The Mac and Cheese at Lux

by Payel

On Thursday, I decide to sneak out 15 minutes early from work to go to this ultra hip coffee bar called Lux in the hub of uptown Phoenix. It’s a strange amalgamation of bar, study room, lounge, patio stitched together to form a center for a particular strand of people. This becomes glaringly evident the moment I walk into the bar. I can’t help but get an uncanny feeling that I am being judged by the more elevated Lux constituents as I wade through them. But, I don’t think too much of it because I need to figure out the optimal place to situate myself in before I gorge on their delicious jalapeño mac and cheese—a luxury I partake in conservatively. After a few seconds of internal debate, I choose the study room.

A gaggle of grinless girls block the awkwardly constricted hallway that leads to the expansive lounge and the tucked-away black study room. I whimper a weak, “Excuse me”. Of course, that yields no results. I nudge my way through them, knocking over a container of one of their freshest ingredients: the tomato. I groan at my clumsiness but also at their lack of storage space (or so it seems). Which coked-up dumbass thought it was a good idea to fill this tight, narrow passage with containers that the employees will need to continually retrieve throughout their day when they know that many a big-hipped lady—like myself—will have to traverse this obstacle course of poorly-assembled, precarious container tower? I remain paralyzed for a brief second, fighting the urge to just pretend I didn’t notice anything and continue on. But I know better than to do that, and also the girls are now staring at me. I pick up the closed container and place it atop the box with other fresh ingredients. Still recuperating from that gaffe, I prematurely choose to sit down at the first table I come across in the black room to draw as little attention to myself as I can. But everyone is busy boring their eyes into their MacBooks, so it really doesn’t matter. I relocate to a corner table and take out my wallet in preparation to go order myself that delicious mac and cheese I have come here for.

As I walk back through the semi-winding path to the counter, I realize just how much I hate this place. This is the place where typewriters are appropriated as table accessories and Pepto Bismol pink is pushed to its artistic limits. This is the place where mid-century decorations come to prosper amidst its more contemporary counterparts placed (methodically) sparingly. This is the place where white girls with dreads can roam with reckless abandon. This is the place where bangs come to permanently rest mid-forehead, unkempt beards come to grow ceaselessly, and thick, shaped eyebrows come to flourish. This is the place where smiles come to die. My barista, especially, looks dead inside.

“I’m sorry. We’re not taking any food orders for another five minutes. But I can do a drink order.” Are you fucking kidding me!? “Bullshit!!!” I scream internally. “Yeah sure. No problem. I’ll just do an iced coffee for now then.” God, I hate their coffee. I really just came for the food, but I felt obligated. Should I just stand there for the five minutes? Because by the time I make my way through that cramped-ass hallway and into the back of the cramped-ass room I had situated myself in, it will probably be time to retrace my steps to order that fucking mac and cheese. Yet, standing there for even one more solitary minute seems akin to opening a can of doldrums, which I can definitely do without. So, I go sit back down and indulge myself in a few episodes of The Daily Show. I order my mac and cheese at an appropriate time after my first order. Now, we wait.

“Ray?” hails a tall, thin woman with billowy blond hair as she prances from one room to the next. I reluctantly raise my hand once she reaches the black room and say, “here,” unsure as to how to properly respond to this super alt food-serving system. In seconds, a large, searing, brown bowl brimming with cheesy, unctuous, goopy goodness greets me. I am advised to heed caution when touching the bowl since it’s very hot. I roll my eyes and swiftly break off the molten, wax-like cheese sticking to the side of the bowl. Wasting no time, I grab the fork, and sink it into the creamy glob of pasta. This jalapeño mac and cheese is tantric. I relish the first bite and hold off for what seems like hours. I don’t want to finish it within minutes. I want to savor every gorgeous bite, so I take to wistfully staring at my bowl. Pieces of jalapeños peak their heads out through the perforations in the simmering orange blanket of cheddar cheese, goading me to eat them. So, I eat them. I do, in fact, finish within minutes — 7 minutes to be exact. I have scalded my tongue, but I really don’t care.

Peals of laughter intercept the murmurs in the black room and my euphoric state. I look down at my clean bowl and push it aside. I close my laptop, not even remembering what I was working on (if I was even working on anything). I check my phone. No updates. Whatever. Don’t care. I confidently sling my bag around my shoulder, push in my chair, and make my way out of this hideously hip coffee bar. My work here is done.

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