by Amy Atkins
For a couple of weeks, I have driven past a new Mexican restaurant near my house. It's one of only a handful of Mexican restaurants in the greater Bench area and my mate and I were looking forward to trying it. Our first step inside should have been our last. The joint was empty except for two employees, one of whom was sweeping the entryway. Cheap prices and a huge selection of entrees contributed to my inability to trust my better judgement. It was the dinner hour and there was nary a patron in sight and though the employees clearly had the tools and the time, clean the place was not.
But I've walked into restaurants before in which all of the effort is put into creating delicious food and the decor is more of an afterthought. I like that the energy available is expended in that way. So, we decided to push through our initial concerns and order dinner.
I ordered the fajita trio--shrimp, chicken and beef--and my mate picked a five-rolled-taco plate. Both came with beans and rice and his came with a drink. $14 dollars and about four minutes later, we were handed a plastic bag with two heavy to-go boxes. In the car, my eyes started to water from the fishy smell coming from the bag. My mate, tearing up a bit himself, looked at me with the tiniest bit of fear in his eyes. Hungry, I ignored what I knew to be true, and though we passed two or three dumpsters that we could have easily pitched the food into without even leaving the safety of the car, we headed home with our bounty.
My man, already disappointed by his weak, odd-tasting fountain ice tea, pulled his box out of the bag and sat down to eat. I heard a gasp and what might have been a scream. With the same look on his face he gets when he accidentally comes across televised surgery while channel surfing, my mate held his box up for me to see. His "rolled tacos" looked suspiciously like store-bought taquitos and were covered in a runny, mint-green sauce that we guessed was meant to simulate guacamole.
And because the taquitos had to be the rolled tacos and we could identify the rice as rice, by process of elimination, the mushy periwinkle-colored mound in the corner of his box had to be the beans. He took a bite of a taco, and with a hint of a challenge in his voice (patronizing the restaurant had been my idea), suggested I do the same. Rather than take the look of revulsion on his face as a warning, I took a bite. I didn't know something could be dry and spongy at the same time.
Though the tide-pool smell emanating from my box was growing stronger, I ignored the outraged voice in my head screaming, "No, no, no!" and opened it. Opposite a pile of dry, orangey rice, sat a puddle of cheese under which was a small heap of those selfsame purple gray beans. While that would have been enough to put any semi-sane human off his or her feed, I made one more in a string of bad decisions. I forked some chicken, beef and--god help me--shrimp, and took a bite. Immediately traumatized, I don't remember, but I don't think I actually swallowed. Through the force behind projectile vomiting, I think the mouthful landed across the living room. I do remember throwing my box on top of my husband's in the garbage can, begging him to take the trash out of the house, and shoving a cookie, a couple of green olives, a spoonful of some French's mustard and a handful of stale croutons in my mouth to kill the taste. Days later, the house still smelled like a fishing boat and now when I hear the word "shrimp," I throw up in my mouth a little.
Atkins out (of Pepto Bismol).