Did you hear the Five Guys on Wisconsin is closing?
The news hit me like a bolt from the blue. There I was, sitting in Leavey Center, thinking of something to write about – anything, I would have prayed, but not this. I asked how long I had to make my last visit. “Until Sunday at 10,” I heard, but that was wishful thinking; Winter Storm Jonas took away any chance of closure I had via two feet of city-stopping snow.
I slept poorly that night, my dreams haunted by hurt, by anger, by regret. What little rest I could find was dense with vivid images. Red and white tiles surround me, countless fries emerge from their paper bag dens and dance across my mind. I see a box of peanuts – I grab some, but it’s more peanuts than I wanted, more than I could ever eat.
I go to my booth, the one my friends and I would always seek out when we visited this peaceful stopover on Wisconsin and Dumbarton. To my surprise, it is already occupied by KGB defector Vitaly Yurchenko, on the exact spot of his last meal in the United States so many decades ago. He welcomes me to sit. My burger is already there. I unwrap the foil, and my meal is conveniently not upside-down.
I sit and eat with Vitaly, without speaking. It wouldn’t have helped to have spoken, because I don’t know Russian. We eat together for what could be hours, though it passes like minutes. Vitaly turns to me and says something, but I wake up before he finishes.
Back to reality. I wander Georgetown for hours. Everything looks just like it always has, give or take twenty-something inches of snow, but it feels wrong knowing that a go-to burger joint no longer awaits me just down O street. Where do I go now? I can’t spend the money to become a Thunder Burger regular, and if I’m going to Good Stuff I’m buying a shake long before I’m getting anything else. I’m rootless, uncertain, lost.
When I was but a small, scared freshman, that Five Guys was a rock of my college experience. From my Midwestern home, I had heard whispers of this mysterious burger chain from a far-off city, offering the finest hamburger experience in all the land (In-N-Out shills can fight me). Upon my arrival at Georgetown, Five Guys welcomed me – this new, dazzling Washingtonian experience in which I could instantly feel at home … but now, in my final semester, it leaves me.
That Five Guys on Wisconsin was a large, greasy brick in the DC home that I’ve made for myself, the site of many critical memories. I’ve seen ketchup spilled on shirts and watched ambulance lights glitter in the dark off the curb of N Street. Now the cradle of those memories has vanished, leaving only an empty building, and a strong smell of french fries in its place.