Sunday, October 14, 2012

blinking lights, flying stars.

He approached the counter, and the pretty red-headed cashier smiled at him.

"How was everything?" she asked, each syllable infested by a musicality that made him think of Sondheim.

"Terrible," he said. "But listen:

I don't like the food here. I don't. It's overpriced. I got a cheeseburger last week, and the patty had the consistency of a hockey puck, and the center of it was cold. Not in a slightly cool, medium-rare kinda way, but an actually teeth-chatteringly cold way. Felt like a ground beef snow cone. The dinner I got tonight, the pasta—primavera? carbonara? it's hard to tell since it's all the same here—would graciously be called "al dente," except that implies that it was done with intent instead of negligence.

"And the cleanliness? Don't get me started on the cleanliness. The coffee mugs generally have the content of half a tube of lipstick on them. It's either lipstick or blood, and given the state of some of your busboys, it could actually be a combination of both. The tables are stained with what I can only pray is coffee, and I think someone opened an above-average ant farm over in the far corner, because there's some kind of ant revolt going on, and I think they're actually beginning to unionize.

"But the prices! These prices are unthinkable. Delusional, even. These prices are battering and almost aggressively insulting for the quality of food—I should use a better term than "food," since "food" implies that something is either edible or nutritious—that you're offering here. It's like this entire restaurant is some kind of dadaist performance art about the nature of suffering filtered through an Edward Hopper lens, and if so, mission accomplished.

"The only reason I keep coming here—you know that it's close to every night this week—is because you're so beautiful and the smile you always give me with my receipt and change glows like the summer sun, chasing away the nausea and buyer's remorse and everything but this brief moment I stumbled upon every time I come in here, those milliseconds when your fingertips touch mine as you hand over the smattering of a few bills and coins and paper and they jingle jangle kerplop into my palm and I have to count down the minutes until I could reasonably be hungry enough to subject myself to this, to the food and the filth and the highway robbery of eating here,

but you are just
that I cannot help myself.

...and I am altogether embarrassed that the secret's out this way."

She smiled. "Why don't you just ask me to dinner?"

He took a deep breath, sighing. "Would you like to go to dinner this week?"

"Yes," she said. "Know any good restaurants?"

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