The 3 Ways to Eat at the Memorial Restaurant

Submitted into Contest #141 in response to: Start your story with someone receiving a one-star review.... view prompt


Creative Nonfiction Contemporary Coming of Age

This story contains themes or mentions of suicide or self harm.

One star.

I recently went to the memorial restaurant down by Madison & 24th. 

As I walked in, I was handed a menu. It read the following:


The Memorial Restaurant: Pick your serving of memories for the day!

Some of your memories are like stars, some are like meteorites, others are like planes. Which one would you like to visit today?


Inflated, artificial. A light inhalation of smoke wisping off a joint - a fishing pole casting a line of smoke. Bait, hook, and sinker. A big gulp of something bitter. Pretending it wasn’t so bad. A pill. Then 2, then 5. The days blended into nights into the early morning hours where it was neither and the chirps of birds and cold fresh air served as the best wake up call. The beat of the music pounding against your eardrums and the chatters of people shoved your internal discourse out the doors of your own head. A tab of acid. A bag of shrooms. A bar of Xanax. A line of coke. A day on this planet well spent. The plane lands, and you barely remember. Not a trace remains on the night sky. The passengers slept through the ride. The autopilot ran smoothly. 


The meteorites are special. The brief encounters. It happens once a while. But, you’d always say: “that time I saw a meteorite… ”. The impasse of life’s path and coincidence and karma and god knows what else to bring you to a moment. You wonder in astonishment at the beauty of all life has to offer. Sitting by a crackling fire on a beach, shirts off, warm waves lapping against the shore erasing the ugly drawings you spent the afternoon making and laughing over like toddlers. The look she gave you when you two first met. Big, curious eyes exploring your body and looking into your soul. Speaking to it, almost. Strangers, but the distance between you two was a thin bubble- a veil - ready to disappear at the slightest touch. Skin on skin. Heavy breaths and her soft whispers. Her nose against your neck, your hair. In that moment, you knew everything about each other, explore each other, become each other, loved each other. The world could be burning to the ground, and neither of you would hear anything but your breaths. Feel anything but a passionate embrace. Smell anything but your cologne and perfume and sweat and pheromones (do they exist?). By morning, you’re strangers again. The meteorite disappears into the night sky, as much as you try to grasp on. 


The stars shine brightly. They dominate the night sky. Their patterns are clearer at night, when you’re trying to fall asleep, penetrating your eyelids. Sometimes, the stars are fun to look at. My favourite is the I-love-frosty constellation:

It starts with BRKY-286, named after a license plate for a drive, teeming with anticipation. You heart’s pounding. You’re smiling at the beautiful day and nothing in particular. You watch the city turn into farmland into city again as the morning becomes afternoon. The sun’s setting, fluffy pink and white clouds lit in an ethereal and wimsical street as you pull into the driveway. Your muscles are stiff from sitting all day, sans the one pit-stop for cheap burgers and a bathroom. You hear them almost immediately. Yips and yaps and the tip-tap of paws against wood floor. You ring the doorbell. Then - you see Frosty. 

The second star is baby blue. It’s not his favourite colour. Dogs are colour blind. But it sure is yours. He was born on Christmas, and, as you’d think, it fits his aesthetic. An insatiably curious, fluffy, quasi-pampered diva who turns his nose up because the chicken you cooked for him isn’t seasoned right. At 3 months, he learnt how to jump onto the bed. Your parents refused at first. So instead, you’d leave your bedroom door a crack open. Then, in the middle of the night, reliably, you’d hear the tip-tap-tip-taps of a puppy pretending to be asleep hobbling up the stairs, into your room, onto your bed, and snuggled against your face. The morning came with the dismay of the parents, but he was happy, and you were too. It was perfect. He used to wear a baby blue collar in the house. But, you realized that the moment you took it off he’d go nuts and sprint in circles which was endearing and adorable. So, now, he doesn’t wear a collar in the house. 

Then, Kensington. Named after the type of bike. It was the peak of quarantine, and both of you two were experiencing a bit of cabin fever. Playing fetch and hide and seek can only be exciting for so many hours before your arms hurt and you run out of places to hide. Instead, you strapped a basket to a “Kensington bike” - the clerk at the store told you. Frankly, you didn’t care what type of bike it was. Frosty learnt to stay in the basket as you biked, but not before you had bruises on both your knees and scratches on your elbow and his paws smelt like grass from falling so much during your test runs. You two biked everywhere. Downtown. To the lake. Through tight ravines bordered by cliffs on both sides. To waterfalls where he got soggy and somehow managed to find (and rub himself in) bird poop. But, it was a breath of fresh air when you needed it the most. 

