In ‘N Out reminds me of a dark, betrayal-ridden time

I was a sophomore in college the first time I was abandoned by people I trusted.


It was a Saturday in Ashland. I came out of my bedroom to an empty house.

The house was 78 N. Mountain St., a pleasant 10-minute walk from Southern Oregon University’s campus. Four other guys lived there. I walked up a winding staircase to drop off our rent check every month. I always wrote it and got paid back.

I wrote all the checks actually: garbage, utilities, cable. A small whiteboard next to our house phone – yes, we had a house phone; with voicemail and everything – detailed who owed me what. Very professional and sort of “Rain Man”-ish.

That morning – the morning of my betrayal – that whiteboard didn’t have dollars-and-cents amounts scrawled across it in dry-erase chicken scratch. There was a message instead: “Went to Redding to get In ‘N Out.”

Redding. As in Redding, Calif. As in a 2-hour, 11-minute drive from our driveway to the popular burger joint’s parking lot. Close to 140 miles one way.

I ate dry toast and drank garbage coffee and stared out our window. I envisioned my roommates Bunion, Spigot and Drywall – their names have been changed – in the car as they took an early morning drive; how they probably watched the sun rise and counted down the miles and listened to “Bohemian Rhapsody” on repeat.

The joy in their faces as they ordered: “Double Double, Animal Style, please. With fries. And a strawberry shake.”

The taste. How they probably savored. Every. Bite.

All but forgetting me. Unaware of just how long the aftertaste in the cheap instant coffee we had lingered.

They came back and we laughed. LAUGHED. Wasn’t that funny, Ryan? Wasn’t that funny how we didn’t wake you up and went on a mini road trip to get tasty food without you?

This happened 12 years ago. More than a decade. We’re all married now. At least half of us have kids. We say “hi” on Facebook from time to time.

But I guess memories of betrayal can’t stay buried, what with the opening of a new In ‘N Out in Medford this week.

Weird how the time Drywall, Bunion, and Spigot didn’t shake me awake to go on a grand quest to get tasty treats still resonates so richly that it hurts.

Did you know betrayal tastes like dry toast? Like instant – likely expired – coffee?

No, I’m not OK. Maybe someday.

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