real seasonal change never happens in Florida. in the fall of 1997, there were small sitting areas in the back of many McDonald's restaurants designated for smokers. it was October and still hot outside. there was no respite for residents here; the heat and humidity lived and breathed like a shadow with a heartbeat. indoor air conditioning was a godsend no matter the time of year.
we sat there, stuffed in the dark corner of a local McDonald's, celebrating my birthday. an overhead incandescent light flickered, casting an echo of light and darkness on the walls and tables at irregular intervals. the booth frames were all made of cheap wood that were scratched and marked up by children and deviants. the restaurant looked old and forgotten about, lost somewhere in an underdeveloped town.
on one of the tables sat a pile of burgers, wrapped in yellow paper with the iconic red M stamped on the surface. golden french files fried to perfection sat in large red and yellow paper containers. multiple boxes of chicken nuggets opened and ready to eat littered the table, along with every flavor of dipping sauce.
it was a feast, and one to be proud of at that age. eating McDonald's was a pinnacle moment in a child's life. it was that elusive thing you could only access by the whim and desire of your parents. it was an exciting surprise that aroused jealously from friends and family when you had some, and they did not.
there i was: eating cheese burgers with my small family and a few neighborhood friends.