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.