We were holed up in a no-frills motel just outside of Philly in a room that smelled of bacon farts. We had stopped to eat at a diner off Route 1, but I had no appetite. Except for a salad of wilted lettuce and a grainy, decidedly non-organic tomato, the rawest thing on the menu was the waitress’s attitude when I asked for the vegan options. The room didn’t have a mini-fridge to store the ingredients for my goji berry-spirulina-chia seed cleanse and the bedding was made from toxic fibers that made me break out in hives.
I couldn’t sleep anyway. The police were closing in and I had a decision to make.
They’d tracked Butch and me to a rest stop in South Jersey, then lost our trail. We had the shades drawn and the television on mute, for the news. My NoMad restaurant, “The Golden Beet,” had been the go-to raw foods spot for celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Alec Baldwin and his yoga instructor (now wife). (See, ladies, there’s hope for us all!) Gwyneth even said she was going to feature me on Goop, her lifestyle blog.
How did I get from being the darling of foodies to the fleeing subject of an all-points bulletin?
I blame it on the prosciutto.
Those gleaming pink, salty curls packed with flavor; the buttery lard that melts in your mouth.
Butch was an Uber driver who’d dropped off a group at the restaurant and asked if I had an outlet where he could charge his phone. Our eyes locked: I knew this guy, or guys like him, the ones from my Staten Island neighborhood. It turned out he looked familiar because he was a friend of my ex’s. He worked in catering and drove on the side. We chatted about the old neighborhood and when his phone was charged he left to pick up another fare. I didn’t give him a second thought.
Until he showed up again, with a quarter pound of prosciutto, wrapped in wax paper.
It was after hours and all the staff had gone home. We were alone in the kitchen, which up until then had been virginal of meat products.
He dangled a piece over my mouth and I lunged for it like a starved animal.
I finished the package. Then we had sex on the sous chef’s station.
Okay, it was a slip, but I wasn’t going back to that life. I’d put my blood, sweat and tears into this restaurant, not to mention losing fifty pounds on a raw foods diet.
But there’s something about testosterone and meat eaters, I guess, because I couldn’t quit him.
At first he just wanted a loan, so he could stop Ubering entitled millennials around the city. He said he wanted to open a comedy club.
But he was treating my restaurant like his personal ATM. When I tried to put my foot down, he blackmailed me, saying he would tell The Golden Beet patrons about my ham habit. He even had pictures.
Before I knew it, I was dipping into the operating account and falling short of payroll. An employee reported us and I was slapped with embezzlement and fraud charges. I was up against the wall, so when he offered me a way out, I took it.
Living on the run soon lost its thrill. Butch expected me to pay for everything and kept yakking about his stupid comedy club, which he planned to open with his casino winnings. That’s where he was while I watched daytime TV and cursed his carnivorous hide.
Then I got a text message from a detective. He was offering me a deal. That night I told Butch I knew I’d been a five star bitch lately and wanted to make it up to him. I was going to order a pie loaded with our favorite topping from the local pizzeria.
I dialed the last incoming number on my cell and gave my order to the detective who answered: a large pie with extra prosciutto to be delivered to Room 305 at the Red Roof Inn.
I hope they have a vegan meal option at Rikers.