Do you ever find yourself trying to accomplish a simple task, or even a more difficult one that requires concentration, but you just can’t get it done because all you can think about are French fries? The wave of desire hits me and keeps washing over me and suddenly I’m spiraling and salivating as a mirage of a bountiful plate of golden-brown, crispy, salted fries materializes in the center of my vision. I’m lost and dreaming.
This inconvenience happens to me at least once a week. For three and a half years, I had easy access to a cure. Within the distance of delivery (on lazy Sunday mornings) or the school shuttle (when I didn’t want to pay for delivery) was the palace that fulfilled my dreams: The Real Deal. Its outer red crown moldings around its wide-open front windows framed this sturdy, reliable sandwich and burger joint and silently promised to me that it would be there for me to lean on. It was my companion when friends from home visited me at school, when I was in dire need of greasy, carb-heavy hangover food, or when my concentration was stolen away by illusions of my favorite order of fries with three different sauces called The Big Dipper. Ordered alongside the seasonal Grown-Up Grilled cheese, a dripping BBQ brisket flanked by smoked gouda, onions, and melt-in-your-mouth Italian bread, The Big Dipper satisfied my cravings and lasted for three consecutive meals.
In January I returned to Chestnut Hill for my final months of college. Upon my first trip of the semester to Cleveland Circle, my heart dropped. The Real Deal’s unyielding red crown moldings framed an empty shell. “They closed it, you didn’t know?” my roommate told me. I didn’t know what to say. The cold January breeze reddened my cheeks and whipped at my hair as I gazed up at the towering hollow front windows. Closed. With the gray cloudy sky looming above me, it felt like a funeral scene from a movie.
I thought about finding another place to dream about. The closest place that I could fathom was an hour’s drive away – Newport Creamery in my hometown of Cranston, RI, with its crisp seasoned fries that I marry to my whipped cream as I dunk them one by one into my ice cream sundae. I can no longer stargaze at The Big Dipper, but when I depart Chestnut Hill for Cranston after graduation, I’ll find myself envisioning ivory green-striped plates crowded with scalding honey-gold fries and ice cream bared in cups like worn silver tulips.
There I go, dreaming again.