We decided that Thursday night was the night. We talked it out beforehand and made sure that we all knew what we were and were not comfortable with ahead of time. The plan was that we would all leave work at around 5:00, get a few drinks beforehand to loosen up a little bit, and then make our way over to our host’s place.
The host, in this case, is a restaurant in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood called Au Cheval. It’s known throughout the city for having extensive wait times for unbelievably good burgers. The low lighting and intimate ambiance of having candles on the tables adds for an oddly sensual experience, making the meat you’re taking between your lips exceptionally tasty.
While most of us can act like we’ve been there before in a lot of situations, there are some where you can’t hide your innocence. As I walked to the hostess, I tried to play it cool. “Hey, I just got a text from you guys. My name is ‘Charlie,’ are we good to go?” I smiled coyly at her and then back at Hillary and Michelle behind me. Try as we might, it was obvious that this was our first time. Experiencing this all together—the textures, the scents, the tastes—all for the first time, it was a special moment that we had been looking forward to with nervous energy for a few days.
The hostess glanced down at her list of names and slowly looked back up at me. The sides of her mouth crept up, forming a smirk that let me know we were in for a treat.
“Right this way.”
Our hostess led us down a gauntlet of booths and barstools as slow, steady rock music streamed through the restaurant’s PA system. I tried not to get distracted by the other parties’ moans and soft conversations, but sometimes you can’t help but look. Your curiosity gets the best of you and you can’t keep your eyes peeled anymore. To my right, I saw a group really getting after it, juices flowing down the outsides of the buns and dripping steamy onto the table. To my left, there was a couple clinking glasses at the bar, staring into each others’ eyes as they prepared themselves to dive in.
We sat at our table making any final adjustments to our previously made plans. We ordered another round of drinks to loosen ourselves up. It was our first time, you know? A threesome like us needed a little bit of extra lubricant to get started—especially when we saw the price of the main course.
After we told the waiter what we wanted I stood up to go to the bathroom. As I rubbed soap on my hands, I looked deep into my eyes in the mirror to remind myself that what we were about to do is something that any number of people would love to be doing right now, and that it was okay to pay a little extra for it. That’s how you know you’re getting the good stuff, right?
When I came out from the bathroom, I could see that Hillary and Michelle had already gotten started without me. I was okay with it, it was just French fries and a garlic aioli sauce that could make your mouth water from states away. Plus, the main course hadn’t come yet. By the time I sat down, I saw our waiter carrying our meals toward us. He strode down the aisle like a man with confidence, ready to give us what he knew we were craving.
It sat in front of me, oily and slick, egg yolk streaming down its sides. Hillary and Michelle were taking photos of their burgers but I just sat and admired mine. I’d never seen such a beautiful specimen before me. I thought about all the time I had wanted to do this. All the failed attempts, all the broken plans, all the I’m sorry’s, all the stressful weeks and the nights with too many drinks and the subway rides that took to long and the times we opted for another bar instead and yet here we were. The three of us, finally looking at each other, vulnerable and ready to feel something that we had never experienced before.
I’ll never forget my first bite. The bun, the sauce, the pickles, the cheese, the meat, the egg, the bacon, it all separated simultaneously from the burger, melting in my mouth as they twirled together and apart. It was like dancing; the savory meat kept the pace as the vinegar from the pickle syncopated the beats, popping in and out with every crunch. I placed the sandwich back down on the plate and looked to my partners as we felt the true meaning of bliss wash over us. Hillary covered her face with her hand and Michelle leaned back and sipped her drink. In my 24 years of living, I can honestly say that I can’t think of another time when I was more connected to two people than in that instant.
By the end, we had all been satisfied. Happy that we came, we tipped the waiter heavily and walked outside. All of us heading different ways, we ordered our separate Ubers as we said our goodbyes. On a final note before ducking into my Josh’s Nissan Altima, I looked back at them and asked, “Was that as good for you as it was for me?” only to be welcomed by a sea of, “Yes!” and “Hands down, yes,” and, “We have to come back again.”
I couldn’t agree more. Josh and I hit the Kennedy Expressway and headed north. The buildings faded past me as we sped away, and all I could do was look back in reflection. This wasn’t a feeling that I would soon match, but longed to feel again. .
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