Unusual Dining Experience by Torché Johnson

"Hello welcome to HATE." A man wearing a faded brown fedora and long coat opens the door for me.

Instead of walking in right away I look up to get a good look of the building. It's painted black and small white billboard letters spell out the word HATE.

Interesting name I think to myself hoping it won't reflect on their customer service.

The man continues to patiently hold the door for me and gives me a nod as I make my way in.

I stand in a large empty room with black walls, a black ceiling, a black linoleum flooring. There is a single body mirror on the far right, a silver door on the wall in front of me, a bar in front of the mirror, and a single silver chair in the middle of the room.

I approach the doorknob and begin to turn it when a seemingly feigned polite voice says" Hello sir. Welcome to Hate."

I turn around to see a lady sitting in the chair and looking at me.

I try to figure out where she came from, maybe she was behind the bar and I didn't see her.

"Hi. Interesting name you got here." She has crinkly reddish/brown hair, dark eyes, and a typical male bartender outfit. I'm only able to see her because a dim light hangs above us.

"Thank you sir. Are you joining someone or will it be a party of one?"

I awkwardly hold up my index finger.

"One? Okay right this way!"

She walks over to the door and opens it for me, "Thank you for choosing to dine with us today."

I walk in and she stares at me with a tight smile plastered to her face without blinking.

"Okay, weird." I say aloud on accident.

Opposed to the outside and the weird room with the chair, the inside of this place is very lively. There's servers bustling too and fro and more people are in here than I thought. It looks like every seat is filled.

Even a live band plays on a small stage. The song they're playing sounds vaguely familiar.

Two of the female servers approach me, they both have blonde hair and look exactly alike.

"Hi." They say in sync, "Right this way."

When they swivel around to escort me I notice they are actually conjoined twins, seemingly fused at the hip and torso.

I've never seen that before in person, even though being homeless you see a lot of things.

I've been living in my car for about 8 months now. When my friend's boyfriend wasn't over she used to let me crash on the couch, but he found out, didn't like it, and made her move in with him.

You're probably wondering how I have the money to pay for this restaurant, I don't.

One of the homeless dudes, Clement, I see every now and then, though I haven't seen him in a while told me about this place and gave me a free meal voucher. It was printed on a very thin, metallic piece of paper.

The twins walk me over to a nice round table in a little nook area.

I have a nice view of the band and a cute girl with short dark hair, amazing bone structure, and mocha dark skin. I'm glad it's brighter in this room.

I must be staring too hard because the girl looks over at me and smiles. I immediately look down, thinking of her full glossy lips.

I peer back up and she's still looking my way even though there's a guy sitting right next to her.

She whispers something to the guy and he glances around the room before his eyes fall on me.

Uh oh.

He rises from his booth probably headed over here to punch me in the face.

Instead of coming at me he steps out of the way to let her out and he sits back down. She picks up a glass that's filled with what looks like wine and saunters over to me.

Either way I'm equally intimidated. Women like her don't usually glance twice at guys like me.

She reaches my table and smiles with unbelievably white teeth, "Hi. Who might you be?" She has a sexy deep, smooth voice.

"I'm no one but my name is Micah...I just couldn't help but notice..." I search for words to say and I notice the bubbles rising in her drink.

"Your drink!" I blurt out a little too loudly, "What are you having?"

She laughs and places a well groomed hand on her hips. My God I think this woman is near perfect.

"I'm having a Perfectly Peach Pink Champagne."

"That's a suiting name." Whoops, thinking out loud again.

"I'm Kel. Have you ordered yet?"

"I haven't actually," I search the table for a menu when she flags a young looking waiter down and asks, "Hi! Can we get a menu, thanks."

The waiter nods and scuffles away quickly, "Sure thing."

She takes a seat next to me and and the young looking server delivers her the menu.

We both thank him.

Kel hands me the menu and takes a sip of her champagne. I watch her and her throat as she swallows.

I swallow too and clear my throat, but for a different reason.

She peers over at me from the corner of her hazel eyes, "So will this be your first first drink?"

Didn't I just tell her I didn't order yet?

"Yep."

She swirls her champagne and says, "I'm on my last one. After this, I don't need to come here anymore."

