Inspired by Thomas Tilton’s An Autobiography Outside The Bun
*Rejected from Taco Bell Quarterly in October 2022
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a kind relationship with Taco Bell. TB encompasses me as the mushy cheesy, bean mess that I am and protects me in a hard shell for as long as I need it to. Without fail. Every time. She’s kind to me and teaches me to be better. Like Thomas Tilton’s An Autobiography Outside The Bun (read it in Q1 of TBQ), here is my curated collection of memories involving kindness and my ride or die, TB.
Every Sunday from 1994-1996 - Bovaird Drive, Brampton, Ontario
After bowling lessons at Brunswick Lanes, my Grandpa (now full dead), would take me and my younger brother and sister to TB. I’d always get combo #5 - the two soft taco supreme, fries supreme and fountain pop. I was proud of how sophisticated I was in resisting the carnal urge to drink swamp water and instead I chose to drink Diet Pepsi like the adults I modelled all my behaviour on. Grandpa never judged us for wanting something stable; always wanting to go to TB because it was familiar and safe. I wouldn’t appreciate this act of routine stability and kindness until after he died, and that element of support was gone.
Tuesdays and Thursdays in the Fall of 2002 - York University, Keele Campus
The only friend I had made in university ended up having a seizure in the French exam and was never to be seen again. This was before I had a flip phone and didn’t have her phone number so I couldn’t call her and see how she was after her violent seizure. I feel deep down in my gordita that she died. The only thing I could do for comfort was order them campus TB taco supremes and eat them in the back seat of my carpool driver’s car. I slept in the student parking lot of Black Creek Pioneer Village, with flecks of grated orange cheese and diced tomato in my hair more times than I feel comfortable admitting.
An impressive decluttering in 2008 – 714 Markham St., Toronto, Ontario
Vanessa F., a girl I had a crush on in high school, wrote punk poetry. I didn’t understand it but I ached to. Gothic death haiku (haikus?) about intersectional feminism, Kafka, and broken hearts. She once published a slam article about the labour rights of TB’s tomato farmer workers and how they were being unfairly treated in Florida. This was pre-internet-in-homes so she must’ve read about it in one of her Anarchist zines. I boycotted TB for 6 years for her. If we don’t call out even our favourite people (or in this case places), for their inhumane behaviour, then what hope do we have of being true to ourselves and holding ourselves authentically accountable?
I wasn’t out of the closet yet, so she would never know my feelings for her, but I kept that article surrounded by witchy acrostic poems and Japanese horoscopes for years.
In 2008 I was cleaning out my everything drawers and found her piece. I Googled the labour disputes. Turns out that in 2005 they (The Coalition of Immokalee Workers and Yum! Brands) reached a deal to improve the wages and working conditions for the tomato farm workers. She did it.
Our love would never be, but I learned at this moment that kindness isn’t always easy but if we are going to ‘Live Más’, we all should get a chance to do it with equity and equality.
A cozy evening on the back porch in 2017 – Bloorcourt, Toronto, Ontario
My husband and I decided to elope for many reasons. Before we fled into the arms of love, we decided to do some deep dive questions I had found on a Bréne Brown forum (yes, I’m one of those), and see if there was anything that we hadn’t discussed before deciding to say the forever yesses.
Question: Is there any secret that you haven’t shared and feel you need to before you get married?
Me: Well…um…I’m (voice shaking) a bisexual
Him: (lovingly) Oh, I know.
Me: (sobbing) You do?! Does everyone know?
Him: (panicked) Oh god! I’m so sorry, was this your coming out moment? Did I ruin your coming out moment?!
Me cries for a good 20 minutes.
In this moment, he ordered me TB from Skip the Dishes. My ultimate comforting person gave me my ultimate comfort food.
Him: I know you love Taco Bell, and I wanted you to feel better.
Him: Do you want a redo?
Me: (cry-eating) Huh?
Him: You can come out to me again if you’d like and I will act surprised for you.
We laughed and I almost choked on a glob of sour cream.
The Parking Lot of the Dufferin Mall during the 2020/2021/2022 Pandemic
Life can be far too much to handle sometimes. There is a TB by my home. She saves me.
She was the first place I felt brave enough to drive to (and thru) after the world stopped. I had been lucky enough to travel home to Canada after being in South Africa as world borders closed and I joke about it, but probably have PTSD in a wild way from the harrowing journey home.
Getting out of the house after March 2020 was difficult for me. TB was there, and not too far away, and was familiar. I was kind to myself by going. I sat with a fries supreme in my lap (with a side of KFC gravy, because it’s delicious to pour on the drier fries you inevitably get), and I cried.
Pandemic, the housing crisis, the climate crisis, George Floyd, Asian hate rising, transphobia, murder hornets, being disconnected from each other and ourselves, and for so so so many more reasons. I couldn’t eat I was crying so hard. And TB didn’t judge me one bit. Nor did any of the strangers trying to avoid eye contact with the crying woman who sat in her car near the Walmart Garden Centre at the Dufferin Mall.
My rented home’s front stoop in March 2022 – Bloorcourt, Toronto, Ontario
I had a kick-ass job as a Consulting Producer on a hit tv show. It cleaned up at the Canadian Screen Awards and was promptly cancelled thereafter. It was crushing to lose work but moreover, it was devastating because the show centred around four BIPOC comedians. It made me feel hopeless. 4 talented, kind, funny people who let me repeat this: had just CLEANED UP at our national TV awards (Americans, think Emmys), can’t even keep a show on the air?! Feeling dejected and in stained pyjamas, I venture downstairs because the doorbell had rung. Two of my closest friends stood with a cardboard box full of TB.
My one friend’s order got messed up and she was solely given beans in a flour tortilla, but she choked them down in solidarity. We laughed our heads off and commiserated about the state of things, and even though we had no fixes to the systemic issues, light began to peak through all that seemed cracked.
My rented home in the bedroom on August 11th, 2022 – Bloorcourt, Toronto, Ontario
I found out about Taco Bell Quarterly on Twitter and sat down immediately to write. Memories poured out of me like the filling from a soggy taco falling onto the floor. Some filled with flavour, some mushy from watery tomatoes. All the memories had two themes to me, the celebration of kindness and Taco Bell’s comforting place among some of the best and worst times of my life. Whether it was a lesson in learning kindness to the self, the community, the situation, the concept or the friend, Taco Bell was there as a dependable witness.