i am not ready for ihop to change

Ever see the vestige of a broken friendship in a bacon cheeseburger from IHOP IHOb?

It was my favorite restaurant: the International House of Pancakes on Lancaster Avenue. It was where I discovered my fondness for the profound sense of ease after eating the thin round layer of starch-based batter known as a pancake. It was where I have caught up with countless friends ever since I had gone to college, ever time ordering the same thing: the breakfast sampler with eggs over medium. It was where I have observed the progression of innumerable friendships throughout my two years of college.

But, within a few weeks, it will be transformed from IHOP to IHOb. All of those memories that I have created within the confines of the restaurant forever associated with the word IHOP will now be transformed into a less acoustically pleasing word meant to cater towards a greater market of consumers. Because the appeal of breakfast foods served at any moment throughout the day has been decided by a couple of company executives to be insufficient for marketing purposes. Once again, capitalism is ruining my life.

I wanted to visit the IHOP on Lancaster Avenue one last time before a couple of construction workers permanently disfigure its identity in my mind. The store sign had not changed yet. The round letters of IHOP still emanated familiarly in the afternoon sky. I pulled into the parking lot as I have done a myriad of times before, always taking the parking space at the end out a fear that a stranger might hit my car if I park too close to the parking lot entrance. But one day, when I make the same maneuver, I will look up to see a completely different sign. And when that day comes — it could take a few weeks, months, or years — IHOP will be no more.

I asked a friend who I haven’t seen for quite some time, mostly by choice. Awkward, yet uncomplicated, histories tend to propel individuals apart regardless of perceived intimacy. The menu read IHOb. She ordered some eggs with turkey bacon. I didn’t order the breakfast sampler. She wore business casual because she had just gotten off from work. I wore Bermuda shorts and a distressed t-shirt. And there we were, talking about more-or-less the same things that we had when we were two vulnerable freshmen coming into the next chapter of our lives. Some parts of our lives have changed, as they should. Some parts haven’t.

My consciousness wandered to some parts of my mind that I have archived and encrypted since the abrupt end to our amity. Perhaps it’s a reminder of the past of a chapter in my life I have long wanted to forget. It’s every love scene from The Room — a cringey moment unexpected the first time but seems to recycle itself throughout the rest of the movie. And regardless of what direction (or lack of) the plot seems to go, any remembrance of the entire movie seems to revolve around the same couple minutes of repeated footage of Tommy Wiseau miserably attempting to make his co-star (not) uncomfortable.

I ask myself if I am a different person from the person I was two years ago, beyond the superficial aspects like the increased number of wrinkles on my face or the tattoo on my right pectoral. I ask myself, beside the shedding of my skin and the turnover of my red blood cells, have I changed as a person? Because if I haven’t changed in a significant way, I wonder if I am questioning myself enough. I wonder if I am allowing myself to live with too much comfort. I wonder if all these past months of attempting to live with more intention is considered to be living at all. Because, without change, what does it even mean to grow?

Perhaps it’s a few slips of the tongue. A phrase so evocative it violently fractures the walls containing the sealed memories of another time. A promise to keep things normalized, detached. Then a couple of intimate words shared. A memento of a long-forgotten dynamic. It’s a reminder of a reminder of a reminder to forget. A part of a long string of other occurrences that seem to lead up to series of blissful and morose moments that I wish that never happened. A flashback to a more emotionally immature version of myself, when I found solace in listening to Lana Del Rey and venting to high school friends who have since moved on in their lives.

I yearn to stop time, to keep my problems from becoming more and more complex. Because, even a mere year ago, I conceived of a brighter world. It was a place where problems had solutions, where questions had answers, where streaks of darkness had been considered an anomaly in life. It was a time when I had the power to help others before myself, when I could hold still hold onto the sense of safety high school afforded, when my problems could be generalized into some cheesy songs about unrequited love and ignored the greater privileges that I have afforded in life. It was a time when IHOP was still IHOP.

Such is the taste of IHOb’s classic bacon cheeseburger —  some words left unsaid, some sentiments left unaddressed, and some messages left on read.

Categories: lifestyle, writing