The bell for lunch rings as I finish my last round of Geoguessr. I leave the classroom and eagerly walk toward the front entrance with Teo and Devon. My eyes adjust quickly to the blinding sunlight outside the doors, and I see in front of me an oasis: red & white beach umbrellas, a yellow arrow, and checkered tiling. We’re at our destination, but how? One moment we were at school and the next we were humbled by the greatness of the building before us. Did I lose consciousness? Teleport? We definitely weren’t driven here illegally by someone under 18….
The black doors of the building open before me seamlessly, as if a siren is calling me inside. I close my eyes, trying to remember how I know this magical oasis. A map? A YouTube ad? The prophecy! The great prophecy states that if one eats an eight by eight at In-N-Out in under five minutes, they are a true man.
I hear someone calling to me, “Welcome to In-N-Out, can I take your order?” Am I really here? Will I be the one to fulfill the prophecy? I stand tall, proud, and regal as I demand the nourishment I desire.
“I’m sorry we don’t offer that here.” What!? Is the prophecy untrue? How must one eat something that doesn’t exist? I fall to my knees and weep, my comrades as devastated as I. If the prophecy is untrue, what else is false? Are all of my hopes and dreams unachievable, restricted by things I can’t control, like flying is to pigs? But no, I cannot be set back. If I concede to fate, what else must be lost as a result? Suddenly, hope appears before me: “Dude just order a four-by-four and two flying dutchmen.” I break free of the cage holding my spirit captive, and see my savior and true master of wit, Matteo. I stand up, and with the sun shining behind me and the trumpets of victory serenading my order, I pay for my food. I wait for my food to be delivered with my arms at my waist and chest puffed out. I get a look of approval from the server as the platter with the indulgence is placed before me.
“To the eight by eight!” my comrades and I yell. I slowly peel off the bun of the four-by-four. The American cheese burns my hand when I place the four extra patties on top, as if telling me to turn back. When the eight by eight is assembled, my comrades and I look up at our creation. There is no doubt I can complete the challenge. I pick up the burger, the weight of it pulling my arms back down toward the plate. I open my mouth wide and shove in the meat. The cold tomato and lettuce mixed with the warm cheese and patty satisfy my day-long craving. After being pleased by the next few bites, I am confused by my dissatisfaction when I take my fifth. The toppings no longer bring delightful flavor. What sits in front of me is no longer a craving, but a grotesque mountain of food. I shiver at the thought of finishing the hunk of meat in front of me, and go in for another bite. I force the flavorless beef down my throat along with the salty, plasticy cheese. The top two patties slide off the burger on my next bite. I am now firmly grasping a half-pound ball of meat, cheese, and bread. I question my decisions. Who am I? What am I doing? Why did I buy this? I glance at the timer, reading 1:30. I have three and a half minutes remaining. As I hold the meatball and stare at the time, I consider giving up. Like everything else, I consider being content with my attempt and excusing my failure by forcing myself into believing I never wanted to succeed. Am I too lazy or too afraid to give my full effort? After all, if this is true and I fail, who am I but a failure? On the other hand, what is success without the threat of failure? Where is the satisfaction in success if I didn’t try and know I could have done better? I’m only a failure if I don’t try again. I snap out of my trance and take another bite, rejuvenated by my new sense of purpose. Pushing past every urge to stop, I arrive at the last chunk of cheese. I crane my neck back, dangle it over my mouth, and drop it. My eyes water, and my will alone isn’t strong enough to force it down. Suddenly, a hero emerges from around the corner. Devon saves the day, delivering a translucent chalice filled with an elixir that gives me the strength to finish. Although the timer reads 8:59, I stand proud. Despite my failure, I am content that I gave my full effort.