Beef and Cheddar with Extra Arby’s Sauce

by | Aug 6, 2018 | Fiction, Issue Four

It is one of those nights, you know the kind in which you’re far too drunk to drive the light blue Ford Focus your mom bought you as a graduation present, but everyone at the party is tunnel-visioned by the booze and the laxative-cut cocaine and the promise of sex and the sins of their parents,

so as you’re leaving they wave limply in your direction,

some shouting food orders they for some reason expect you to remember,

and you drop the keys on the front lawn you’ve mowed hundreds of times

since you first learned what it meant to be alone,

and initially you’re scared that they’re gone forever but then you smile and feel around remembering all the faithless hours you’ve spent slipping on banana peels and nearly falling off the edge of Rainbow Road, only to cross the finish line

breathing flawed flames of persistence.

Now you’re grabbing a grease-soaked bag from the gothic girl in the Arby’s drive-thru who says, “Don’t I know you from somewhere?” and you say, “It depends on what you mean by know,” then you proceed to thank her as if she made the beef and cheddar sandwich with extra Arby’s sauce just for you,

as if you are the only appreciative person on a planet full of sandwich-haters,

and she raises her black eyebrows and says, “It’s not like I invented the damn thing,” and you say, “I don’t care. It feels like you did and that makes it my reality so thank you. I love you,” except you aren’t sure you really say that

but you are sure that you tip her a 5 dollar bill, which she stuffs in the front pocket of her black Hot Topic pants. You put your car in park and wait for her to say or do something profound,

to rip off her headset and smash it against the cash register or maybe your skull and maybe she’ll say something like, “I wish someone would ask what I’d like for a change,” and then you could do just that.

You could bite your tongue and hold the planets in your throat while she tells you all the places that happiness hides.

She’ll probably say it commonly hides in the antennae of butterflies, because she often forgets to trust her senses.

After all, her dad thought it was a good idea for her to get customer service experience even though she hates smiling when she doesn’t mean it and no offense, but baby boomers have machines for souls, and you wish you could be the reason she smiles, then you wish you weren’t so selfish as to make her turmoil about you,

because you’re always doing that, always asking people about their injuries only to show them your scars,

so then you stop making wishes because the third is the last and you’ll probably waste it on something as meaningless as quicker Amazon delivery or purer ecstasy,

forever treating the symptoms instead of the disease.

You realize that you’re feeling kind of vulnerable and wonder why here, of all places, now, of all times, you want to call your mom up and confess sins you’ve yet to commit,

if only to create some breathing room,

and then you recall how you and your buddies had surrounded a bottle of Jose Cuervo and put your hands on it like the aliens did the basketball in Space Jam and you took turns taking gulps and then grew into the big, strong Monstars despite the knowledge that you’re still those puny, insecure aliens at heart, and you’ll never be anything else as long as you don’t tell the drive-thru girl how you really feel about her,

but it’s hard to conjure up the words when your head is full of cobwebs and your throat is full of quicksand.

You want love.

You want to be seen.

You want to find god inside that beef and cheddar with extra Arby’s sauce and say, “Hey, where you been? I’ve been looking everywhere for you. I’ve been holding the sun inside my lungs like a little boy on the carousel,”

and god would take a bong hit, sigh, then emphasize the importance of the extra Arby’s sauce, say something like the sauce is the lube she’d needed all along to slip right between your ribs, and you want to ask the drive-thru girl if she’d like to split the sandwich with you so that she too can meet god, turns out she’s a dope ass woman who can handle her weed,

but then someone lays on the horn behind you and you search for the girl in the drive-thru window,

only she’s no longer there.

No one is,

so you drive home and listen to the beef and cheddar sandwich talk about how it’s been sleep-walking lately,

how it never remembers how it gets anywhere,

how it’s terrified the world is something it dreamt up.

Read more Fiction | Issue Four

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