The Taco Bell in my hometown is on fire and everyone is commenting online about their memories as it burns. About Grilled Stuft Burritos and Crunchwrap Supremes. About spending nights in the parking lot smoking weed and talking about going to Walmart once the cops kicked them out.
The Taco Bell in my hometown is on fire and all I can remember is walking there when I lived in that duplex one street behind it after high school ended. Being barefoot on rocky pavement when I found out my boyfriend was cheating on me in the room we called a guest bedroom, when it should have been an office. About the year I couldn’t decide if I wanted to go to trade school at home or college in a real city.
This half-Pizza Hut, half mediocre Tex Mex place is burning to the ground and it’s the kids who sat behind me in Biology class trying to put it out. Using their C+ grades to change the course of major disasters. Fight against the elements while I’m two-thousand miles away from the place I still call my hometown, when I haven’t been there in years.
This tiny drinking village they’ll tell you has a fishing problem and the best beaches you’ve even squished your toes into. But they won’t tell you the perfect spot to launch your boat. They won’t tell you the secrets till you have an orange on your license plate but they’ll take your money in the winter months. They’ll complain about your driving while you’re there and make tighter budgets in the summer while you’re back up north. They’ll call you a snowbird behind your back while they pour your margarita.
The Taco Bell in my hometown is on fire and it feels like a tragedy. Like the smoldering stand alone building and drive-thru still houses my adolescence in its crumbling walls and plastic neon seating. That when the ash settles and the teenagers of the town have nowhere to go, no bean burritos to eat or Baja Blast to drink, my childhood will lay in the ruins.
The Taco Bell in my hometown is on fire and the free sauce packets will never taste the same. I’ll never order a Chalupa without remembering nights laying in truck-beds naming stars and knowing no matter who I become, my heart will always live where seawater and big dreams come wrapped in cheap tortilla shells.
Brandon Mead is a writer, intermittent poet/blogger, and cat dad who calls the Pacific Northwest home after living his whole Nomi Malone fantasy in Las Vegas, Nevada. His work has appeared in journals such as Nerve, Vagabonds, Finding Bohemia, and Thought Catalog, while his live readings have been featured at a variety of exhibitions and festivals. He is a former Florida Man and has been the recipient of support from the Nevada Arts Council, the Las Vegas Writing Conference, and the Writers of Central Florida. For cats, hikes, and food: follow him on Instagram @fiercestorytelling