This meal is ritual. To him, souper represents a sense of continuity between lives. His work life—that of responsibility, punctuality, suits and jargon—and the rest of his life, which lacks such organized clarity.
And this meal, this meal he decides will be spiritual. Spiritual and clear.
He sets the table. Knife and fork to the right. Blade facing in. This he feels to be especially practical for when he needs it for something other than the food on his plate. Yes, the plate. The plate has to be perfectly circular and white. Not cream. White. Cream would ruin the rest of the scheme. He places it carefully to the right of the silver ware. Next is the vin. He requires the bottle be tall and without label, no need for that here. And red. Of course it has to be red. It wouldn’t make sense any other way. Last, he places a clear, severely polished glass to the left of the bottle. In it he can see his reflection and he hates it, but it is just a matter of time.
Now, and with great delicacy, he bestows upon the plate the main coarse—a deli fresh slice. The fat forms tendrils that twist and turn toward the center. An empty point. But it will be resolved. Filled in moments.
He picks up the knife, all tenderness lost. Moving for the slice, he cuts. Two optic slashes. Then in swift motion, fearless and precise motion, he takes that lunchtime scalpel and carves. It is fast. The epidermis is thin and blood drips. But the pain is thick and in it he knocks the bottle. The table crimson, he continues the work. Another cut. He flips the blade and uses the blunt end to lift. There’s a pop. It’s gross and it’s human. A thump and a roll, his left eye comes to rest in the oval crevice.
Not a kosher site.
His brain has since numbed the pain and the table is a mess, but in half-vision he has perfect clarity. The garish scene reflects in the polished glass and cancels out his reflection. This makes him happy, makes him feel structure. His own disorder now pales in comparison to that of the setting. He smiles.
Lifting a napkin from his lap, he dabs the red from the table, replaces the vin and jambon and makes two more surgical cuts in the fresh, fatty slice.
He breathes and blood pours. In spotted sight he ponders the blade. Serrated, silver. Not particularly long. Ordinary, really. But now things are clouding and time is running out and the ritual must continue. Clarity is paramount.
He lifts the knife. Time for the rite.