Tuesday, 30 October 2018

My Grill'd Vegan Cheeseburger Experience

I saw a strange man today, and it bears discussion.

Finishing at a job, I drove to Highpoint for a quick dinner before my next appointment. Leaving my car, I saw a man in the distance. He was unremarkable in appearance, jeans and a shirt, a slightly unkempt look about him. Yet somehow I felt drawn to this strange man and his activities. He seemed distant, like his mind was haunted with terrible thoughts, and he wasn't quite there. His eyes looking down, yet nervously glancing left and right. What did he have to hide?

I found myself following him into Highpoint, the back entrance, though that isn't strictly a pertinent piece of information. He walked slowly, but intently, dodging people and looking away from them as he advanced. If I could have seen his eyes, I wasn’t sure if I would have seen fear, or just a dead, blank look.

Expecting something more profound, I disappointedly saw him turn into Grill’d, and stop a moment, perusing the menu like one might look down from a cliff, deciding whether one should jump. Yet after a moment, it was as if his resolve steeled, he pursed his lips in a stern grimace and his eyes fixed firmly on the man behind the counter. Was he here for that man? To kill him? To EAT him?

I felt odd stalking a random stranger through Highpoint, but I couldn’t help myself but to get close enough to hear, as he asked the person serving “One vegan ‘cheeseburger’ thanks,” – he accented the “cheeseburger”. He looked more confident now, certain of what he was doing, but I could see him quickly turning to wipe a lone tear that suddenly escaped from the corner of his eye.

He was assigned a table and took a seat, awaiting his meal. I simply stood, not far away, watching. I think he knew I was there now, but he didn’t care. It was like we had an understanding. I could tell something was off about him, and he knew it too – perhaps he felt somehow relieved having someone who was at least trying to understand who, or what he was.

Many minutes passed in silence, he simply sat, I simply stood. There was nothing to be said at this point.

Then a different man swept past holding a tray and upon in, the thing requested. Seeing it the man’s re-found strength clearly wavered a little. But he closed his eyes, held his breath and went for it, a large bite into that monstrosity. I tried to shout out, to tell him to stop, to save himself, it wasn’t worth it! I needed to save this man from himself, to tell him there is hope, that he doesn’t need to do this, but I was frozen in place, was it terror? Horror? Fear? I didn’t know.

The man kept going, he was committed now, bite after bite after bite, the burger quickly devoured, like a man hacking his enemy to death on the ground long after he was no longer a threat. But who was the enemy, the man, or the burger?

I wanted to close my eyes, but I felt I couldn’t take that away from this poor man, that I was there, that I saw and understood his plight may be the last slight relief he had before the end.

He stopped with only a fraction of the burger left to go, and it was as if a trance had been broken. He looked at the burger, looked at his hands and the horror became real. He opened his mouth to scream, but no sound came out. His eyes filled with tears as he gasped for breath. Finally, a terribly cry escaped his mouth, the cry of a man who had damned himself by his own hand. He clasped his face in his hands and sobbed uncontrollably, perhaps for minutes, perhaps for hours. I don’t know, I could only stand and stare.

And then he stood up, wiped down his face and simply left. As he walked past, he looked me in the eye, but I could see there was no man behind those eyes any more. All he had, whatever that may have been, was lost now. He was an empty shell, he looked me in the eye without any recognition that I had been there for him that entire time. He looked away, and left.

As I stood there, still frozen, still trying to comprehend what I had seen, the realization struck me.

The entire time. I, was that man.

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