A throbbing bass line and Auto-Tune vocals blare from the speakers on the ceiling. My husband’s left eyebrow creeps up, a mirror image of my right, and silently asks, “We’re paying a babysitter for this?” We join the line anyway, the savory scent of beans and sharp tang of salsa welcoming us above the din.
In front of us stands a teenage girl who’s been poured into a pair of jeans and a white t-shirt emblazoned with a silver sequined bird. As she shakes out her mane of blonde hair, the gentle honey hue of her natural shade peeks out underneath. Her mom hovers at her side in a larger version of the same uniform (her shirt, also white, features a bedazzled butterfly), trying to get a peak at the iPhone message her daughter is tap, tap, tapping with her thumbs. The two of them are surrounded by a force field of scent – gardenias, freesia, ylang ylang – a perfume counter waiting to order burritos.
When we make it to the counter, a young woman offers a monotone greeting and then pauses, looking at us, her chocolate eyes small behind her glasses, her gloved hands poised expectantly over the tortillas and taco shells. It’s clear that we’re supposed to know what to do next, but we don’t. It’s our first time here.
She shifts her weight from her left leg to her right and launches into her spiel: “Burrito bowl burrito crispy taco soft taco?” My husband rests his hand on the small of my back and nudges me forward, nominating me as the advance team in this particular battle.
“Um, burrito?” I respond uncertainly. It’s enough to set her in motion. I make my way down the line, our reluctant guide coaching me through rice (brown), beans (vegetarian black), salsa (medium), guacamole (yes, please), cheese (sure), sour cream (no, thank you).
After my husband secures his dinner – crispy tacos – we collect our drinks from the soda fountain. I fill my tall paper cup with ice and pull it away from the soda dispenser just after the caramel bubbles of Diet Coke slide over the edge. I slurp the soda from my hand as we scout out a table, in silent agreement to avoid a seat under the speaker.
I climb onto my stool at a high top table and start to unwrap my burrito, peeling back the thin layer of aluminum foil, its metallic ridges warmed by the contents inside. While my husband helps himself to the tortilla chips, a whiff of lime escapes from the bag and reminds me of how hungry I am. I wrangle my burrito into my hands then and take a bite: the hint of lime that was in the air is now in mouth, mixing with piquant cilantro, the smoke of beans, and the cool bite of avocado. It’s surprisingly good.
I smile at my husband and he giggles back, handing me a napkin and brushing his chin with his hand in imitation of a gesture he usually aims at our four year old. I bring my fingers to my chin in reply and find a rogue piece of rice that I sweep into my mouth.
“Buen provecho, babe,” I say. “Happy date night.”