Sometimes, when you find yourself spending a rainy Friday afternoon at Costco wandering the food sample selection, the kind little old lady hands you a square of cheeseburger, and suddenly, miracle of miracles, it’s the best bite of cheeseburger you’ve ever tasted. You wonder how you made it so long as a vegetarian, and then how and more importantly, why, you later preferred to wave the flag of pescotarian around with pride.
Because suddenly you’re brought back to your carnivorous high school days: It’s 8:43 on a Monday night, and your ’77 Chevy Luv peels into the Bob’s Burger Express parking lot, its front seat packed with two freshmen squeezed in next to you. You pretend there’s a radio by animatedly poking at the piece of paper taped to the dashboard, the one drawn with markers by your best friend, Kristen.
“Is that Beauty and the Beast I hear playing?” you prompt the girls, and together the three of you start singing “Be Our Guest!” at the top of your lungs. As you screech to a halt, you remind them to step lightly on the truck’s floorboards, because it’s fragile: you can see the passing ground through its rusted bottom.
“Look how much character you can buy for $400!” your parents always said. Ever the optimists, Mom and Dad, ever the optimists, you think to yourself.
But now you’re bumbling in through the doors of this greasy, perfect, old-school relic. You bum a nickel, a dime and maybe even a quarter, if you’re lucky, off random friends so you too can split that fried, American cheese topped, sesame seed bun of a burger.
Because it didn’t go straight to your hips back then – it just went straight to your hormonal insides. It made you do wild and crazy things, like share bench space with the boy you liked, thighs touching, energy pulsing. You were brave and bold, as you savored every delicious bite.
You ran around the restaurant, singing “Brown-Eyed Girl” at the top of your lungs, reliving the funny skit your leaders just performed. You crowded in next to your girls, whispering and pointing and looking across the room at the crowd of skaters who just showed up.
“Ohmygod, he is so hot,” Jessica would say.
“Yeah,” you utter under your breath, careful not to take God’s name in vain, though. You were just at Young Life, after all. “Hot.”
…But soon you’re snapped out of your reverie, standing again in a gigantic concrete warehouse. Tears well in your sons eyes as he moans and begs and pleads, “Bite! Bite!”
“What do you say? Mama, please? Mama, please?” Surely this is just the beginning of the coaching years.
PEAS!!!!!!! He wails, and you succumb to his demands, giving him the remaining half-inch of your resurrected Bob’s Burger bite of a cheeseburger.
Caring is sharing, son, caring is sharing.
You start perusing the aisles: You throw a package of shrimp into your cart, big enough to feed a small nation, even though there will just be four of you for dinner. You find a bunch of bananas that will feed Cancan for a day or two, and you browse the shredded cheese: should I buy three pounds or five? There are only so many quesadillas a toddler can eat, right?
But the taste of that perfect, greasy, too-good-to-be-true burger remains in your mouth, and you think to yourself…
But then a force stronger than your 34-year-old self takes over, and soon you’re flying past the free samples again: chicken dumplings, no! Kimchee ramen, not my thing! Bob’s Burger Express cheeseburger, where are you?
And then, glory to Costco in the highest, you find your free sample lady again, and you look down to the case to your right: there’s always room in our freezer for an eight-pack of greasy, delectable, made-to-order cheeseburgers.
You stuff the box into your cart, and heading for the front, place bets with yourself on how long it’ll take to get through the line, because really, you want to know how soon you can devour a whole burger in the comfort of your kitchen.
And Burger Time comes, as Burger Time often does – and even though it arrives approximately 18 hours later than you initially hoped for, and at 1 pm on Saturday, you finally sit down to your gooey, delight of a processed burger. It’s just as good as you remember, even if the shouldn’ts and couldn’ts and can’ts scream in the general direction of your hips, your thighs, your stomach.
But then a couple hours’ pass, and your stomach starts to curdle.
You reach for your water, and you sit green, huddled in the corner of your couch.
Say it ain’t so, you think to yourself. It’s Date Night – a sitter is lined up, and Honey’s already shaving in the corner, ready for a necessary, long-awaited night out.
“Yeah, we may want to reschedule the babysitter,” you begin to say to the HBH, hopeful that he’ll catch your drift before you have to explain the intricacies of your intestinal system.
Because then it all comes out.
With a magnitude all its own, every bit of your Bob’s Burger Express-like burger, along with the coffee and water and fruit and cereal and yogurt you consumed earlier that day, make their forceful entrance into this into this world.
And it’s back to the couch you go, for the reminder of the weekend.
But just like the optimistic assessment of the $400 piece of crap vehicle you once owned, not all is lost: because Beauty is found in the most unlikely of places. You get to watch your husband play Ball (again, again, again), with your son, the joy on both their faces complete. As you slowly slurp chicken broth for dinner, you watch episodes of Scandal and your girl-crush on Kerry Washington grows. Your body has made its mark in the leather now, a sign that you lived here for almost 30 hours straight – because you don’t move from your spot on Sunday either. Instead, you devour the absolute loveliness of your friend Micha’s book, and you relish again in that lovely Anne of Avonlea.
But as per the burgers, as per reliving my high school glory days?
I’m afraid that’s going to have to go. So long, memory.
What about you? What’s the best food poisoning story of your LIFE? And how, more importantly, have you found Beauty in the most unlikely of places?