Adult me and kid me aren’t that different. We like lots of the same things and look quite similar; same hair and eye colour, above-average tallness, below-average coordination. We like pratfalls and singing, reading books and over-eating; we both change into our pyjamas the moment we get home from anywhere after 6pm; we fear losing the people we love and struggle to be our best for them, keeping them safe with the force of our effort; we’re both double-jointed in our fingers and our favourite movie is Home Alone.
But adult me and kid me aren’t quite cheese and pickles, electric chair and sparks. As the adult despairs, the kid was hopeful. Where the adult is timid, the kid was tough. Maybe kid me did once grab our kid neighbor at the throat and push her against a wall before demanding she hand over her cake. That may have happened (Coffs Harbour, circa 1987). Sure, you could call that bullying if you want, but my mum? She preferred determination. That same mum-diagnosed determination forced me up on my tippy-toes, digging my baby spoon blindly into the oversized honey tin on the bench before dragging it off the counter and onto my head; like Ned Kelly wearing his helmet over a molten, golden, sticky delicious balaclava. But way tougher.
Adult me is in New York City and at 11pm heads to Times Square. Already that roasting hot day we’d eaten fried chicken, waffles, bacon, eggs and grilled pineapple for breakfast, walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, rode Jane’s Carousel, wandered the Brooklyn Flea, stopped for a hipster hot dog, then a Crif Dog, then devils on horseback, then coffee, then fizzy drinks on a rooftop as the fiery sun set over Manhattan.
Now it’s dark, but garish Times Square defies the night with electricity, neon, jumbotrons and lights beyond measure. We blink and turn circles in the dazzle, until all seems to dim around us as we spot the flashing festoon beacon spelling out two glorious five-letter words: SHAKE. SHACK.
Joining the queue (there’s always a queue) we’re weighing the futility of our late night mission before my kid-size, mum-diagnosed determination rears. This has to happen. I’m hot, I’m hungry and I’ve come a long way to eat these crinkle fries and crown a victor in the age-old battle between West and East: In-N-Out burger VS the ShackBurger. We’re not leaving.
After weaving through the twenty-minute line, we order Double ShackBurgers ($7.35, $1.25 more to add bacon), a hand-spun vanilla shake ($5), fries ($2.85) and a diet coke ($2, regular size). Then we fight for a table. The diner is packed and the seat-less circle like seagulls at a chip – hovering, intruding and pestering until we secure a spot. Kid me would strong-arm any kid for a ShackBurger, so fresh is the lettuce and sliced tomato, so umami and robust the beef. Then she’d eat it in their face, meat juices and ShackSauce dripping from her wrists.
Shake Shack leaves the bloody, animal style corpse of In-N-Out splayed across the battlefield and if kid me were there she’d have pressed play on her portable cassette player, given adult me a high five, then lip-synced the words to Michael Jackson’s Dangerous while working through some tight choreography on In-N-Out’s grave.