Sunday, May 8, 2016

A Drag Queen in Taco Bell on Mother’s Day

I’m not here for the food but because Taco Bell was where we would go for dinner, my mother and I, back when I worked at the bookstore by the mall, before they closed, before I moved away. This one was remodeled a few years ago, which mainly meant they tore out half the booths and bolted a bunch of purple abstract paintings to the wall. A red star balloon bobs above a tiny table covered with a purple tablecloth upon which sits a vase of purple flowers and a sign that reads THIS LOCATION HIRING! with a clipboard full of applications beside it. In the booth ahead of me sits a tall drag queen with her back to me. I’m mesmerized by her wig, cascading down her back in a mass of auburn curls. She wears a brace on her arm for carpel tunnel. The tray before her is piled high with crumpled food wrappers.

I look around at my fellow customers, every one of them transfixed by their phones. There’s a man so obese I don’t know how he squeezed into his booth, or if he’ll be able to extricate himself. There are a couple of obvious drug dealers twitching over their dollar quesadillas. There are a couple of teenage girls with pink and green hair and an aging professor with papers spread across his table. There’s even a family who looks like they’re actually celebrating Mother’s Day here rather than fighting the mobs in the more respectable brunch spots, a disheveled husband and rotund mother with a little girl dressed in a tutu and tiara and wielding a glittery pink wand.

The drag queen gets up to go, lurching rather than strutting, her arms hanging heavily at her sides. I wonder about her mother, if she approves or disapproves of her son’s lifestyle, if she’s even alive. I  may not be living the life my mother would prefer I did, after all here I am eating lunch alone at a Taco Bell on Mother’s Day instead of spending it with her, and I know that she will always prefer my sister to me, but at least she doesn’t have to worry about me being a cross dresser, though who knows, if I was, maybe we would bond over talking about bras, spending the afternoon shopping for dresses together. Right after we finish our tacos.

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