By Hank Bedingfield
A night that held the assurance of a beautiful reunion brought instead betrayal, shame, and the overall sense of passionless confusion I once thought was exclusive to unrequited love — which I guess is the nature of the relation between me and my on-and-off darling Applebee’s.
For any thrifty college student looking for a reliable good time, at the small cost of a little dignity and dollar cocktails, Applebee’s has a promising appearance. The grimy fishbowl lighting, mildly uncomfortable booths, and subpar food are agreeably sufferable in exchange for cheap drinks and an apathetic waitstaff willing to serve anyone with the slightest semblance of identification.
My last visit was much more violent. I left that last night with a staggered gait, sweat pouring in a godless manner from my face, wanting nothing more than to retreat to the fetal position and be clubbed down with a blunt object.
The $1 long island iced teas I was promised just a week earlier were nowhere to be found. Instead, the Colorado Springs franchise was serving pomegranate margaritas. At a dollar each, I couldn’t complain. My mentality soon changed, as each venomous pink drink left me with such ragged pain, I was left scouring my brain for whatever evil deed I’d committed to deserve such vicious karma.
Each slurp of these diabetes-inducing cocktails from hell burned on the way down, not from the strength of tequila — as one subjecting themselves to Applebee’s on a Monday night would welcome — but from the sheer content of sugar in each gulp. It scraped the throat all the way down and long after it should have settled, it refused to be ignored, assailing me with a reverberance of instantaneous heartburn. After choking a few down, I was reduced to a confused stupor of Applebee’s betrayal that bordered on existential crisis. Was I really about to keel over and suffer an anticlimactic, yet deeply American, death by stomach ulcers on a pathetic Monday night binge?
The whiplash of this most recent night was almost too great to reconcile with my prior Applebee’s experience. Just a week earlier I had walked through those doors, been slapped in the face by happy hour promotions, the popping low fi murmur of deceptively microwaved fajitas, the slightly warm gaze of my significantly older fellow patrons, and known I had found myself in some half-baked postmodern paradise.
The simple beauty of an environment where the copious consumption of dollar vodka cranberries could be met on a warm afternoon with an endearing smile, rather than judgement, felt like an oasis.
Applebee’s was more than just an alcoholic’s refuge. There was liberation and economic freedom totally unlike the societal subjugation of monetary insecurity that chokes the campus of Colorado College.
Whereas before I was ready to endorse this institution with typical lofty idealism, I now could not be more conflicted. Two different restaurants, under the feigned unity of a single chain, built up and burned down my wildest expectations in the course of a week. It leaves something to be reclaimed. The search for resolution while drowning in incongruence continues.