When I look back on it now, the most amazing part about last Friday was that Henry and I not only made it to Cleveland right on time to meet Jason at Melt, but we drove the whole way without:
- one of us getting kicked out of the car
- muffins being whaled at faces*
(*This happened once, in Virginia. And I will never let Henry forget it. In fact, I might write about that this week since I’m on a roll with illustrating to the Internet what a fucker he can be.)
We did, however, listen to copious amounts of Dance Gavin Dance, even though I had made a mix specific to our road trip. I hate my one-track mind sometimes.
Jason, when planning the itinerary for Erin’s Dying Wish Day, remembered that I’m an aficionado of melted cheese sandwiches, even had my friend Sarah draw me a grilled cheese in the stylings of the Sacred Heart, complete with crown of toothpicked-pickles, which I’d have already had tattooed on my arm if it weren’t for student loans fucking up my entire life. I’ve wanted to go to Melt for sometime now, so Jason made that happen and even got there early to act as a place-holder since Melt is a hot commodity and can get super crowded before the doors even open.
Now, the whole two and a half hours it took us to get there, I tried to reason with myself that I should focus on one thing at a time instead of the entire day ahead of me, which would undoubtedly cause me to ping around the car like a cat with Scotch taped-paws. So that’s what I did, I focused all of my nervous energy on Melt.
What was I going to order?
How was I going to decide?
What if I got sick?
Why didn’t I buy Rolaid Soft Chews*?
What if I puked?
What if it was super crowded there and I had a panic attack and died before even tasting my grilled cheese?
(*When I was friends with Christina, she knew to always keep Rolaid Soft Chews on her person at all times when I was visiting her. My excitement and nervous energy, combined with even the slightest speck of grease on a plate, never fails to manifest itself into a brick of anxiety in my stomach.)
There were a lot of things to consider. Maybe if Henry was more fun in the car and would play obscene travel games with me, my neuroses wouldn’t have time to activate. Or if he’d be less of a square about picking up the occasional hitch-hiker. (I haven’t helped out a hitcher in ten years because of Henry. This is, right now, being added to the CON column of my Henry List.)
We arrived shortly before 11 and I was relieved to see that Jason was the only one standing outside the doors—no crowds! There was one “what if” to scratch off the list, but I still had to worry about what to order and going into cardiac arrest, possibly finding a way to lethally impale my eyeball on the straw in my water glass. Maybe I shouldn’t use a straw…Or maybe skipping a beverage altogether was key.
But then what if I found myself choking? Henry knows the Heimlich (he learned it in THE SERVICE; I just found this out recently because he was bragging about it), but would he actually use it on me, or would he find himself paralyzed in a state of extreme pleasure, watching my face morph from Erin to Smurf in 0.5 seconds?
While my internal dialogue was percolating my synapses, Henry and Jason stood around talking like normal people. I wonder what that’s like.
By the time the back door was unlocked, a substantial line had started to form behind us. Suddenly, waking up early to get there didn’t seem like such a drag after all. (Not that I could even sleep the night before, anyway! God, I was so giddy.)
We were seated at a corner table, and Henry filled Jason in on my need to sit in whichever seat allows for the most panoramic view of the restaurant, like I’m a CIA agent. (I just prefer having as few people behind my back as the seating arrangement permits.) Jason offered to switch seats with me and I almost took him up on it until I realized how ridiculous I was being. Lately, I have become hyper-aware of my neurotic preferences.
“And then I’m usually stuck staring at the wall,” Henry complained. Bitch, shut your mouth and be thankful that I even allow you to go out in public with me.
Confession: I had already looked at the menu the night before at work, in hopes of narrowing it down. I was pretty sure that I wanted the Mushroom Melt, but then I made the mistake of picking up the menu in front of me which immediately placed my brain at the center of a maelstrom of grilled cheese choices. I felt confused and panicked, especially when I noticed that there were vegetarian options for nearly every item which I hadn’t known, and this opened up a brand new ordering quandary by practically doubling the choices available to me.
And then! I noticed the Grilled Peanut Butter and Banana, which sounded rebelliously unorthodox amidst the cheesy variety. I kind of wanted to be That Person who goes to an establishment built around grilled cheese and not order a grilled cheese. Plus, the latticed nerves in my stomach were kind of craving something sweet.
But how much of a faux pas would it be to not order a grilled cheese on my virginal visit to Melt? Everyone at home would be so disappointed in me. Chooch would probably get harassed at school. My grandfather would roll over in his grave and haunt me for the rest of my life: All those years of practice you had, ordering grilled cheese at Denny’s and Blue Flame, and for WHAT? It would be right up there with dropping out of high school. I’d eventually get that tattoo only to be reminded of the fraud I am; the banner on it would have to be changed from “4 lyfe” to “fair-weathered fan.”
(Technically, the peanut butter and banana has cream cheese on it.)
After all of this inner hemming and hawing, I went with my first instinct and ordered the Mushroom Melt, which the waiter, after suggesting 87 vegetarian options, admitted was his favorite. This ended up being a wise choice because it was simple enough to not sink through my stomach like a cannonball, but it still had enough going for it to make it better than any restaurant grilled cheese I ever had. Carmelized onions* were draped luxuriously around clumps of portobello mushrooms and stuffed generously into the middle of a viscous expanse of hot provolone, providing the sweetness I was looking for without making my teeth ache.
(*One of the few onion variations I can tolerate on a sandwich; I’m notoriously fussy when it comes to onions, enough that Henry had to make himself a guidebook to prevent instances prompting me to chuck meals back in his face.)
There was enough cheese packed between those slices of bread to fashion a fromage robe, and believe me, I thought about it. Fuck Lady Gaga.
I’m adding cheese to the list of porn I need to direct.
Henry and Jason ordered things that had meat on it so I didn’t ask them how it was. And really, wasn’t it all about me anyway? I can’t even remember what we talked about while we ate, I was so tuned in to my sandwich and the fact that once it was demolished, we were going to the Alternative Press office which would make my stomach lurch but I’d wash it down with water all while managing to not impale my eyeball on the straw after all. But I do know that I lasted forty-five minutes before practically vomiting the subject of Jonny Craig, causing Henry to wince from across the table. I tried to promise that I wouldn’t reveal my true, obnoxious 16-year-old fan girl self by eagerly mentioning him (and it’s always eagerly, believe me), but keeping promises was never my strong point.
The Mushroom Melt was glorious, like taking the best grilled cheese in the world and infusing each bite with seasoning ground from comfort, magic and the best childhood memories. But, truth be told, I’m going to have to make at least a dozen more pilgrimages to Melt before I can write an accurate review. (In other words, I REALLY want that peanut butter thing.)