There’s something about Taco Bell. It’s in the walls of the place. I’ve never felt the sort of aloneness I feel when I’m eating alone at a Taco Bell. It’s in the food. It’s in this drug food, this comfort food, this haunted food.
Taco Bell is a feeling. It’s a collective feeling we’re all processing. Yet this feeling is unexplored. This is why I launched Taco Bell Quarterly, the lit zine for Taco Bell Writing and Art, to fully process your feelings, your Taco Bell.
Over a year ago, I sat down at my desk. I decided to write down every feeling abut Taco Bell I’ve ever had. It would be like a psychodramatic therapy session, like primal screaming. It would be like speaking to an empty chair pretending it was my own self-loathing.
My wife called it my postmodern Taco Bell writing. Someone on the internet called it a love letter. I called it a chapter in the collection of essays that I began writing that day, unwittingly. Writing about Taco Bell changed me. I began to approach all of my writing in an unhinged way. I was formal before: sit down at my desk with a cup of tea, titter and tap politely at the keyboard, a schoolmarm for clean sentences and scathing criticism.
But as I manically worked through my feelings over what color that nacho cheese was, I also encountered other things. Like the kid who died in my high school, overdosed on his mom’s cancer pills and drowned in the bacteria-filled creeks of my hometown, depressing as fuck. What was that smirk on his face in the yearbook? What is the color of that cheese? We were so immune to full-on horror of it all then. It’s shocking how we simply applied the procedural salves — a vigil in the school auditorium, a Vitamin C song at graduation.
Then I encountered the dead-eyed stares of burnt-out high school friends, (the ones who made it out alive), now stashed away like corpses, running the drive-thru. I went back further, where I found my grandmother, on one of our nervous childhood lunch dates, as she navigated her way around the foreign-to-her, not-to-be-trusted menu. I found my ex. She had a weird, passive-agressive jealously of my Taco Bell, as though it were the third person in our relationship. It was the reason I wasn’t into her health food and yoga. She pointed out we only dated for a year, over a decade ago, “why are you even writing about me?”
And I said, “I found you in this Taco Bell! You’re the one that’s still here, after all this time, in this place! Not me!”
I began writing other essays. I found cockroaches crawling up the bathroom tile in the apartments. We never called it home, we always called it the apartments, strangely plural. My dad had left. I wished I had a Teddy Ruxpin, fervently.
I found the hospital, when my mother was dying, and the dialysis nurse who told me, “this is what Jim Henson died from.” Sometimes — all the time actually — I think it’s that sentence that caused it.
I found my collection of video games, and I saw how life has corroded. It started with my Nintendo. My childhood pets died. My grandmother died. My mother died. Toys R Us died. PayLess Shoes died. The Volcano Taco died. Everything goes, and every bit of life bends just slightly when it does. The design of life is inherently faulty. It bends, it warps, it corrodes, until it’s giving you nothing but the blinking blue screen. They tell me I need Jesus. I think I just need the Sega Genesis instead.
I got weird in my writing, got bent in my writing. But you get it. It’s real. It’s makes sense. This is a real place. This is the Taco Bell place. So I invite you to find your Taco Bell. Let’s collate our pain and joy and chalupas. Let’s create Taco Bell Synergy.
Yesterday, after I made Taco Bell Quarterly (now accepting submissions!), I recieved word that one of my essays written last year will be included in an upcoming print anthology. It will be my first time in a literary publication, which was one of my goals for the year. That’s the synergy working.
Get to your weird place. Create. Write. Make art. Make freak foods with Fritos and a vat of beef. Be terrified of failing, and then laugh in the face of it, because you’re in a goddamn Taco Bell filling your arteries with trash, and nothing matters! And as always, think outside the bun.