"Is the alcohol that bad?"

She laughs, and doesn't bother to answer my question. Maybe she thought it was just a joke.

With a wistful look in her eye she utters, "I wonder what will happen once I finish this glass. Will everything be normal or will things change right away?"

Maybe she's never been drunk before.

I simply shrug and she trails off, "You're right, no use talking about it now since it's pretty much already done."

She empties out her glass and stands up, "Well, thanks for the chat, Micah."

Before she can leave I ask her, "Wait, which drink do you think I should order? This is my first time."

She gives me one good look, her eyes searching me for answers like they're written on my body, "Well, that's up to you. Just make sure that's what you really want. You know how strict their policy is. Depending on your drink of choice, you won't be able to change your mind."

She walks away and instead of returning to the table she was originally seated at she ventures off into what looks like the back of the restaurant and disappears.

I don't think I'll ever see a girl as beautiful as her again. The chances are lower than low but hopefully I'll see her again.

For some reason my throat becomes dry and I start feeling really thirsty.

I finally give my attention to the menu and read through all the drinks. They all have really outlandish and weird names like Crimson Clawed Vodka, Daddy Long Leg Licorice Lava Lager, Sexy Scotch-well that's not that bad-Beastly Bronze Brandy, Psychic Cherry Chardonnay, and Werewolf Watermelon Whiskey.

Hmmm.

A white guy with white hair who kind of looks like my dad passes by me. He is holding a lady's hand.

As they pass my table he chortles, "Choose wisely."

I give a half smile and nod as they walk away laughing together.

A waiter approaches me and says, "Ready?"

I go for the most normal sounding thing, "Uh I guess I'll take the Classic Winged Wine and the Sexy Scotch."

"Sir, surely you know you can only order one kind of drink here."

I put up no arguments and say, "Right. I'll take the Winged Wine then."

"Excellent choice, sir. I'll get started on it right away."

I flip over the menu to search for the food but I don't find anything. I begin to open my mouth to question him but the waiter is already gone.

After about five minutes he comes back with my order. He sets the cup before me and it looks amazing, presented on a crystal clear plate inside a snifter glass.

The wine is shimmery like glitter and a nice light blue color. I sit there mesmerized by this tall glass of alcohol, I've never seen anything like it. The smell coming from it is equally appetizing, smelling like a mix of coconut, lemon, and something else sweet.

"I've never seen blue wine before."

"Why yes sir, that's the intention. To experience something new and refreshing in this life."

I wouldn't go that far but okay.

I begin to take up my drink but the waiter lingers and clears his throat.

"Thank you."

He smiles for a brief second then his wild eyebrows furrow. "Where's your ticket in?"

"My ticket in? Oh!" I dig in my back pocket and pull out the voucher Clement gave me and hand it to the waiter. He could have at least gave me a heads up on how eccentric and particular this place was.

Instead of taking the voucher the server gives it a good look. He pulls out a hole punch from his inner coat pocket and presses it into the voucher while it's still in my hand.

"I'll be back shortly with your complimentary appetizer." He turns his heels and skitters away with his head tilted in the air.

I set the voucher on the table and admire my drink. Part of me wants to take a picture of it but I noticed several "no pictures" signs on my way in.

Before I pick up my drink I notice two small fluffs of light blue and pink cotton on my plate.

I pick it up between my thumb and index finger and hold it in the air.

"Do you not enjoy cotton candy, Micah sir?"

I do a double take at my server who is now standing at my side with a covered, silver platter in his hand.

"How'd you know my..."

"Here we are!" He sets the platter before me and reveals the appetizer; angel food cake with whipped cream.

Not what I expected but I like sweets and it looks good so I won't complain.

"Whimsical Angel Cake with heavy whipped cream and coconut shavings." After making his announcement he leaves again.

It takes me about four minutes to indulge in my dessert and finish completely. The flavors played off each other well and leave me more than satisfied, cotton candy and all.

I thank my server, and exit the restaurant from the back as I was escorted.

I enter a room in the back identical to the empty chair room from earlier.

Still weird but that's okay.

Before I exit the door I glance at the mirror to make sure there's no dried whipped cream or something on my face.

