size medium to go

So this post was largely written in April of last year. I got almost all the way done with it and then I miscarried, which was a bit of a distraction. I just didn’t feel, at the time, like continuing to form coherent words about fast food and psychic mediums for some reason.

The post has since languished in my drafts folder, all but forgotten, until yesterday morning, when I was in the shower and my mind wandered back to it. I dug it up, propped it up, brushed it off, slapped it across the face a few times. Here it is.

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If you don’t post real-time comments about an experience on social media, did it ever really happen? No, I don’t think so. Or it’s possible it happened in another dimension and not this one, which is sort of like what going to see the lady from Long Island Medium speak in a Denver suburb felt like.

The show was actually called ✨Theresa✨Caputo✨The✨Experience✨ and in order to explain how I came to be there I need to take you allllll the way back to March, when a friend and I were draining this bottle of wine. Somehow we came around to talking about Long Island Medium, which is a TV series about a woman from Long Island who love sparkles and purports to receive messages from the dead via signs. My friend said, wait, did you hear she was supposed to be coming to Denver? And I was like:

shrug

We turned to the internet, which confirmed the rumor to be true. “I feel like we have to buy tickets,” I said. “I feel like we have to buy them, too,” she said. We consulted the wine, and the wine emphatically agreed. I put the tickets on a credit card.

Have you ever noticed that events enthusiastically agreed upon on a Friday night while spirited aloft on the warm, gentle winds of booze do not always sound quite as great when you are staring the actual event in the face straight after a sobering workday? Nevertheless, I rallied by putting on some eye shadow and waited by the door for my friend to pick me up and drive us first to Wendy’s like the hottest high school date of all time.

! TOPIC DIVERSION ALERT !

Fast food was #goals for me for roughly the first quarter century of my life. Once while in college I drove through the snow to pick up a Whopper Junior from Burger King, fries from McDonald’s, and a frosty from Wendy’s, because I believed this was the ideal meal combo. Did I already mention this here before? Welp, I just mentioned it again. I was very into fast food until I just… gradually stopped being as into it. After college I got my first steady office job and was no longer budget-limited to $0.99 bean burritos when making a run for the border. I started going to fancier fast food places instead, and my convenience paradigm continued to shift. Nowadays my idea of fast food involves putting on a cardigan, cuffing my pants, and standing on line for 20-30 minutes for a $10 bespoke artisan handcrafted sandwich.

My main point, besides that I’m a prick, is that it’s been some years since I’ve had traditional fast food. So when I looked up quick dinner options near the event center where ✨TheExperience✨ was going to happen and found only McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Wendy’s, my mind lit up like a neon sign. What if we went a little crazy tonight? What if we got a little wild? WHAT IF WE… had ourselves a Frosty and fries for dinner?

I remember a Frosty and fries (UK translation: chocolate milkshake and chips??) being the height of treatdom. You could have your hot salty potato and you could have your frozen sweet dessert, and you could dip the one in the other for more carnal thrills than spring break in Fort Lauderdale. But as soon as we walked through the door of Wendy’s something felt off. The menu board was all bright, well-lit photographs of food. There was light bamboo wood paneling throughout, and a lounge area with a couch, and signs for free wi-fi, and a glass mosaic electric fireplace above which a flat-panel television played CNN. I felt like I’d walked into the business center at a chain hotel. All it was missing was a fax machine and a printer, but for all I know those were tucked away under the condiment counter. Print out your PowerPoint notes and pump yourself a cup of ketchup all at once!

What exactly had I been expecting of this Wendy’s? Oh, I don’t know, to relive my youth? I thought it would be all brown brick, and dark wood paneling, and those parlor-style stained glass shades hanging over tabletops printed with a collage of vintage newspaper ads. I thought the menu board would be black strips of plastic with white and green text reversed out. I thought maybe there would be an old lady sporting a ruffled lace collar in the corner, hollering “Where’s the beef?” into a telephone receiver. I don’t know?

You know what else didn’t feel right? The food. The fries were weird, hard, pointy tasteless things, and the Frosty was more icy than creamy. This did not at all compare to what I’d logged away in my memory banks. Don’t get me wrong, I mean, I finished everything on my tray. But I was unsettled by the experience. I guess it didn’t help that the whole time I kept swiveling my head around, unconsciously looking for the guy in a bluetooth headset who was going to pull me aside and give me a lecture on effectively scaling deliverables. Like maybe a TED talk was about to be delivered in the dining room of this Wendy’s. THIS WAS A NEW AND UNUSUAL ERA OF FAST FOOD FOR ME, ANYTHING WAS POSSIBLE.

