Stories

Pictures of a Man Holding Food – Joey Zemmol

        I looked at my camera roll and realized that all of the pictures I have of myself from the past few months had been taken by DoorDash deliverymen (Dashers, as the app calls them).

        It is a recent DoorDash policy to take a picture of the package once it’s been received by the customer, confirming the delivery. Most people let the Dasher leave the package at the front door, where they take a photo of it and a message is then sent to the customer notifying them that their order has been dropped off. Then the Dasher moves onto the next order.

        I usually track the Dasher’s location as they’re approaching my apartment building. I live in a walkup, and they don’t like to come upstairs to my door. So I courteously walk down three flights to pick up the package on the sidewalk. They’re usually very appreciative of this. When I first encountered the new policy, a Dasher had handed me my order and as I was walking away he said, “Hold on, let me take a picture.” I turned and looked at him confused, then he clarified. “For the app.” I was still curious but held the bag and let him take a picture anyways.

        Then, I received the photo on my phone. The brown bag containing my buffalo chicken sandwich and french fries. My clenched fist holding onto it, folding the paper bag into my palm with my fingers. Behind the bag was my mid-section. I was wearing my orange apartment shorts. I saved the photo. I looked at it several times that night.

        The next day I ordered DoorDash for lunch. After the handoff of the bag, I stood still facing the Dasher. He waited a moment, then remembered to take the photo.
“Sorry, I need to take a picture.”
“Right” I said.
Then, without thinking, I held the bag up to my face. He looked at me and his expression suggested that he was wondering whether I was being playful, and that he was on the other side of a joke, or that I’m weird. I decided that it was a joke. I received the picture. My face was in it next to the bag. I thought I looked good. His camera was blurry. I don’t know what phone he had.

        I continued doing it because I thought it was funny. I told some of my friends about it while we spoke over Facetime or in an Xbox party. I’d tell them about my joke while placing a new order. They thought it was hilarious. Then they’d ask whether I’ll do it again, and I always did. Sometimes they asked me to send them the picture for proof. Gladly.

        Eventually, anytime I’d excuse myself from my gaming headset to go get my food, which was happening more frequently, they’d tease me about it. Even people I only interacted with over Xbox Live knew about it. Roddy, who I play Xbox with the most, gave me a clever idea. He said “pull your dick out and put the food right next to it, see if he still takes a picture.” I didn’t do that but I thought it was a funny idea.

        I began ordering on DoorDash more frequently, and I got a photo of myself every single time. I saved each one to my camera roll. I have 32 photos, holding bags from Dos Toros, Chipotle, Wing Stop, Taco Bell, Cava, Checkers, KFC, and local spots like Asia Harbor, Kumo Sushi, Don Patron Grill, Empanada Loca, Birria King, Sake Sushi, and Lucy’s Roti Parlor.

        I wasn’t always doing this for the amusement of my online hangouts. Many times I did it for nobody’s amusement, not even my own. It satisfied a more twisted and possibly nihilistic perversion. I was aware of it and leaned right in. I thought about some random man having a headshot of me on their phone. Many different types of people delivered to me. The most common was the short Latino man on an electronic bike. Other times it was a South Asian. There were a few black women with SUVs too.
        My face is on many phones. I wondered whether anybody would seek me out. They had my address too, and could’ve easily saved it on their phone. Would any of my previous Dashers return to me? My round white face. I’m plump and pale. Women aren’t very interested in me because I look a bit like a man baby, but a certain kind of crazy person might find me irresistible. They’d see me and think I was bathed in milk as a baby, and drank the whole tub full afterwards. I’m chubby, have creamy skin and rosy cheeks.
        Although I dwelled on this, I wasn’t ever scared of someone coming after me, because I doubted it’d ever happen. But there was a chance.

        One day, someone did buzz my apartment. It was the middle of the day. I hadn’t ordered food and wasn’t expecting any visitors. My mind’s first assumption was that it was a former Dasher here to take what he thought I had offered him, my face and ass, or maybe my life. “Oh fuck” I thought. “I’m going to die. What an idiot. Why would I do that. Why was I acting like some deeply insecure incel? I’m supposed to be normal. Now I’m going to die!”
        I thought about what I might do. First I checked to make sure the door was locked. It was still ringing. It had only rung three times so far and my bell rings for a really long time, maybe eight or ten times. I needed to answer it. Getting ahead of it was better than sitting here like weak prey. The fourth ring sounded and I got more panicked. Then the fifth ring, and I thought of an idea. I would answer, invite him in, and meet him in the staircase outside of the Superintendent’s apartment on the first floor. If it was a rapist, I’d yell and bang on his door. I would have to run really fast to catch him while he’s still on the first floor, but the building’s foyer was big and the stairs were in the very back, so it was possible. Sixth ring. Okay, I’m going to do this. I waited by the buzzer, and when the seventh ring went off I pressed the answer button. I waited a moment. Before I can ask “who is it” they spoke.
        “Hi, have you registered to vote in this upcoming Community Board election?”
        “Go away.” I hung up and didn’t buzz Melanie in.
        After that, I somehow felt even more stupid than if it had actually been someone that came to kidnap me. It was so self-loathing to think anyone would be that interested in me. What kind of twisted fantasy am I subconsciously wishing to play out?
        I thought it was about time for me to stop doing this weird shit. That was a real scare, and some of the things I told myself between the first and third ring were true. I’m not that weird, truthfully. This creepy joke I’ve been running with for too long isn’t me. I’m not very weird. I’m actually pretty ordinary, I just need to leave my apartment and see people more often.

        I had gone two weeks without pulling my DoorDash charade, and it felt like the past. My Xbox friends didn’t ask me about it anymore, so I guess they thought it was over too. Although I doubt they had any inkling of how serious it got. I felt like I was getting normal again, as the spring weather began and I wasn’t holed up in my apartment as often.

        Over coffee one morning, I opened a dating app I hadn’t been active on in a while. There were no likes. I decided to update my profile, and scrolled through my photos. That’s when I was reminded of my past. I saw all 32 photos, taken by DoorDash Deliverymen. I felt ashamed at first, but then thought it was kind of funny. I made all of my dating profile photos pictures of me receiving my DoorDash order. I looked good in some of the photos. In one photo it was golden hour, my skin looked great and I appeared really skinny. I remember that day. It was around 5:30 pm and I hadn’t eaten.

        Within a few hours I had gotten three likes. Two of the girls were fat and one was incredibly skinny.