The strangest thing anyone’s ever told me was that I reminded them of a Ruffles sour cream and onion potato chip. That’s right, a Ruffles sour cream and onion potato chip.
It happened my third year of college. A classmate — her name was Myra, and we’d had a few classes here and there — walked up to me after Ancient Religions one day and told me, with a smirk, “You know, you kinda remind me of a Ruffles sour cream and onion potato chip.” Just like that.
Though I hardly knew Myra — an attractive girl who liked wearing loose-fitting stonewashed jeans — she never struck me as the type of person who said weird things just to say them. So basically, I was flabbergasted.
“Is that right?” I said, amused.
“Yep,” she said cheerfully, then strutted away like it was no big deal telling me that I reminded her of a Ruffles sour cream and onion potato chip.
I must’ve stood in Myra’s wake for a good while trying to digest her words.
Days flew by and I couldn’t stop thinking about what she’d said to me. In between walking to class, sitting in the cafeteria, goofing off on my laptop, shooting hoops at the gym, and doing Lord knows what else, her comment buzzed around in my head like a housefly. Wherever I went, it followed. I decided I had to get to the bottom of it.
After a few days of hard thinking, I came up with a theory.
Myra, in her kindest way, was trying to tell me I was brackish! For starters, I wasn’t a typical guy you find in college. I didn’t go out drinking or clubbing with friends. Even just to eat out, I had to be bribed. I was a tightwad with my money in those days. In fact, I didn’t have many friends. I was kind of a loner. But my theory had a critical flaw, and it was this: Myra wouldn’t have known these particulars about me, exactly. We weren’t close; we weren’t in the same circles. Now, was it possible that she could’ve figured out I was this type of person by simply analyzing my face? Certainly. Other than a conversation-starting scar interestingly located above my left eyebrow, my face is rather plain, which is to say, reflective of a brackish personality. My nickname in middle school was Easter Island, after all. I was often told to loosen up. So perhaps, just maybe, Myra too was trying to tell me to loosen up, to straighten out my rough Ruffles ridges so to speak.
But why the hell a sour cream and onion chip, of all flavors? I wondered. I didn’t have halitosis. I didn’t reek of sour cream or onions. Hell, I didn’t even like sour cream and onion potato chips all that much.
That question always stumped me. The one riddle I never solved.
It’s been six years that I’ve been out of college now. I never mustered the courage to ask Myra what she ever meant. To do so now would require work. Too much work. Facebook stalking work. I’m not into that garbage, not at all. I’ve moved on. This ship has sailed.
Or so I thought.
A couple of months ago, my girlfriend Victoria was over at my place for dinner. We got to talking about our good old college days and, for whatever reason, I decided to bring up the Myra incident. It seemed a funny story to tell at the time. When I finished the story, Victoria’s response was, “Weird.” She said it stone-faced, like an Easter Island head.
“Everything okay?” I inquired.
“So, do you still talk to Myra?”
“Nope. Haven’t seen her in six years.”
“Hmm,” she mumbled.
We finished our spaghetti in silence. After dinner, instead of cuddling with me on my couch like she usually did, Victoria said she was tired, that her stomach hurt and that she needed to go home.
“Want me to come with?” I asked.
“I’m good,” she said, stone-faced.
Instead of asking her what was really wrong, which I already knew, I let her leave. I didn’t want to get into it.
It occurred to me as she was leaving that Victoria was wearing stone-washed jeans. Something about Freud and the subconscious popped into my head, but I brushed that thought off like a gnat.
A few days later, while I was at the grocery store, I strolled through the chip aisle and stopped in my tracks when I saw a family-sized bag of Ruffles sour cream and onion chips. They were on sale: fifty cents off. Now, I didn’t normally buy Ruffles; I didn’t really like them. I’m a Doritos guy. Cool Ranch, if you want to know. But for whatever reason — maybe in perverse defiance, or maybe for no reason whatsoever — I bought that bag of Ruffles. They were on sale, after all. Fifty cents was fifty cents. Plus, I was long overdue to mix up my chips.
The next day, Victoria was over watching TV with me. During a commercial break, she got up from my sofa and walked to the pantry to find something to munch on. Then, the next thing I knew, she was by my front door slipping on her sandals with a scowl on her face.
“Where’re you going, Vickie-pants?” I asked.
“Just because,” she answered, stone-faced.
“What did I do now?”
“Nothing,” she snapped.
I could’ve pressed the issue, but I wasn’t in the mood, so I let her leave. She didn’t slam the door, but she closed it hard enough. I heard a baby start to cry in the distance.
“For Heaven’s sake,” I said to myself.
A few minutes later, I went to my pantry.
I flicked on the light and noticed, smack-dab in the middle of the center shelf, the family-size bag of Ruffles sour cream and onion potato chips.
Should’ve just stuck with the damn Doritos, I thought.
Alex Z. Salinas lives in San Antonio, Texas. He has a political science degree from St. Mary’s University. His flash fiction has appeared in Every Day Fiction, escarp, Nanoism, 101 Words, 101 Fiction, ZeroFlash, and the Pecan Grove Review. He has also had poetry published in the San Antonio Express-News and the San Antonio Review.