey to the salad bar. I amble up, a smile on my face.

It’s lunchtime; it’s time for my daily salad.

I tell the kindly lady behind the glass, ham, croutons, and lettuce please. No, nothing else, thank you. She obliges, a smile on her face as she hands me a black plastic tray with a clear plastic container on it, filled with a wonderful bounty. Somedays, I am bold, and even ask for a double up on the croutons. As always, the kindly woman obliges me, and I am rewarded for my courage with many more of the golden-brown nuggets of garlic crunchy goodness.

This salad was my constant companion, my rock to rest upon in the violent ocean that was freshman year. Day after day, that salad, the dehydrated lettuce, the artificial tasting but still delicious ham, the salty garlic crunchy croutons, they do not betray me. They taste the same, but that is ok, they are always a delight to my tastebuds. It’s a ray of hope on dark days where there seems that there won’t be any respite, and a merry companion during better times. Friends may change, grades may slip, and spirits may grow low, but the salad never changes, it will always be good.

It was good.

Was.

As always in a malevolent universe, the good things must come to an end eventually.

Two years pass by. I have not entered the lunchroom in many days. Covid, bad scheduling, all conspire against my reunion. As shall I learn, the powers that be wish to suck every little bit of joy out of my life.

It is junior year; I enter the lunchroom and seek the succor of that wondrous salad. I walk in looking for the salad bar. I see it. Excitedly, I rush over to once again experience that comfort, that comfort I cherished so much. My eyes hit upon the clear plastic salad packs.

 I pause.

There is no more custom salad. There is no ham, no croutons, only prepackaged containers full of sad chunky yogurt, mushy apples, and knockoff crackers.

I am struck with grief.

No more salad : (