A Hoagie by Any Other Name Makes Me Just as Hungry

"Tonya," a short story by Bowie Rowan

A Hoagie by Any Other Name Makes Me Just as Hungry

Tonya 

We want a hoagie. We want a fucking hoagie as soon as we wake up. Danny’s has the best in town. Right down the street. So here’s what we do. We drop Barb off down the T so she can ride into town for work. 

Then, okay. Tony Jr. has to get to school. We drive back, pick him up, ignore the harsh rays of teen misery emanating from him like an oppressive light. Then, well shit. We look at our watch. It’s only eight. Danny’s doesn’t open till noon. Fuck. 

We go home. We make some coffee. We catch the news. But something’s grabbing at the edge of our mind. Coffee’s in hand. What could be wrong? We are uneasy. Then, the propulsion to clean. 

We are in the bedroom. The window’s a sky. The air a lemon. 

A hoagie goes by many names. Submarine. Sub. Hero. Grinder. Spukie. Italian sandwich. All the same fucking thing, we think. 

We open the closet doors wide. We enter the sartorial forest. 

Our arms open and close as we pull fronds from the closet onto the bed, building mounds of cotton, polyester, elastic, and silk.

We’ve been unemployed since the boss went bankrupt. The labor exhilarates. As do Barb’s blouses. Her skirts. Her dresses. Her stockings.

Barb has a lot of shit, we realize. Our items are a measly pile of worn cotton boxers. Stiff work pants. Thick denim and plaid. Flat, heavy boots. 

The blouses are smooth. We run our fingers across them, cutting through ripples of fabric that feel like Barb’s newly shaven shins. Tingles slide across our spine. 

The cotton skirt is light, flexible. Its stretch is a soft meow. Imagine ourselves, we laugh, wearing this blouse, this skirt to the job site, our yellow safety hat in hand. We spot Barb’s heels. We smile. We imagine ourselves in skirt, blouse, heels, and hat. We’re holding a hammer. The boys are next to us. We form a straight line, hammering nails one by one in song. 

A hoagie goes by many names. Each one feels different as it rolls off our tongue. We say hoagie because that’s what our father and our father’s father said. But there’s hero. And grinder. And spukie. And then, we remember. Po’ boy. Gatsby. Blimpie. Cosmo. Zeppelin. Each with its own history. We love saying them all. 

Hell, okay, we think. First, our jeans tumble off. Our white tee falls to the ground. We slither into the blouse, admiring the deep burgundy—no, we see in the light, it is oxblood—the tiny buttons disappear between our thick fingers. It barely fits. We cannot button it. The smooth fabric sliding against our skin is a deep breath. 

We zip the skirt. The elastic expands to accommodate our waist. We feel the same as we felt the first time we saw the never-ending blue of the ocean. An incomprehensible expanse suddenly in view. 

We shake our head. What are we doing? We are still, timid. We are afraid but happy.

We tilt our head, only slightly, toward the mirror hanging on the wall. What do we see?

A full beard, neatly trimmed. Intact. Yes, the hairline is, sadly, still receding.

We laugh a little. Then, the tears are a hot sweat, caught by the thick brush of our face.

We say, Tony, you’re beautiful. You’re beautiful! 

Bread. Meat. Cheese. Vegetables. Condiments. 

A hoagie has many names. Every one is delicious. We are hungry for them all.

Chest covered in matted swirls. Blouse pinched beneath the arms. We see ourselves clearly. The garments do not fit. Yet, we are a vision. 

Have you ever seen your wife from afar, we wonder to ourselves, surrounded by strangers across a wide room? Do you know the feeling of your heart opening whole when you spot her, a beautiful, unexpected planet in your orbit suddenly made new by distance? 

That’s how we feel as we glimpse ourselves in the mirror. We are softness. We are stretch. We are hero. We are grinder. We are po’ boy. We are zeppelin. We are spukie. We are sub. We are blimpie. We are cosmo. We are chocolate melting on your tongue.

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