Coming home from the renga reading in Kansas City, we were a wee bit hungry, so we aimed ourselves toward a hole in the wall diner in midtown whose name shall secret. We stepped over the threshold, and that’s when we left reality as we know it.
First, a group ahead of us – three men and a woman – stopped in their tracks to yell out at friends of theirs already at a table. The friends leapt out of their seats, and we were blocked from going further. This should have been a sign, but unfortunately, we didn’t read it, and nosed our way to a booth.
Soup seemed like a safe bet, but I couldn’t find it on the menu, so I asked the waitress, a slim redhead who would probably fit, folded up, in my purse. “Whatever the menu says, we have it.” Upon further investigation, the menu said, “Please ask your server about our soup of the day.” A few back and forth exchanges later, we all puzzled out, the waitress and us, that there was soup indeed, and it was tortilla soup. Fair enough, and so Ken and I decided to split a bowl of tortilla soup and order one chicken enchilada a la carte.
Within a moment, almost too fast from our ordering time to delivery, the waitress placed three beat enchiladas and cup of soup in front of it. A cook came by, asked us how things were, and we explained the order mix-up. The soup stayed, the enchiladas left and then, as if a magical pulled an enchilada from her hat, the singular correct enchilada appeared within seconds of the wrong ones vanishing. The woman delivering it — one we hadn’t seen before — came out of a back room, and disappeared afterwards.
“This is pretty good food,” Ken said, digging into the soup.
“Compared to diner food?” I asked.
“No, it’s terrible compared to diner food.”
“So it’s pretty good food compared to horrible garbage you wouldn’t want to eat?”
“Exactly,” he told me.
Trying to pay, “La Bamba” blasting in the background and a female cop surveying the menu from her perch beside the register, we fell into a swamp of delays. Turns out we were charged too much for things we didn’t order, and soon the cook and waitress were in a corner, poring over the menu for clues. In the end, we were charged too little, but since our time in this alternative reality was up, we needed to skedaddle. We left a big tip, turned around, and found a $20 bill on the ground. We picked it up, gave it to a hostess who appeared out of nowhere. She tucked the money into a secret compartment of a small podium, and we stepped outside. Back to reality, or whatever we call it.
“It was like being trapped in a bad 80’s disco dinner,” Ken said.
“Or a science fiction version of a diner,” I added.
“That’s what made it the perfect place to go. We couldn’t have found a place better than here right now.”
“But we never have to go back, right?” He agreed, and we drove home.