This Panera was different from others. It was a sit down and order Panera, no line, no green aprons, no towering signs of bread based dishes. No, this Panera had waitresses and a hostess, and waiting to be seated. This Panera was the talk of the town, the one place you could get delicious bagels. I’m not sure how I got here, and even less certain why I’m wearing acid-washed jean shorts, the length of which could be compared against Thomas Magnum’s and be considered inappropriate. I’m also wearing an ill-fitting, neon-green mesh tank top, the kind through which certain things that should not be seen, can be.
Sitting flamboyantly on the faux leather bench just inside the doorway to this fancy Panera, waiting patiently to be seated, I wait for about forty-five minutes watching others flow in and out of the restaurant, being seated, served then ushered out.
Meanwhile, another group is forming in my own private limbo.
This new group is entirely comprised of famous actors that have played mafia men. All the names and faces you’d suspect, had someone put together a list. Chazz Palmentari, Robert DeNiro, Joseph Pesci, James Gandolfini, Al Pacino, Joe Mantegna, Ray Liotta, James Cann and even John Cazale. All these guys loitering, gathering in this small lobby, filling it with raw presence, waiting to get into this exclusive Panera to gorge their faces on starch and wheat. Bloating their stomachs with gluten and swelling their joints, wobbling out the double glass doors when they’ve had their fill.
I won’t be here to witness this march of guilt and shame. Nope, I’m about to explode, I feel it churning in my stomach, and my mind is racing. Then it happens. The hostess seats another family of five, that had just arrived, their coats still cold to the touch. I feel my legs tremble as they gather energy from the air around them, and I shoot up screaming and pointing, spit flying I can hear myself like I’m outside watching this guy go nuts on the poor hostess, yet I know the truth, I know she’s doing it on purpose, because of the way she looks down and then the slightest smirk begins to form.
I yell that I’ve never been treated so poorly, how I’ll never return, that she’s a bitch, all while swinging my jorted hips back and forth, locking my hip like a super model on each swing, one hand folded over and resting on whichever hip is locked the other arm up and pointing ferociously in this hostesses’ direction.
All my anger is her fault.
After I spew a few more or less colorful insults, and spout declarations about my continued patronage, I swivel on my heels and I march out through the double glass doors that will later succumb to the full belly bumps of these now lined up mafiosa, to whom I turn as I leave and say “Good luck with that one boys!” pointing sharply at the hostess who is now giggling openly, the only responses being from Ray Liotta who rolls the tooth pick in his mouth from one corner to the other, and the subtle, but distinct glean in DeNiro’s eyes.
Now outside, I feel different, warmer. I look down and my previous fashion statement has been replaced with a golden hued track suit, feels like silk against my skin, and has wide white stripes down the outside of the legs, three on each side. I’m wearing matching sneakers with fat white laces, and I feel light, as if I could fly if I jumped hard enough.
I realize I need to find my truck so I can go home and see my wife and sons. I vaguely remember parking in the hotel lot next to the Panera.
I start running, free running, I feel surprised by every move, as if I’d never done any of them before, yet clearly with the ease that I preform the flips and jumps and mid-air spins as I bound down the street, I’ve done all of these moves countless times. I can feel it in my joints and bones, they’ve been broken many times, likely from falls and failures.
I see the lot, it’s just up ahead, somehow I’m on the roof top of the building just adjacent to the lot where my truck was last seen, I stop at the edge and hastily take cover. Below there is a group of very fast moving men disassembling a car. They’re clearly on edge, yet very efficient, they dismantled the car to blocks in less than two minutes. I’m squat down behind the ledge, nervously peeking over praying they leave.
My knee is bothering me from the angle of my squat, I slide down onto my rear, outstretching my legs to give them some relief. I peek over the railing again to see they have disappeared, leaving behind only the husk of what once had been a Cadillac Escalade. It’s as if they had been an intrusion of cockroaches swarming over an old chicken leg, and only moving on once the meat had been completely gleaned from the bone.
Now safe, I sprung up and began climbing down into the lot. I hit the ground and looked around to make sure the thieves were gone before proceeding, gone indeed.
I began running again, searching the lot, coming up empty. The truck wasn’t in this lot at all. I could have sworn this is where I’d left it. I climbed to the roof of the hotel to get a better look and that’s when I discovered the hotel had two completely symmetrical sides with matching lots on both sides. I started walking towards the opposite lot, the one I had not yet searched, when the door to the roof burst open, startling me and expelling a security guard through the jamb, anxiously shoving a taser gun at me commanding I hit the ground with my hands on my head. I was too close to getting my truck now, and I hadn’t done anything wrong, so I sprinted to the edge and without hesitation I leapt from the roof of the hotel towards the the lot below, as I was clearing the ledge I heard the taser fire, and the electrical wires snap and fizzle in the air behind me, as they found the extent of their reach.
Rushing towards the concrete, body flat, arms and legs spread wide hoping against hope that my track suit would catch air creating a flying suit of some sort, that would allow me to glide softly into the lot. No such luck, I hit the awning above the side entrance of the hotel, tearing through it like tissue paper, it slowed me ever so slightly before I hit the sidewalk below, darkness creeping in on the edges of my vision. lifting my face from the cold concrete and the pooling blood, I could see my truck, so close. I passed out.
I woke, smiling, to the sound of Amy’s voice.