Brought Together by Bagels
A story for the True Fiction Project by Gastor Almonte
When I bought my house, I was really excited because I’d have my own parking spot. In brooklyn — that’s huge! If you haven’t ended a workshift, a trip to the mall, or a night out with the girls, with a half hour search for parking, you haven’t driven in the 5 boroughs. It’s why everyone takes trains, but I have kids, and I got tired of swiping my metro card 4 times every time I wanted to go in any direction.
My only issue, my block isn’t shaped like most blocks. It’s not a square or a rectangle. It’s technically a Right Trapezoid,but we call it a triangle. The side that exists to make it a trapezoid is small. Why am I so hyper aware of the shape of my block? Because it led to a war with my neighbor. My driveway starts where the back of his building ends, and both of these things meet at the obtuse angle of this block.
Listen to ‘Brought Together by Bagels’ on the True Fiction Project podcast:
“Who cares you think? Why would you fight over angles?” Because angles are defined by lines, and lines are used to define property. And when you define property, you can assign responsibility. My parking gate opens in the direction of my neighbor’s building’s back yard. When the wind blows, all sorts of street garbage, leaves, trash and more accumulates against his wall, which makes it impossible to open my gate fully to take out my car. Not a little bit of trash either. It’s tons. I can throw out a solid bag of garbage from the area weekly.
The first 3 weeks of my home-owned-street-search-free-in-brooklyn parking was spoiled by having to clean this wall each time I wanted to leave and return to my home. Finally I broke and rang my neighbors bell.
“Hey — I didn’t mean to bother you but the trash out back gets pretty crazy.” I didn’t say more because I expected him to apologize and take it on, like a normal person.
“Yea. I’ve heard. Goodluck with that.” Goodluck with that? Who says that? I was blown away with how flippant this guy had been about his wall.
“Nah — I mean that’s the trash that builds up back there. It keeps me from opening up my gate so I can’t drive in and out of my spot.”
“I hear you, but I”m never back there, and I know that if you need to pull up or out of your spot, you’ll have to clean it anyway. So I never need to.”
“The city will give you a ticket!”
“It would have to pile up for weeks before they did that. You’ll use your driveway before that ever happens.”
I was fuming, but he’d won. I initially let it pile up for 2 weeks, as I had a vacation. But I spent the entire vacation just checking my backyard 3,4,sometimes 5 times a day just to see his wall gather more trash he wasn’t taking. Finally, I gave in, and cleaned it myself. He’d won.
Besides, it was my only issue with the new house. Loved the place! I even had the corner store right next to my house. I’d start my day the same way, everyday. I’d go outside and order a Bacon,egg and cheese on a bagel, every morning during my first year of home ownership. But when the quarantine started, things got different. I knew the city meant business the second morning of the lockdown because when I showed up to place my order, Papi told me “Sorry you gotta wait, we didn’t get our bread last night. He said he’d come in this morning. You want to wait or you want it on a roll?” I’ll wait. I’m a man of patience.
While waiting, my neighbor walks in. I heard him order “Bacon, egg and cheese on a bagel.” I guess bad people can have good taste in sandwich bread options. But just as Papi told me, I heard him share the same news of his current lack of bagels. My neighbor also decides to wait but seeing me in the store, we stand on opposite sides.
As we’re waiting, others come into the store and we hear them place their orders for breakfast. Over and over again, I keep hearing people either order their breakfast on a roll or cave when the bagel isn’t there, and start their day off on the wrong foot. Madness! After 15 minutes, I’ve witnessed dozens of people start their day off wrong.
Eventually, my friend Gina walks in and I hear him place his order. “No bagels? Just put it on a roll then.” And I snap.
“What are you doing girl? It’s too big a difference!” “Isn’t it basically the same?” “Nah not at all. Rolls lack the structural integrity to hold up for an entire commute with hot ingredients inside. It’s fine for a spread but when you upgrade to a Bacon, egg and cheese? The roll is now punching above its weight class.” “Nah I mean, I prefer the bagel, but it’s not that serious.”
Before I can continue, my neighbor jumps in “it really is! How are you gonna eat the second half of the sandwich? By the time you get to that part, the roll has lost to the egg and cheese and it’s just a hot milk shake at that point. It can’t hold it!”
“Exactly!” I yell in support of my neighbor. And in that moment, realizing I’d found an odd ally.
Suddenly a debate sparks. The bodega regulars, Gina, and a few others outnumber me and my neighbor in the roll versus bagel breakfast-sandwich- bread debate. But we don’t budge. As we’re doing this, the delivery arrives and besides getting our sandwiches, we order 2 extra BECs, one on a bagel and one on a roll. We ask Papi to cut it into 4 pieces and we offer people bites of both before ordering, starting an unofficial taste test. We agree that the losing side will pay the winners $50 bucks and cover the cost of the taste-test sandwiches.
“Try both. Close your eyes if it helps” we tell the customers. Surprisingly, not everyone wants to get involved. I’m not sure if it’s because it’s odd to ask random people to try sandwich bites at the corner store under the J train, or if like most New Yorkers, they got other things to do.
We ordered another 2 sandwiches. Then 2 more sandwiches. But after a while, we see that it’s tied up at 10 each. Sadly we lost two pieces to sloppy handling, leaving us with one piece of each sandwich for all the marbles.
This man walks in, and we’ve never seen him before. He’s not from the neighborhood. A random. A random could swing the vote. He’s not from here but he’s from the city, so he’s comfortable in the space. He’s ordered sandwiches at a Brooklyn deli before.
“Let me get a bacon egg and cheese” and before he continues we ask “bagel or roll?” We asked in sync, which initially shocks him. “What the heck?” And we apologize, informing him he’s entered a tough debate. We catch him up and he laughs. And he looks at everyone and confesses, he’s never given it much thought but will do so today.
We watch him bite into both sandwiches, then look at us. Then turn to papi. Then look at us again.
Me and my neighbor erupt in cheers! $50 bucks richer! We high five the new guy who says he’s just here because he had a fun tinder date last night that ended this morning. He tried the deli across the street first but didn’t like the vibe and came here. We cover his breakfast out of our winnings.
Random guy, the Neighbor and I walk out the store laughing and eating our sandwiches. Bonding over our shared superior stance on sandwiches.
We ended up walking together to my backyard as I needed to open my gate to drive out and do errands and he was going to walk to the train. I say peace to him, then start staring at the trash that’s accumulated in his wall. New guy asked me if this was my gate? I said “yea, but not my wall.” Then my neighbor said “yea it’s my wall but his gate.
And then the new guy said “no worries, I’ll help out.” And he starts picking up the trash. My neighbor and I look at each other and smirk, before joining him.
More episodes of the True Fiction Project podcast are available here: