It was that day when I learned that McDonalds wasn’t just a place to go to get a bite to eat; no, it was much more. Much, much more. So much more that I would have laughed myself to death had I traveled back in time and told the me from the day before.
It all started when I finally managed to get the guts to talk to October. I’d had a crush on her all year—senior year of high school—and it was about time that I got up the courage to ask her out. I wasn’t a socially anxious kid, by any means, but I did have quite a bit of anxiety around the subject of her and talking to her.
She was cute. Real cute. About half a foot shorter than me, with long brown hair that she sometimes wore up in a braid; nice, pretty eyes; a body that wasn’t too fancy but had just the right amount of girly-ness. It wasn’t just her looks that I was attracted to, though. She was smart, could hold her own in a conversation about abstract topics—though I had only learned that through eavesdropping—and was, as far as I could tell, a kind and caring girl. Love sure was strange in how it distorted my perceptions of her, and even though I had rose-colored glasses on, I knew to keep myself at least somewhat sane.
I tapped her on the shoulder when class was over. My stomach was boiling over, and my shoulders were trembling. Keep it together, I told myself.
“Hey, October. Can I talk to you?”
“Sure, Max,” said October, putting her books back in her bag.
“When everyone is gone,” I said, regretting it instantly after I saw the look on her face. It was a look not of confusion, not of disgust, but of resolution. It was so far from what I had expected that I didn’t know what to do—I regretted its effect on me. Of course, anything she did was bound to have an effect on me.
October seemed to think for a minute, then nodded. “Only ten minutes, because I have to get to work.” She met my gaze and smiled. Real maturely. “Sure.”
Yes! went my heart. Keep it together, said my brain.
Some of the kids in the room—most of them October’s friends—watched us as they left. The teacher also eyed me before he left through the door. Then, all was silent. There was no one left in the room.
I took a deep breath.
“I like you, October. In a romantic fashion.”
October didn’t seem surprised. But, she didn’t answer how I would have expected. “Come with me,” she said, picking up her backpack and getting out of her seat. “We’re going to go get some burgers.”
“Burgers?” I repeated, too confused to say anything else. I quickly grabbed my backpack—a little too fast—and followed her out of the room. We walked through the hall until we left the school building. Then, we left the campus, walking along fifth street until we came to a McDonalds restaurant.
“Is this where you work?” I said, as we stepped into the burger joint. The smell of oil and flavoring and hamburgers being grilled filled my nose, as well as the smell of cheap cleaner and cheaper plastic. The place was decorated in garish reds and yellows that I had once learned were designed to get people hungry, get them in, and get them out. Color psychology—it’s what red and yellow do to your brain. I could feel it working.
October walked up to the counter, still having said nothing since we left the school.
“Hey, Toby,” said the guy behind the counter. “What are you going to have?”
“Two Giant Robots,” said October.
The guy behind the counter grinned. “Who’s the tagalong?”
October grinned back. “My new boyfriend, Fry. Get your nose out before I punch it bloody.”
Whoa, I thought. Not what I expected. Then my brain wrapped around what had just happened. Wait, what? Still processing. Boyfriend? Punch? A pause. Boy—Boyfriend?
I reached out towards October. “Hey, October—“
She cut me off with a wave. “No talking. Just watch.”
Fry opened a panel on the counter to reveal a high-tech operations hub that looked like it had been taken from the set of a military thriller. He punched in some numbers real fast-like, and then he flipped open a glass box like this was come cliché action flick, shoved a key into a keyhole, turned it, and then punched a big red button.
A surprisingly normal tone played over the loudspeakers. “McDonalds will now be closing for an emergency cleaning operation. All customers are to vacate immediately.”
I stood in the center of the waiting area, still too confused to process what was happening. The customers willingly obliged the command that had come over the loudspeaker, filing out of the room, taking their dinners with them, until it was only me, October, Fry, and the workers in the back, who were still running around as if there were more orders to process. It took me a moment to realize that they weren’t working with food equipment—it was more like the bridge of an aircraft carrier, with radars, buttons flashing, green everywhere, a holographic projection of the city where the deep fryers once were.
Where did it all come from? My mind asked. Where did the food equipment go? Though, I was barely sane enough at the moment to even register words.
October placed her hand on my shoulder. “I like you. In a romantic way.” She said it forcefully, though not without tenderness.
That’s nice, I thought, still unable to process my feelings on the matter. On a whim, I placed my hand on October’s shoulder.
She raised one eyebrow, took my hand, and dropped it down so that we were holding hands while staring at the high-tech techno-fever happening in front of my eyes like a metal ballet. Fry just stood there, smiling with an awful smile that told me he knew what kind of loop-de-loops my mind was turning in the moment.
Have I said how much it was to process yet? Yeah, it was a lot to process.
© Zeppy, 2019. All rights reserved.