When you live in a neighborhood like ours, you begin to recognize people on the street because you see them everyday. There is one teeny-tiny lady I pass frequently who’s around 4’8″, weighs under 100 pounds and appears about two coughs away from dying. She might only be 45 years old, but she looks like every old Italian or Greek widow ever portrayed in cinema, and always seems to be wearing a roomy black shift dress that billows away from her gaunt, withering frame like a Hefty bag.
On Friday morning, she sat hunched over the bench outside my local bakery, the one that smells like meat at 8 a.m. because the owner of the bbq joint two doors down smokes brisket in their kitchen. She had on big dark sunglasses and round-toed orthopedic shoes that made her spindly legs look like toothpicks stuck into cocktail wieners. She had a cigarette in each of her hands, taking one last puff from the right one before using it to light the left. She looked like someone who had long ago thrown up both arms and exclaimed “Well! I’ve had a good run! Fuck all!”, and seeing her chain-smoking at eight in the morning made me want to hop on a treadmill, munch on an apple, chug a gallon of water and floss my teeth all at the same time. I felt a sense of urgency in my life, a pressing need to straighten up and fly right, and so before heading into work, I decided to buy a green drink.
I walked into a chain shop called Juice Press, where the girl behind the counter looked like Denise Huxtable after dropping out of Hillman and turning hippie. My jaw dropped when I saw the price list, and I almost told the chalkboard menu to go fuck itself for featuring a $15 smoothie. I don’t care if you’re blending gold chips or crack rocks into it, there is never any excuse for selling a booze-free drink for over ten bucks. If I’m gonna spend $15 on a meal, it better be in solid form and include a large piece of chicken.
So I walked down the street to a coffee shop that also makes juices and smoothies for under eight bucks. I make smoothies all the time at home, usually putting a mix of baby spinach and fresh mint in them which creates a nice subtle nutrient boost without the bitterness of other greens. This place didn’t use any spinach– just kale– so I went ahead and ordered the classic, a mix of kale and banana and berries and just a splash of apple juice. It looked like sea algae, had the mouthfeel of peat moss and tasted like apple-infused garbage. It began the separation process immediately, the fiber from the greens segregating itself from the liquid like it was insulted to share the same cup.
(Image from canyoustayfordinner.com)
The barista had some extra kale smoothie left in the blender, and offered to give me the excess.
“Oh no, I couldn’t,” I said, and encouraged him to drink it himself or give it to someone else behind the bar. Nobody wanted it of course, so I was left with more smoothie than I knew what to do with. I tossed back the excess like a shot of tequila, and instantly knew that drinking a whole cup of this stuff would be like trying to finish one of those ropes courses, where you have push through the pain to get to the glory.
I brought it to work, where it sat on my desk taunting me with its healing powers: I AM YOUR ONLY HOPE. DRINK ME NOW OR DECAY PREMATURELY LATER. I shook it to make it all one color and texture again, then took another sip, this one even grosser than the first because the chill was wearing off. The only thing saving this smoothie was its frosty temperature and the longer I postponed the inevitable, the more lukewarm and the less palatable it got. It was thick and mealy, like trying to suck applesauce out of a straw.
A milkshake would have been gone in three minutes, tops, but this thing followed me around for hours. It came with me to chat with a coworker. We went outside for a breath of fresh air. It followed me upstairs to a staff meeting and plopped itself on the long conference table, squaring off against a big glass bowl of fun-sized Milky Ways. Halfway through the meeting I picked it up and took a big gulp in my effort to be rid of it, and made the puckered, horrified face I usually reserve for people who feel nothing when they hear the first few bars of Don’t Stop Believin’. My colleague across from me shook his head and smirked, not just because of my complete lack of poker face, but because he knew he had a big ham sandwich waiting for him on his desk downstairs.
At this point, the smoothie was nothing more than a prop. I had no intention of drinking it anymore, but I felt guilty throwing pricy food away. It hung around the rest of the day on my desk, a paragon of health maintenance and self-care.
Eventually a client wrinkled her nose and asked, “Jennifer, what is that?”
“Oh, it’s just a smoothie. There are greens in in, which explains the color.” I tried not to dissuade anyone from trying a green smoothie and seeing how they like it. In my line of work it’s important for people to learn how to make healthy decisions for themselves.
That night, Vinny and I had our usual Friday night summit of where to go out for dinner. We toyed with a few lighter options, but eventually settled on sharing a big plate of fried chicken at the new place down the street, promptly followed by a walk to the frozen yogurt place where I topped my Nutella-flavored treat with crushed Butterfingers and joy. Vin piled his with rainbow cookies, smashed oreos, and a river of hot fudge.
We’ve had a good run.