Then, star N. The nights where nothing feels right. Where the visceral sense of discomfort and fear and pain makes it feel better to end it all. When you lock yourself in your room and lose yourself and your sheets becomes splattered in red and your entire body is bleeding and you start to lose consciousness and think finally. You wake up in glass shards, world spinning, confused. How many pints of blood can a human loose before they die google? You open the door. He’s there, waiting. He doesn’t judge. He doesn’t ask. He doesn’t take you to a psychiatric inpatient unit for a form I-20 and SSRIs. He lets you figure out stuff on your own. With you. You hold him in your arms and cry. He lets out a sign of relief. Everything’s going to be alright, you seem to hear him say. 

I miss frosty. The next time I see him again will be 2 years from now. I’ll be a different person by then. He’ll be a different dog. I remember leaving to go to college, refusing to let go, hugging him and closing my eyes and wishing I could restart this story again. He waited for me at the door for 2 months. Then stopped waiting. I haven’t been back since. From what I heard, he’s still a little shining bright ball of light. But I remember. I loved him. I still love him. 


It was dusk as you walked in, the enveloping darkness of night where some parts of you came to life and others died teeming on the brink. You read the menu carefully, again. You were thoroughly confused. How did they know your own life, your childhood, your brain, your experiences? To this, the server merely smiled. A radiant glow of professionally fine-tuned affect which seemed to say: we already know everything about you, we know what you’re going to pick. The clouds were a pasty sheet. The moon was a crescent blade. The sky was empty - not a star or artifact in sight - for now. 

“Would you like a moment to decide?” He finally said. 

Yes, that would be lovely. 

And then, you put down the menu, leaned back in the wicked chair, and closed your eyes.

A swelling kaleidoscope of colors came to you. A blade of grass drifting in the smooth breeze as you lay in the field - your neighbour for the afternoon. Yells and screams behind close doors. Your head crashing against the pavement, a high-pitched note suddenly ringing a perfect D flat over the drowning woosh-woosh of other cars on the highway. Your friends’ smiling faces lit by purple-light in cramped basements. Someone stroking your arm as you fell asleep. Thunder clapping in the distance as you biked, face clenching, clothes soaked, on. Laughter. Fear. Joy. Sorrow. Melancholy. Bittersweet hellos. A last glance, hoping they’d turn around. Relief. Asking questions to which no answer came. Watching cars and people from a distant roof, 12 stories down, a whole world apart. Frosty, biting your finger as you tried to nap. Starting at yourself in the mirror, breathing heavily, glaring at your own eyes, squeezing the counter so tight your knuckles turned white and your veins popped but you still didn’t feel anything, wondering who the fuck you are. It was night now. The sky was crowded. Chaos. The beaming glow of planes intersecting over meteorites over billions of twinkling stars seemed to turn the entire sky into the moon. A radiating brilliance cast over the open-air restaurant. This - all of it - all your memories and moments and fuck knows what else was who you are. It was you. The sky was silvery bright, a shimmering mirror on your world. And then, everything disappeared. A single, lonely glint peered through. A baby star, almost. 

But, you didn’t notice. You were gone. You’d left - the menu was still there and the bill was paid. The waiter collected it and looked at your choice. 

“One star”, interesting. 

“Which star did he pick this time?” Someone nearby asked. 

“It doesn’t say. That’s strange. I guess we’ll find out tomorrow”

April 11, 2022 17:35

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Felice Noelle
23:10 Apr 17, 2022

Daniel: This is such an unique slant on the prompt. I really enjoyed reading it, especially since your menus touched on so many universal favorite memories. What a way to "serve them up." Your sentence :"What star did he pick this time?" confused me because I thought maybe he had done this before? I'll reread to try to see what I fail to understand. ....Okay, now I get it. I like when the reader is left questioning, not needing to be spoonfed plot lines like pablum. Good job for an interesting story. So enjoy the remainder of your w...


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Story Time
16:47 Apr 21, 2022

I love this format. It's so tough and you did it so well. Congrats. Hope it gets recognized because it's fantastic.


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Felice Noelle
23:32 Apr 20, 2022

Daniel: I know I already commented, but that was before I got assigned as your Critique Circle commentator. My one suggestion is one I received early on and find easy to do and then pass on. Divide your paragraphs into shorter paragraphs, usually 4 or 5 or so sentences. Guess it just makes it easier to read with more white space around it. Anyway, that's my two cents worth and now you have an additional karma point. Enjoy. Maureen


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Glen Gabel
22:27 Apr 20, 2022

Wow - I've rarely read a story done in 2nd person narrative, and you do it well. You have a style that creates very vivid imagery. I did notice that you switched perspectives from the first person at the beginning to 2nd by the end of the piece but that may have been intentional. Loved how you made this as headers and descriptions for a menu - very cool. Bravo! BTW - are you active on the reddit creative writing forum?


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