The lady sitting in the chair in the middle of the room explains, "For some, the effects don't hit them until later. But once it comes it'll last for about a couple days. When it wears off come back and have your second drink for a longer experience. And then your final for permanence."

"That sounds like an intense hangover," I joke. But I feel fine, one tall glass of wine won't get to me being that I can handle half a dozen beers with coming off only somewhat buzzed. Seriously, you'll have to see it to believe it.

She doesn't acknowledge my joke so I exit the place.

As I walk through the door she calls out, "Thank you for dining at Hate, you must come again soon.

Maybe their meant to be a little on the weird side.

I make it to my car about half a block down and the minute I begin to open the driver door I begin to feel cold, my body shivers forcibly, and breaks out in chills. I feel like I'm floating, like I'm beyond my body, like a balloon barely held down by a clumsy kid.

How could a measly bottle of wine make me feel like this?

Okay maybe I just need to sit down. I try to open my car door but my hand keeps missing the handle as it appears to get farther and farther from me.

I look down and see that I'm slowly lifting off the floor. "What the!?"

I look around frantically to make sure anyone else is seeing what I'm saying or to make sure no one else is seeing this, I'm not sure which.

"Calm down, you can control it easier than you think."

That voice! I haven't heard it in over three months but I sure recognize it, "C-Clement?"

I look down at Clement; instead of being in his usual attire he's cleaned up and has on a nice black outfit and dress shoes. His salt and pepper mini afro is trimmed down and tame.

"Dude what's going on?"

Clement walks closer to me, jumps up and tries to pulls my legs down.

Despite his weight pulling down on me I continue to slowly drift upward. He's unusually calm about it all.

"Think of it like a stick on a game controller. The stick is what controls the speed and direction depending on how you move it."

We used to always bond over our affinity for games. We were both collectors until life hit and ran over us, leaving our wallets empty.

Taking his analogy into consideration I concentrate and somehow will myself back down to the ground.

A cigarette hangs from his mouth and he says, "It might help if you carry a controller around with you. It'll make it easier."

"What happened to me? What is this? Am I super toasted or...?"

Smoke escapes from his mouth as he laughs. "That dining place, it changed my life. I ordered the Psychic Cherry Chardonnay, came with the Mind Searching Mango Macadamia Cookies. Used it to catch up on everything that I've lost."

Before my mind can grasp his words he picks up a brown leather briefcase at his feet and hands it to me.

"Good luck, son. And be careful. Don't forget to go back for your second drink."

"How long will this last? Is this..."

"Permanent? It will be after taking your final drink."

The events of that night play at hyper speed in my mind and everything somehow sort makes sense now. I think I understand.

But I have one final question, "Clement, what does..."

He knowingly answers my question, "HATE means Have A Terrific Eternity...as the new you that you'll become."

He gives me an encouraging smile and wink, "From here on, life can only get sweeter, like the cotton candy you had."

I nod and say, "Thank you, Clement. You're the man."

I stand in place, holding the suitcase tightly until his footsteps fade into the night.

Short moments later I suddenly hear another pair of footsteps approaching and begin to run, but I stop, remembering if anyone's trying to rob me I can just fly away. How convenient is that?

I turn around to see Kel. And she looks even more beautiful than she did just an hour or so ago.

"Hi Micah." She appears to be nervous. She slowly walks up to me, there's a photograph in her hand.

She hands it to me and looks away ashamedly.

In the photograph is a dark skinned girl with dark eyes. She's shirtless and sitting up in a hospital bed giving the camera two thumbs up. Her chest is wrapped with a bandage and there's an IV in her arm. She's smiling and there's no hair on her head. Her teeth and smile are as bright as Kel's.

Kel explains, "I beat the cancer but it left me scarred, bruised and without any hair. To any guy that looks at me, outwardly, I'll appear as their ideal type. But it only works if I'm attracted to them too."

So that must means she finds me attractive? Cool. "Kel, I've just met you but...you're pretty amazing, before and after your Perfect Champagne."

I prop my hand on my hip and offer my arm to her,"Wanna go for a drive? Or a fly?"

She smiles and clings to arm like we're prom dates with a silent smile on her face.

As freaky as it is, I think I really like that place called HATE and I'll be going back back soon.

In