The Last Few Fries
I reprimanded myself when I noticed I had been picking at the faded red polyester of the sofa. It had seen some rough years – the exposed yellow foam with chunks missing attested to that. I wasn't here for a grand experience, and I knew that. Nonetheless, I felt the weight of disappointment drag me down.
I was not recognised, much to my relief. There had definitely been an overhaul at Martin's, because I couldn't recognise anyone either. The friendly old man at the counter with kind eyes and a funny salt-and-pepper moustache that bristled out in every direction had been replaced by a man with an indeterminable age and a solid poker face.
The place never had too many lightbulbs, but it was always bright. The windows had calendar pages taped to the glasses, I suspected, to shield themselves from the cement splatters of the construction undergoing all around this tiny, single-storey restaurant that was to shut down in a month.
That they were going out of business showed in every detail. The place had no soul or spirit left, and it was evident in the colourless walls, the unclean glasses, the empty eyes of the server who left me a menu card. It was sticky with oil, so I didn't touch it. Despite several items having been crossed off due to them being unavailable, I knew what I was going to order. I leaned back against my seat and nodded at the server. He left.
Somewhere beneath the bland layers of colour remaining on the wall retained my name next to my friend's, which had been written in a Red Leaf marker – some names were scribbled out, and some new names were added. Somewhere between the third and fourth booths behind the solitary pillar, I had my first kiss. I stood there, blinded due to the frosting smeared on my glasses, and howling with laughter as I chased down my assailant with a handful of cakes.
I asked for fries, without sauce. I couldn't tell if the server had heard me, but he disappeared off again. The fries weren't my favourite thing on the menu, but I ordered them the most because of its price. Everyone scuffled over them as soon as they hit the table, and they were gone in seconds. I couldn't tell what the fries tasted like, except that they tasted like bliss.
The server placed a plate down in front of me, and I stared down at it. Despite the illogicality of it, some part of my subconscious self had expected the food to be phenomenal, epiphany-inducing, life-changing. It was, however, just another plate of food, albeit with several strings attached to it.
I took my time, I chewed on each fry, with too much oil and too little seasoning. And when I was done, I neatly folded up the tissue adorned with a red "M" logo, with salt bits and crumbs sprinkled on it, and slid it into my pocket. I paid the bill when it came. I ensured to leave a dodecagonal five-taka coin neatly tucked away in the fold of the black book. I got up, dusted my hands on my trousers, and walked out with long, silent strides.
I never went back there again.
Upoma Aziz is a slouching, crouching, grouchy, and nostalgic goblin with a hoarding issue. Contact her at [email protected]