(For this story, I asked myself a simple question: "What would happen if a frat bro wrote a really pretentious memoir piece?" It's the stupidest thing I've ever written, and I refuse to even try to shop it around. You're welcome, world.)
Consider the Quesarito
I walked into a Chicago Taco Bell in the South Loop at midnight.
I heard the Religious Studies kids liked to hang out there and observe people. Before that night, I didn't want any of that nonsense. I went to college for business and to hustle.
Gary V for me, sir, none of your whimsical kumbaya crap.
But that particular night, I had a yearning inside of me. I couldn't put my finger on it. Maybe it was the edibles I ate. Maybe it was my roommate's loud snoring. Maybe it was unprocessed trauma.
Maybe it was everything.
I ordered my usual quesarito with a Baja Blast and found my way to a familiar face.
He was sitting at a table reading a book in what I assume was Arabic.
"How long have you been studying?" I asked as I sat down.
"Time is of no essence in the realm of the Divine," he said.
I took a sip of Blast, "What?"
"My name is Steve," he offered his hand.
I shook it, "Patrick. So, what are you reading?"
"I'm not sure," Steve closed the book. "I like looking at the writing. I can't read Arabic."
I stared at him blankly.
"Haven't you ever stared at someone to admire their beauty before?"
"Like, to get laid?"
"No, to just admire them. You've never looked at your world or others and admired the beauty of who they are?"
I looked at his book and then at him, "Can't say that I have?"
He grabbed my quesarito, unwrapped it, and then waved it in front of my face.
"Consider the quesarito," he said, "how it defies definition. It's both a quesadilla and a burrito. What a mystical world we live in where something like this can exist."
"I've never thought about it like that before," I leaned back.
Steve took a bite, "Yes, friend, we never think. We go through life not observing beauty, and only seek ways to exploit it," he grabbed my drink and took a sip.
"I think I get it," I cleared my throat. "I've been studying for a career, but I haven't taken the time to really absorb what's going on around me. I never appreciate it for what it is."
"Nothing is permanent, friend," Steve took another bite. "Enjoy it while you can. One day, you'll regret not being in the moment."
Steve stood up, patted my shoulder, and said, "I'll see you around."
"You're forgetting your book," I held it out to him.
"Am I, friend? Am I?" Steve caressed my face slowly.
"I… uh, guess not," I stammered.
Steve wandered away, eating the rest of my quesarito.
I walked home from Taco Bell that night confused, frustrated, and hungry. I went to bed angry.
The next day dragged on. I couldn't get Steve's pseudo-wisdom out of my head. There had to be some kind of meaning to the nonsense. Some kind of logic.
Late night came around again, and I found myself wanting that quesarito that was stolen from me by that sneaky hipster monk with a non-descript spirituality.
I walked in, "I'd like a quesarito with a Baja Blast, please."
"We're sorry, sir," said the woman at the cashier. "We stopped selling those."
My heart sank.
Steve was right.
Nothing is permanent in this world.
I turned my head and saw a hippie woman reading the book that Steve left behind.
She looked at me and smiled.
I gave a little wave and ordered something else.
Of course someone like her was there.
After I got my order, I sat down and stared into space.
I realized all the broken dreams, lost causes, manic late night phone calls…
They were all one giant quesarito.
Here today, gone tomorrow.
The only things that are guaranteed it seems are the shells and tortillas that are willing to accept the ingredients with grace and dignity. Perhaps I could be a shell, I figured. Perhaps I was not meant to understand these things but rather to accept them.
Perhaps there is freedom in realizing that not everything on the menu is permanent, and there is wisdom in savoring every ingredient until it's gone - or even finding other ways to rejoice when those same ingredients are redone twenty-five different ways.
Steve may have exploited my late night cravings, but the lessons he left behind will remain with me for a lifetime.