This particular evening, he wants steak. Not having any, we proceed to hit every steak restaurant in town. We traveled to about four, all of whom were out of steak, before I started to have a panic attack. They're also all full up on a forty minute wait at most, and I can't wait in a restaurant. I've got horrible autism issues in regards to that sort of thing (you should see what happens when I have to go to a gas station I've never been to before). He motions with his hand and says it's find, we'll go out tomorrow, but no. In my autistic brain, I promised steak, and that means a fucking steak place. I run through the roster and suddenly remember one (Do not be fooled by the photography).
I head down towards the 417 and past the junk dealer, beyond the warehouse church, and instead of diving towards Oviedo, I veer off the road to a place where street lights do not shine. In the deep shadows I cruise, my car clattering with the sound of insects off the windshield and the roar of loose dirt beneath it. Both of my passengers begin to get worried. It's been ten years, but I still remember the way. We pass by trailers and decaying orange groves, flashing through a tunnel of swirling Spanish moss so thick it resembles bleak polyps in the depths of some ancient terror's digestive tract.
I turn at the airboat ride sign and plunge into a parking lot half buried in swamp. The dim light of the restaurant cuts through the night. We get out, and there is a lake off to the side, and what surrounds us is the very depth of Florida. He's got to get out carefully, but gets pushed out by my roommate. He staggers around for a moment, almost in awe and rage.
“This is it!” he shouts, waving his arms, “This is the end!”
“The end of what?” my roommate asks.
“The end of Florida! You've taken me to the Steak Restaurant at the End of Florida,” he screams again, and motions to the lake, “that is the edge of reality, the end of civilization. Over that way, right there, on the map, they'll have written 'Here Be Dragons!'”
I turn my head around. He's pointing at the gator pen, which he can't see from where he's at.
“You're gesturing at the gator pen, you know,” I respond.
“And that's my point!” he shouts again.
I want to tell him that this isn't the Steak Restaurant at the End of Florida, since that honor belongs to the Miccosukee restaurant, but we approach the entrance anyway. There's a brief moment of fear, since the glass windows are covered in so many midges it looks like gray carpet curtains from a distance, and the porch functions like an airlock to keep them out. We get inside, sit down, and wait for twenty minutes for the server. They have no steak, either. They ran out five minutes ago, in fact.
He screams. I bought a grill on Sunday.