Neil’s Taco Bell Poet

Cheesy, Bean & Rice Burrito
By Neil Harley

As I would any normal day when I was hungry, I went to the one place I knew would satisfy my hunger: Taco Bell. Some fast food is delicious, some fast food is cheap. But Taco Bell is both. It is my White Castle & there is enough of me to be both its Harold & its Kumar. As with any of their new stuff, I was curious to try their new dollar cravings menu. I certainly knew about the Frito burrito & the mini-quesadilla.

My eyes stopped when I saw 4 words with an ampersand in the middle: Cheesy, Bean & Rice Burrito. My head refilled with memories like a large cup being filled with soda. My mind time-traveled to when I was happiest. My friend Erik would let myself and several others we knew come to his place as an escape from school & work. It truly was the spot.

The cash register opened in front of me to approach. As the menu has so much to choose from, I order slowly one by one as I always do. Before I got the Cheesy, Bean & Rice, I asked the cashier if that was all that came on it. “That’s it,” she said. “No tomatoes?” “Nope.” I ordered it along with a mini-quesadilla & a Frito burrito. As I waited for my food, my head was still in Erik’s apartment.

We played many video games and always had Mary Jane there to party. The one video game everyone got into the most was Super Smash Brothers Melee or simply “Smash!” as we called it. The stage was always Final Destination, a flat board moving through space and we would have 4 way matches that were usually very close. Erik, always relaxed at the start would usually pick Falco as his first choice. Falco is a character from the Starfox series & Fox was rountinely picked by another Erick. Spelled with a “C” to go with a “K”, he lived just a few apartments away, to distinguish him from the other Erik was referred to as Gay Erick. He wasn’t really gay, but everyone heard about a time he did ecstasy & made out with another dude, so the name stuck for awhile.

Then there was Matt, who was very cocky when it came to video games in general & usually for good reason. His main character was Ness from Earthbound, a little kid with a powerful baseball bat. His little cousin Anthony would try Jigglypuff, and rolled across the stage so much you would think that pink thing was suicidal. There was CJ, an often over-hyper guy who was quintessential in identifying the “Smash” face. That’s the face each of makes when we get really into the game & are fighting hard to survive. And impossible to duplicate unless playing the game, but I would guess it’s a mix of hard determination and uncomfortable constipation. A couple others played the game, but generally not well. Charles would try out Marth from Fire Emblem, but preferred other games as well as gas masks. Jamie was a chick who lived nearby & who played as Captain Falcon. Then, there was Erik’s girlfriend Taylor who gave her best as Pichu, which is like Pikachu’s son or something.

As for myself, I was almost always Dr.Mario for many reasons. My playing of Dr.Mario on Super Nintendo in my youth, as well as every other Mario game and he wore a white coat. But the best part came when the B button would get pressed and he would start throwing pills that gave others damage. It’s fair to say Dr.Mario is the ultimate pill popper. Being that there was usually more than 4 people waiting to play, only the top people would play the next round. Losers would pass the controllers, among other things. Eventually, everyone would get the munchies.

One day, Erik & a couple others decided to go to Taco Bell. His mom Mary gave him a couple dollars. Slowly rolling off her tounge, she asked him to bring back a “Beany…. Cheesy….Ricey Burrito.” We walked a short way down Russell Road as we got to Boulder Highway. The Taco Bell was right behind a gas station doubled with a Jack In A Box. The Box, the King & of course McDonalds were most common as burgers & fries were my thing. I ordered tacos & added mild sauce to give it that extra kick. Erik, tall as a tower & skinny as a piece of paper couldn’t finish his 2nd burrito. And who better to ask to finish it than the fat kid. Or maybe I asked him cause I was so hungry? All I know is I obliged.

The Cheesy, Bean & Rice exposed me to so many new things. The Cheesy Double Beef Burrito, rich with cheese & beef, the Triple Steak Burrito, that was around very briefly, but the tender steak mixed with cheese & sour cream was the bomb. The best burrito I ever tried was the Volcano Burrito, filled with beef, rice, Red chips for crunchiness & a spicy sauce that gave it a kick so amazing, I let it kick me over & over like I was an anonymous henchmen in a Jackie Chan movie. There’s also been Chicken Burritos, Beefy 5-Layer Burritos, taco shells made of Doritos, burritos inside of quesadillas & even breakfast food that puts McDonalds to shame. Taco Bell wasn’t just about great food at cheap prices, it had great experiences that were priceless with many amazing people. I’ll never forget the number of times, I would place my order hoping the lady at the cash register wouldn’t recognize I was more baked than baked ziti. I’m sure my demeanor along with bloodshot eyes let her know every time. Then there was our friend Dillon, who has mild disabilities. He ate his burrito like a horse moving his jaw clockwise and mouth wide open as every chomp was heard by all. And I will never forget the first time we met Matt and Anthony’s Uncle Mike. As he filled his soda with vodka, he told us teenagers that “old pussy is good pussy” as his girlfriend sat there with us.

As this crossed my mind, the cashier called my order. I picked it up & sat down. Being away from it so long, the Cheesy, Bean & Rice was opened first. As I held it in my hands, I checked it out up & down like an angel with big boobs & a Beyonce booty telling me to put my mouth all over her. I took one bite & that is when it truly came back. The steamy softness of the rice, the meltiness of the beans, both covered in cheese tasted just like it did when I first tried it. Alone each flavor was good, together they are magic.

The first time I ever finished a Cheesy, Bean & Rice burrito, it was only a half. I finished Erik’s burrito, went up, paid $1.07 & got one of my own. As I bit in, something was off. As Erik told me, “Oh yeah, uh, it comes with tomatoes.” “What the fuck?” I played Doctor again as I opened it up & surgically removed all the tomatoes. As I enjoyed my burrito in the present, it was if Taco Bell was psychic & knew I don’t like tomatoes. I finished my meal with pleasure & with the satisfaction it has given me since the days of past.

As I finished my food, I realized just how long ago those times were and just how much things had changed. Both drama and life in general had created so much distance. The people I used to see often, I now see anywhere from rarely to never. It was a distant memory sitting by myself at the Taco Bell on Charleston, just a short walk from Red Rock Station, so far from Boulder Highway & Russell. I had missed those days for awhile & the Cheesy, Bean & Rice burrito took me back in a way that made me like a fish missing water. I had waited for a long time for Erik to finally hit me up again after not talking for so long. For awhile, I had given up. As the Cheesy, Bean & Rice burrito digested itself, I felt as if I just got a sign. The Cheesy, Bean & Rice burrito was the original that got me into Taco Bell & had a role in creating many special memories. Even though Erik, Taylor, Matt & others had left my life, I knew one day they would all come back.

A few weeks passed as one morning, I got picked up by Matt & Anthony. Rolling on the 95, all of us hungry. I knew where all the Taco Bells were at. We stopped & got some breakfast. Feeling satisfaction, we went North to Mount Charleston. As I waited looking at the mountains, I heard my name. I looked over & saw Taylor, accompanied by Eriks, gay & straight. We hugged & hung out together for the day. I no longer needed a time machine in my head that took me to the past, for the reuniting of us all was the best present I could get.