My Secret Shame
It's a weekend morning here at my Connecticut mansion. The kids are awake and watching television, the wife is asleep, and the dog is trying to outwit the invisible fence. But she can’t because she is a dog and she is not smarter than electricity. As for me, I am sitting in the kitchen waiting for the New York Times to be delivered so I can haul it in, snap open the front section, and then pretend to give a shit about what’s happening in the world. I may even say things like, “Honey did you hear about the Pashtuns this morning?” Something like that to make me sound educated on one hand, and allow me to say “Pashtuns” on the other.
So it’s that kind of lazy Saturday, which follows my lazy Sunday-Friday. The hardest work I’ve done this week was get the kids ready for school, the hardest part of which is making their lunches. I solved that problem by encouraging them to buy hot lunch this week. The money is incidental when compared with slicing apples and stuffing them inside of tiny sandwich bags five days a week. I don’t know why packing their lunches feels like such a chore, but it is. Even feeding myself seems like a chore most of the time, which is why I take nine out of ten meals at Taco Bell.
The other day I told my wife I was going to the bank, which I did. But then I also went to Taco Bell without telling her. I felt extremely guilty about that, like I had betrayed some kind of trust. I had, but it was with my lower intestine, not with her. When I got back, she didn’t ask why the trip had taken so long and I didn’t volunteer the information. Had she asked, I would have told her and she would not have cared but it is hard to maintain emotional neutrality about Taco Bell; I don’t think there is a person on this earth who can say, “I just ate at Taco Bell” without wincing.
Part of the problem with Taco Bell is the clientele. Whenever I go there, the first thing I do is scan the room for anybody who isn’t obese. In doing so, I am attempting to reassure myself that there is no causal relationship between consuming food from a restaurant currently advertising a “Nacho Crunch Half Pound Burrito,” and people who waddle, not walk. I have yet to prove that such a relationship does not exist. This is also a restaurant who, for years, has been encouraging Americans to eat a “Fourth Meal,” which they cleverly call “Fourth Meal.” The people I usually see there do not need any further encouragement to eat more meals. And yet, I am one of these people.
I am Taco Bell.
Because I love it. God help me, I love it. I love the reconstituted “beef,” the watery sour cream, the tomatoes which usually contain at least a little bit of tomato core. I love the wilted lettuce and soggy taco shells. I love the hot sauce, whose only ingredient is salt. Individually you could argue that those sound like disgusting ingredients. Collectively it is pseudo-Mexican nirvana. When Taco Bell is hot, there is no finer taste on God’s good earth. When Taco Bell is even room temperature there is nothing more disgusting, except perhaps Domino’s Pizza, which suffers from the same problem, although the highs with Domino’s aren’t nearly as high as the lows are low.
So even though Taco Bell is not what I wanted to be thinking about this early on a Saturday morning, because it is making me queasy, as so often turns when I find myself caught in reverie, that is where my thoughts have wandered. Will I go there today? No. No, I will not. Because it is not good for me and I want to live a long, long time. And because I’m going to Los Angeles tomorrow without my family so I can eat there all I want and they will never know.