By Andrew Richdale, GQ
It's safe to say that the chemical reaction that occurs in my brain after Chick-fil-A enters my mouth verges on unhealthy. It's something akin to mania. In fact, I'm fairly certain my affection could formally be classified as addiction by DSM IV standards. It's disrupted my health, sanity, and relationships. It's defied my morals.
A freshly-prepared Chick-fil-A Original sandwich is a delicacy that is exotic to New York. So whenever I travel, I take extreme detours for a fix. I've narrowly made connections in Atlanta International after sprinting, rolly bag in tow, from Terminal D to A and back to D. I've passed up direct flights for connecting flights through Cincinnati, whose Terminal 3 has a particularly well-run establishment. On more than one drive from New York to D.C., my ex and I got in raised-voice blow-outs over the cost-benefit analysis of a scenic route through College Park, Maryland. "It's only five miles out of the way," I'd explain. "And I already know what I want." Later, in the aftermath of my victory, I would reason with myself that the MSG lingering on my tongue was worth the hour-long bout of silence. That it was even worth the guilt-ridden apology I would have to muster before we crossed the city limits.
Today, I am one week sober.
Visiting family in Kentucky recently, I consumed my last meal at Chick-fil-A: one chicken sandwich, no pickle; eight nuggets of tender white meat; and an order of salt-crusted waffle fries that were so perfectly crisp, no dipping sauce was needed.
It was a private moment. I ate the sandwich first, knowing that if I was truly full, the logical thing to sacrifice would be the fries. As the salty-sweet crunch melted on my taste buds, I thought about all the calories I had consumed over the years. There was last Christmas in Austin, where my parents reside, when I drove through the pick-up window for five consecutive meals. I felt sick after the third. The next morning I waited 15 minutes for the doors to open and then ordered two flaky, buttery chicken biscuits. There were the frequent visits during middle school, a 30-minute drive to the edge of town, where dinners were topped off with brownies à la mode. It's only clear now, 14 years wiser and 30 pounds lighter, the pact I had made with myself: to eat the gay away.
Somewhere between the last nugget and my inaugural fry, I started to fill up but pushed through -- some weird, masochistic homage to my former self. When I was finished, a polite woman with bluntly chopped blond hair approached my table. She pulled her red and white visor straight and reached for my tray. "Can I get you anything else, darlin'?" she asked with a thick, Southern drawl and smiled.
And my answer was simply, regretlessly, finally: No.