Forever In The Third Booth On The Left
J. Henry Dunant III restaurant in The Netherlands

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The New Luck Toy is that restaurant you go to when it’s your thirteenth birthday and your parents tell you that you’re growing into an adult and can choose anything on the menu. You feel your flesh sink into the upholstery of the booth, and feel your skin stick to the fake leather. Your eyes look over the chinese horoscope place and you find your sign, since at 13, you haven’t yet given up on the slight comfort that can be found in the unknown. You notice your sign and the signs it tells you to stay away from, and your eyes drift to these forbidden astrological animal symbols and notice that they’re all linked in a chain. The waiter comes, and you eye him suspiciously, even though he’s a very nice man, just because you know that he knows that you’re going to order for yourself tonight because it’s your thirteenth birthday and there’s something palpably different about you obvious to even the most casual of observers. You take the beaten menu and feel the smooth yet vaguely viscious clear plastic holding in the establishment’s culinary offerings, reading each dish’s name to yourself taking the words and the weight in your mouth and head. Your parents tell you not to worry about the price, but you’re an adult now and you realize that things like that have to be taken into consideration, lest you be considered rude and worse still immature since after all it’s a child who goes to an ice cream parlor and orders the biggest sundae with mountains of ice cream, whipped cream and chocolate knowing that even though she can’t possibly eat it all, perhaps this time she will be able to and besides it doesn’t matter because she wants it. But you, at 13, know that this is no longer you, and you check the prices and rule out the most expensive, even though Dinner Combo #4 looks like it might be appetizing. You think about going out, asking to choose a different restaurant, perhaps one you’re more familiar with, but you look around and see that to get to the exit, you’d have to walk by the other booths, as well as the cash register. It could be done, but it would be awkward — your mother has also recommended this restaurant and you don’t want to let her down. That wouldn’t be the adult thing to do. A bead of sweat trickles down your temple, down your cheek, off your chin, onto the horoscope placemat. Finally, the waiter comes back and asks if you all have decided yet. Your parents agree, and he first looks at you and waits for your order and the words escape your lips sealing your fate to the winds of change and adulthood. Forever sweet-and-sour pork. Also, forever side of steamed rice.

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