Egyptian-American-owned, Sweet Oasis efficiently took the magic out of an ancient outside civilization by putting powdered sugar on old brown hands so a customer could plainly see the handprint on the reddened cheek of a younger immigrant worker after their cheeks were beaten like fluffy eggs. It was as if the pharaohs built the pyramids themselves, dirty hands and all. The pharaohs of dough at Sweet Oasis only closed for an hour a day, so the outside of the metal building looked like you could get nothing but tetanus from whatever was inside, anything terrible but diabetes. The drive-thru signage spelled out the menu with large black sticker letters, the same used for an address on a mailbox. It didn’t matter, though: everyone knew what they wanted—the same thing, over and over. Change? Fuck off, you and your change. Every mother of a soon-to-be sports star would turn in, never using a blinker, to begin their day the same way as every other day: by deep throating a breakfast burrito the size of a two-liter soda bottle.
That burrito at Sweet Oasis was the source all yearning in a town that didn’t care for much other than keeping the world as small as possible. And it would send a mating call to taste buds, drunk or sober. (Drunk, mostly.) Luckily, Sweet Oasis was close enough to utilize shoelaces and the occasional sidewalks. Other than headlights out to kill deer and ignite the way to Walmart, the walk from campus to Sweet Oasis was bliss, mostly because of the cemetery. The hallowed ground was nice to walk by, feel terror in the pit of an empty belly, and talk to God and suffer the power of silence. Alternatives to conversational partners were the bodies of porno actress Candy Barr, who must have rubbed her tits on every streetlamp in the ‘50s, and the rotted brain of Robert E. Howard, every HPU English graduate’s nemesis. Even with his brains on the wall, no one knew what was on his mind, though all he needed was probably a Sweet Oasis burrito.
In some towns, the burrito is a little god, worshipped; given hours in line and tens of dollars at the register, all for the tiny privilege to chew and shit. And that luxury is a blessing as beautiful as a brown paper bag handed to you with Egyptian whispers. Curses or prayers, it doesn’t matter when you hold a bag of food already losing heat. Time is essential, always, and nothing proved this like a walk out of Sweet Oasis, back into the ever-shrinking world. By headstones topped with concrete angels nearly out of sight, lost to unconcerned darkness and unlit lamps among the graves, all that could ever catch you was knowing that the worst thing that could happen was never making it out of an endlessly small world. But even if you made it out there’s a part there that’s still buried next to marginal accomplishments and a closed down, decayed donut shop.