I am a generally healthy person. I sleep the doctor-recommended 3.5 hours per night, only consume alcohol before, with, and after meals, and over the last year have only been diagnosed with five *very small* (yet deeply related) medical issues. I usually remember to eat every day, and drink more than enough water to stave off regular cramping and fainting. When my doctor looks over my chart, he usually sighs deeply and shakes his head, but has never once asked whether I have my affairs in order. And at this point, the bags under my eyes are purely an aesthetic choice. That being said, I do have one vice that has haunted me throughout the years and prevented me from reaching true Super-human status: Taco Bell.
There’s something about Taco Bell’s aroma and casual disregard for the Spanish language that has always enticed me. It takes a company of courage and strong moral character to sell a taco served in a shell made entirely of fried chicken, and equally so to grill a Kit-Kat in a tortilla and call it a “Chocodilla”. I have always respected companies that fundamentally understand their target market, and Taco Bell’s insistence on selling to the stoned, drunk, decrepit, and emotionally traumatized is a true testament to corporate responsibility and self-awareness (“Give me your inebriated, your high, your huddled masses yearning to live más, the wretched teenagers of your teeming high school!“).
This love affair started very young, when Taco Bell would occasionally break up the monotony of the standard middle-class American McDonald’s run. It continued through late middle school, when I had a bit more money and autonomy to treat myself to that sweet, sweet Diablo sauce. I remember after eighth grade, I channeled my inner post-middle school badass and snuck out of a Quinceañera with a few of my friends to drop by the Taco Bell down the street. I had not been drinking, since my bad-assery knew certain limits, although I liked to think that I had been. Really, I was just trying to impress one of the girls in the group with my casual and nonchalant disregard for the rules, but in the end all I ended up with was mild indigestion. In my defense, this was in the very early days of my post-childhood obesity life, and I was as a newborn fawn taking its first steps: Awkward, clumsy, and confused.
When high school came around, Taco Bell simply became a core food group. Equipped with an adolescent metabolism and a newfound ability to drive myself places, I ended up spending more time in the Taco Bell drive-thru than in biology. What better way to cap off a day of loosely paying attention in class and not talking to girls than with a few Spicy Chicken Burritos and a Chicken Quesadilla? As this was also around the time I discovered drinking away my guilt and anxiety, I soon added the inebriated Chalupa to my arsenal of pseudo-Mexican delights, and gleefully came upon the magic of eating a Mexican Pizza at 2 in the morning with a group of likeminded degenerates. Say what you want, I’ll always believe that a case of Miller High Life tastes infinitely better when paired with “fourth meal” and friendship.
Eventually, I left Milwaukee to go to college at UW-Madison. Thankfully, Taco Bell followed me there. While the magic of inebriated Taco Bell never waned, the power of study-fuel Taco Bell made a welcome entrance to the party. Studying for those misguided Art History and Latin exams became infinitely more manageable when propelled by the caloric might of a Beefy 5-Layer Burrito. And the sprint to finish off a rough semester seemed more tolerable with the knowledge that a few Spicy Potato Soft Tacos waited for me at the end of it, like an angelic light shining at the far end of a long, dark tunnel.
Now in my post-graduate adult life, Taco Bell *still* remains an unfortunately large percentage of my diet. It wasn’t that long ago when I found myself throwing up in my best friend’s ex-girlfriend’s car following a quick Taco Bell run after a wedding. In my defense, the wine was free, the dance floor chaotic (Mostly due to my own gyrations), and the music a perfect encapsulation of early 2000s romanticism. I didn’t actually get to eat the Taco Bell that night (due to the, you know, projectile vomit), but the bag of tortilla-wrapped goodness was spared from my inebriated bile. As such, while my suit now loosely resembled a piece of Paint Splatter Art (*Remembers look of disgust on Men’s Warehouse employee’s face shamefully*), I was still able to enjoy a much-needed protein and sodium pick-me-up the following morning.
And I’ve found that my love of the Tex-Mex medium is now corrupting those around me. As an example, my best friend Landon had barely had Taco Bell before I met him (Having come from a small taco-less town of a few hundred poor souls). Yet pretty quickly, the dulcet aromas and ridiculously low price-tag preyed on his innate hunger and cheapness, and soon enough we had a new Fast Food acolyte to bring into the fold. For a few years after, no get-together was complete without a few Nachos Bell-Grande and a couple of Beefy Fritos Burritos. Why even watch a basketball game without getting dehydrated in the process? He has never stopped feeling guilt and shame over his Taco Bell consumption. He has never managed to stop eating it regardless.
Really, the only thing that has changed in my adult life regarding Taco Bell is simply how much of it I can eat. The general size and scope of my order has not truly evolved since I was in high school. To date, this typically consists of: A Chicken Quesadilla, a Crunchwrap Supreme, two Beefy 5 Layer Burritos, two Spicy Potato Soft Tacos, a pair of Beefy Potato-ritos, and (if I’m feeling extra dangerous) a Cheesy Gordita Crunch. For almost a decade I managed to mow these several thousand calories down with ease, with nary a need to pause for water or oxygen. But in recent years, I’ve had to stop 1,500 calories in, choosing to save the rest for a mid-morning snack the following day. While everything about this post has been sad, I hope this last part truly sticks with you the strongest. It is effectively saying that I have now ordered Taco Bell for the last two years *With the intent of having leftovers*. I have a number of traits that will likely make my brain extra sought after for study by scientists after I have passed from this world, but this might be the most compelling one.
This now brings me to this evening, as I sit exhausted after another week in corporate America, a steaming bag of craftily arranged meat and shredded cheese before me. I can’t imagine a time when Taco Bell will no longer be such a core element of my life (*Unwraps first Beefy 5 Layer Burrito*). Hell, Taco Bell has discontinued more of my favorite menu items than I’ve had meaningful relationships with other people (*Smothers it in Diablo Sauce*). And while each year that passes yields ever worsening side effects from my gluttonous eating, I don’t know whether the rampant dehydration and stomach pangs will ever supersede my respect for the Mexican fast-casual medium (*Moves onto Crunchwrap*). Maybe someday when my inevitable diabetes and heart disease have caught up to me, I will be forced to transition to Panera. But until then, I’ll continue to enjoy the wonderfully eclectic mishmash of the Crunchwrap Supreme and the Beefy Potato-rito, as I prepare for a long night of chugging water and sobbing silently.
Live más all.