Club and I first met when I was, oh, I must’ve been eight or nine. My father and I had been at the pool all morning and stopped for lunch on our way back home. So there I was, this tiny kid with big glasses, kicking my feet back and forth while my dad and I talked about, I don’t know, swimming I guess. It’s funny the things kids get excited about, isn’t it?
So the server comes out with our food and that’s when I see this sandwich, all multi-layered and cut in half with these giant toothpicks holding everything together. I had never seen anything like it. And it wasn’t just a pretty package—it smelled amazing. I mean, absolutely incredible. My mouth still waters to this day thinking about the first time I smelled that sandwich.
I watched this guy set an absolute tower of a sandwich down in front of my dad, and then a little grilled cheese in front of me, and I remember thinking right then—right in that moment—I could not wait to be a man so I could order a sandwich like that. Until I could use my big, grown-up hands to pick up one of those sandwich towers, until I could take one big man-bite and get a little bit of everything, then wipe the mayo off my beard. I spent the next ten years pining for Club.
I went to college in-state. I was close enough to home that my mom still did my laundry, but far enough away that I felt like I was out in the world. After our first finals week, a bunch of freshmen in my dorm went out to a diner to celebrate. We all got root beer floats—it was the most celebratory non-alcoholic drink available to us—and we were just about to settle on burgers for the whole table, when something caught my eye.
It was a tall blonde carrying a tray, and sitting on that tray was none other than Club. It was like we were the only ones in the room. I just stared at this sandwich, absolutely as beautiful as the first time I saw it. Hadn’t aged a day. I watched that woman hold the tray up high over her head as she walked Club through the narrow isles between tables and deliver it to some frat—boy jock. He didn’t even look phased. He picked up a half with one hand—the lettuce was spilling out everywhere—and took a sloppy bite, forcing bacon out of the side that hung in the air, the side his other hand should have been protecting.
He didn’t know what he had.
I was sick to my stomach. I got up from my seat, I didn’t even really know what I was doing, I didn’t have a plan, but I got up from my seat, marched over to that table, and grabbed the other sandwich half. I looked that jock dead in the eyes and told him he didn’t deserve Club, then I turned around and walked back to my seat. The guy was so stunned that he didn’t say a thing, he didn’t even confront me. My friends thought I was a hero.
But the truth is, I was just a guy in love. For the next fifteen years, not a day went by that I didn’t have Club there with me. Lunch, dinner, even breakfast a few times. Every day.
I had my first heart attack when I was thirty-four. That was a rough time for us, you know, with the doctors and the medications and all that. I told them I didn’t care if I had to eat carrot sticks all day, as long as I could still have my Club. And they didn’t like it, but I don’t think anyone in this room is surprised that I didn’t care.
So we struggled, we really did, but we made it through. That’s what you do when you love someone, and God did I love this sandwich. I loved the way the bread was crispy on the outside, then soft where the mayo sunk in. I loved that one meat wasn’t enough—you don’t see that in a lot of sandwiches, happy with their whole identity boiled down to just one meat, but not my Club. I loved the simplicity of the tomato and the lettuce, you know? Club didn’t need any fancy sprouts or pickled radishes, Club was happy just being Club.
After the third heart attack, we knew things weren’t looking good. We sat in the doctor’s office; I was furious and Club was wilted. I told the doc I didn’t want to live in world without Club and I didn’t give a damn what anyone thought. I mean, I was screaming at the guy.
Then all of a sudden, so quiet that it was actually shocking, Club said in this tiny voice that it just couldn’t do it anymore. It couldn’t sit by, held together with a sturdy toothpick while I slowly fell apart. I tried talking some sense into that damn stubborn sandwich, but it had made up its mind.
We spent another amazing year together, and then the day came. The day Club left this world. We sat in the kitchen, laughing, trying not to think about what tomorrow held. It was two minutes to midnight, and Club said, it said to me: “Just because I’m gone, it doesn’t mean my ingredients aren’t still here.” I could feel the tears coming, but that’s not how I wanted to be remembered. So I smiled, looked at that toasted bread, took one last bite…and then it was gone. My Club was gone.
Today is not a day of mourning, it is a day of remembering. Remembering the good, the bad, and most importantly, the ingredients.