But we were talking about a TV medium though, yes? Were we? Were we? I genuinely don’t know anymore.

! RETURN TO ORIGINAL TOPIC ALERT !

So we eat the Wendy’s, my friend and I, and we drive to the place. By the time we get there I am cranky because 1) they charge us $10 for the privilege of parking in a dirt lot way the hell away from the actual event center, 2) they make us WALK OUTSIDE for at LEAST FIVE MINUTES while the blustery April wind slices through our clothes like shivs, and 3) the Wendy’s is already making my stomach rumble ominously.

The event center itself was pleasantly generic; vast expanses of alternating light and dark brick patterns punctured by the occasional square or circle window, like a suburban high school built circa 2000 would look. Inside, the crowd was a solid mix of True Believers and Mom’s Night Outers. You could tell the moms because they are uniformly dressed in dark jeans and drapey tops and are in particularly high spirits; buoyed by the dual thrills of being out on a Tuesday night plus $12 margaritas straight from a mix. I started to think that I would happily pay $12 for a premixed margarita but alas I cannot, for I had taken a positive pregnancy test 1.5 weeks prior to this evening and for the time being was limited to consuming only my own smug righteousness. Who am I kidding, I went and threw down $5 for a Fresca and they wouldn’t even let me have the bottle cap.

There was to be no video and no pictures of✨TheExperience✨, they said. They said it over and over again, via signs on the wall and recorded announcements looped through the sound system. Joke’s on them because I waited until the usher’s back was turned and took a picture of the empty stage out of sheer bitter spite. They’d better be glad they didn’t give me the cap on my $5 Fresca or I would have really broken some house rules.

The lights went down and Theresa came tottering out on the tallest, sparkliest heels I have ever seen. They glittered all the way across the auditorium like sunlight cheerfully rebounding off the water. I don’t care much about shoes as a fashion accessory and yet I was entranced. I didn’t hear anything she said for maybe five minutes because I was too busy watching those shoes wink and glimmer up at me, and honestly, maybe that was the point.

I came back to earth in time to hear her break down how it was going to work: she would wander the audience and wait for spirit to guide her. Spirit talked to her through mental images of objects and numbers, and she didn’t get to choose what they would show her. So if they showed her something, she warned, it was for a damn good reason and only you alone could truly know what the message meant. As if in preemptive response to critics, she hollered, “THIS IS NOT THE KIND OF STUFF I CAN JUST GOOGLE, PEOPLE!”

With that she teetered down the center stage stairs and swanned out into the audience, a camera man following closely behind. She wended halfway down the aisle, then back up again, before finally asking who had the person who died young? Everyone looked around expectantly. After further negotiation, a mother and daughter picked their way over people’s laps and stood shyly at the aisle’s edge as Theresa launched into her spiel.

She kept bringing up something about the sky, what did they do with the sky? Did they name a star for the deceased person? They went back and forth for a few minutes, Theresa throwing out ideas as mother and daughter searched one another’s faces for the memory, trying very hard to connect the dots. Finally the daughter mentioned that once they had released a balloon in their loved one’s name. Theresa’s mouth fell open in feigned shock. “DIDN’T I SAY IT WAS SOMETHING ABOUT THE SKY?” she joke-yelled at them. Her voice dropped to a gentler tone. “So know that their spirit was with you when you did that.” Mom and daughter wiped tears as the audience applauded.

And so it went, spirit guiding her to the next person, then the next. Sometimes she would get a tiny, obscure detail right, something that defied any kind of logic or reason as to how she knew, and sometimes when this happened she would sarcastically yell,”I GOOGLED THAT!” Other times her signs fell completely flat, as they initially had with the mom and daughter, and she had to either quickly move on or press the issue, needling them to remember, making for some super awkward moments in the meantime. If only I’d had a bottle cap I could throw to distract us all from the scene!

So was this medium lady actually for real or not? I don’t know. All I know is that by the time, about half an hour in, that she started channeling a woman’s beloved dead horse I was actively looking at my phone and calculating how long it would take us to drive back home to the city. Even hot mamas on their mama’s night out needed to eventually go to bed.

That night I tossed and turned, my abdomen hot with stabby knives courtesy of Wendy’s. The following morning, just before my alarm went off, I had a dream Kanye West couldn’t find his passport and I suggested he look in all the drawers in his house and he smiled and gave me a hug because he really appreciated that suggestion. He was approximately five feet tall. Did he ever find the passport? I wish I knew. Maybe Theresa could tell me?

Image credit: detail from 12 Burgers, illustration by Craig Robinson // www.flipflopflyin.com/12burgers/index.html
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