I walked toward the north end of the campus. For my last day of Spring semester 2016 at the south campus of Florida International University in Miami, I wanted to have a healthy salad for lunch. The Salad Creations was my option for vegetarian food.
I crossed a street and stepped on the elevated boardwalk. I stopped for a minute and took my sunglasses off as I lifted my face toward the sun and smiled. I enjoyed the warmth of the sun rays on my skin, and I thought of the beach. The wind run through my hair, and the sound of it reminded me of the waves breaking onto the shore.
Looking around, I saw students walking in different directions carrying heavy backpacks and deep grimace on the face. I smiled knowing that I finished the semester earlier than most of other students.
As I put my sunglasses, I halted my backpack and continued walking. I couldn’t relax the smile on my face knowing I would have two weeks’ free time to myself.
I arrived at the café and pulled the door with both hands to open it. I stepped inside and a cool, ventilated air brushed against my face. I clapped silently because there was no line.
The menu was attached to the ceiling in luminescent boxes, so I looked up to choose something new. I usually ordered a small “Greek salad” because of my limited budget, but that day I wanted to reward myself for a great semester and searched for a more impressive salad.
I greeted the lady who was going to make my salad. She rearranged her traditional, chef hat and grabbed a metal bowl. She smiled and stared at me with her big brown eyes, waiting for my order.
I pointed at the “Ginger Shrimp salad” and ordered a large portion. The woman asked me if I wanted to exclude any ingredients and proceeded to pick and thrown them into the ball from the large glass display that contained all the ingredients.
I watched her hand picking some spinach, some shrimp, some ginger and other things. As her hand moved fast from one side of the display to the other, I eyed I box of sunflower seeds and requested to add some seeds to my salad. I could feel saliva filling my mouth.
As the lady mixed the salad, I reached into my backpack’s outer pocket for my wallet. My fingers ran through several pens and pencils, some coins, a lipstick a hand sanitizer tube, and my car keys. I gulped. My wallet was not in the pocket. I unzipped my backpack and looked through all my books – nothing. I checked my secret inside pocket and found a peanut butter protein bar but no wallet.
A slight dizziness took over my head, and I felt my shirt stick to my sweaty back. My palms started sweating and I brushed them against my pants. My face turned red, and I looked down as the woman placed my salad into a clear plastic box and sealed it.
I walked toward the cashier, and whispering, I explained that I couldn’t pay for my ordered because I have forgotten my wallet. I apologized for the inconvenience, but she looked at me without blinking and insisted I paid. I started stuttering and continued to apologize as I didn’t have any money with me that day.
“I’ll pay for it,” I heard a voice saying behind me.
I turned around and saw a dark-skinned man with deep brown eyes. He smiled. I forced my lips into a smile, but it didn’t work. I told him he didn’t have to do it, but he insisted.
The cashier told him the price of my salad, which was twice as costly as his. His eyes widened, but he didn’t back off the offer.
I took the salad with my shaking hands and looked toward the exit. He asked my name and said his name was Fitz.
I thanked Fitz for his gesture. He smiled. A white row of white teeth appeared. I made an excuse and left the café.
At first, I started running, then I slowed down to a rapid pace. I walked without looking back with the salad in my hands. My heart started racing and I couldn’t catch my breath. I felt that everyone knew what happened and they stared at me in disgrace. I hid my face with one palm and walked looking down.
I arrived on the other side of the campus. I entered the library building and chose a table in a corner. I sat and opened the plastic box. I took a bite, but I couldn’t swallow it. I looked at the salad and blamed my expensive taste. I didn’t feel hunger, only embarrassment filled my stomach.
I looked out of the window and saw students sitting in groups and eating bagels or other snacks from the vending machines. I sat alone with an expensive salad in front of me that I couldn’t pay for it.