The golden arches shine from their place across the street. They seem to radiate more and more light with each minute that passes without us having made a decision. Mocking me.
Dylan, picky eater that he is, has had pretty much every meal across the street for the past week. Which means, give or take a meal, as his travel companion so have I. I don’t think I’ll eat at its franchise counterpart back home for at least a year. I should be enjoying this experience and trying new foods, but with the exception of one tapas restaurant, all I’ve eaten is food easily found at home.
If I was with Dylan right now there would be no question about where we’re going to get dinner. Thankfully, it’s my roommate trying to come up with an idea while I sit on the balcony and stare at those darn arches.
“There’s a Burger King a couple blocks down,” Grace suggests.
Convenient for souvenir shopping, our hotel is in the middle of a shopping district. Not such a convenient location when you’re starving but repulsed at the sight of fast food, though. The only restaurants within the four-block radius we’re allowed to wander on our own are fast food.
I find myself agreeing, not because the king is much of a difference from the clown but because even if we were allowed to travel farther the late hour means nothing with a menu extending further than deep-fried mystery meat and potatoes would even be open.
We find the rest of our group in the lobby. Allie and Katie, our two other roommates, are playing cards with Dylan and his three roommates. It’s been a week and I haven’t even learned their names yet. The short one is too quiet to get a read on and the other two are too busy drooling over Allie and Katie to ever get out a word that isn’t complimenting them.
To be polite we ask if any of them are hungry and want to join us. Fingers crossed behind my back I wait for a no. It’s not that they’re bad people per se…but you can imagine my annoyance after a week of having to wait at least an hour for my turn in the shower because Allie and Katie can’t be seen outside of the hotel room with anything less than perfectly straightened hair. They’d probably need to run upstairs and touch up their make-up for half an hour before going outside into the dark.
“Which way?” I ask Grace as we step outside, thankfully sans company. I have a hard enough time finding my way around at home, where I can actually read the signs, never mind here.
She tilts her head to the right and we make the short four-block journey in minutes. We consider taking our food back to the hotel, but a game of people watching sounds more fun than the game of Go Fish back at the lobby. There’s probably a greater chance of someone near us in the restaurant knowing English than us understanding the words floating around us that are foreign to our ears. It’s probably not the greatest idea to make up stories about everyone around us and laugh, but the language barrier has us feeling freer than usual.
It’s a glare sent to us by a middle-aged woman that finally has us stop. Whether she really understands us or not she’s not enjoying our game. We’ve finished our dinner, anyway, so there’s no reason to stay.
Grace leads us outside and turns to face the left, which will bring us back home. I’m not as fast to turn, though, and something in front of me catches my eye. Orange and pink calls to me from two or three blocks down the street.
“Marissa? We’d better get back before they send out a search party,” Grace says.
Logically I know the right thing to do is go along with what she says, but addictions aren’t logical and mine is staring me down right in the face. Sure I’ve had the hotel’s version of coffee every morning with breakfast. But one caffeine fix isn’t the same as another. Especially when the first is crappy hotel coffee and the other is the sweet elixir of life I’ve been missing. Hypocritical I know, given my stance against American food, but every cell in my caffeine-deprived body is vibrating and demanding I supply it with real coffee.
“What if we took a little detour to Dunkin Donuts?” I ask, pointing down the street.
Grace looks unsure, not that I really blame her. Not only would we be going past our designated travel zone, but we’d also have to turn onto a different street, which will ultimately end up making it harder to remember our way back.
“But we haven’t gone that way yet,” she responds, confirming my assumption of her fears.
“Which is why we haven’t seen it before,” I say.
Which is true. As far as we’ve gone around this city, I’ve yet to see a Dunkin Donuts. And I’ve been looking, trust me. People carrying Dunkin Coffee cups? Check. Billboard for Dunkin Coffee? Check. Actual Dunkin Coffee? Nope. Or rather, it’d be a check if Grace will just say yes.
“I don’t know,” she protests again. Weaker this time but still a protest all the same.
“In and out,” I promise. “We’re only making one turn. We’ll find our way back easy. Besides, even if we did get lost you’d get to put all those years of language classes to good use!”
The best my years spent learning French did for me was help me order a croissant politely at the airport during our layover.
“I took Portuguese,” Grace responds.
“Oh. Close enough to Spanish,” I say, shrugging. “We’ll be fast.”
“Okay,” Grace relents. “But only if we’re quick.”
Success! I can almost taste it.