Considerations | Confession of a Flamin' Hot-Aholic

Via Issue 188, The Eternal Flame Issue!

Written by

Amanda Herely

Photographed by

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Styled by

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Gelare Khoshgozaran, “Medina Wasl: Connecting Town,” (2018). 16mm Film Transferred To Video, Color, Sound. 31 Min. Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Purchased With Funds Provided By Cindy Miscikowski. Photo: Joshua White

Dear Chester Cheetah and Spicy Friends,

It’s Duane, the local stoner who was three years sober from spicy foods. Emphasis on the was. That’s right, dudes, I relapsed on my Tuesday night trip to 7-Eleven. And since you’re the most important broskies in my life, it’s time to come clean.

It all started when I hotboxed myself in my red 2001 Chevy Impala (the one with the flames on the side), and all I could think was, “Man, I could really go for a well-seasoned snack.” After all, the only thing I ate that day was a lukewarm bean burrito and a few fistfuls of Fruity Pebbles. The bong had hit me hard, and I needed something to take the edge off before I watched Inception for the fortieth time. I just can’t figure it out.

After the smoke cleared, I was able to make my way to the 7-Eleven snack aisle. I was at a real crossroads because they were sold out of Fritos, and I wasn’t going to risk getting my hand stuck in a Pringles can again. That’s when I noticed an employee stocking the nearby shelf with a fresh-off-the-truck row of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Perfectly half-filled with air, there was a slight crinkle made each time one was placed on its shelf. It was a sound I knew all too well.

Then, distracted by me reciting mantras like, “I am a strong, capable man worthy of recovery,” and “Spicy foods don’t define me,” the employee dropped the bag. I instinctively picked it up, not anticipating the seal would break open, expelling thousands of 

Cheeto particles that one could only describe as the alluring musk of a familiar lover. I had conditioned myself to “just say no” when confronted with spicy foods, but my tummy was grumbling. I had a dire case of the munchies, and the only cure was a fistful of Flamin’ Hot deliciousness. Plus, the bag had opened in my hands, which was a sign from The Ten Commandments of Common Courtesy (and God) to buy them.

In the checkout line, I kept reminding myself that my butthole would never survive another bowel-blazing bender. My doctor said that one more Cheeto would permanently turn my hole Flamin’ Hot red. That’s when I had one of my genius ideas: why not wash it down with a blue Slurpee? I know, it wasn’t the best idea, but just one Cheeto and a jumbo Slurpee more than cancel each other out. My heart was racing. I needed that crunch in my mouth. The next thing I remember, I was pouring a fourth bag of Flamin’ Hots down my throat. I was no longer savoring them; I was devouring them. I had done the deed. No matter how hard I scrubbed, Red 40 would forever stain my pickin’ fingers.

To the average consumer, it was just a bag of Hot Cheetos, but to me, the bag had become a pulsating, bottomless vortex leading to infinity. I knew that if I didn’t stop, I’d fall back into old habits. Hot Cheetos for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. On eggs, in a casserole, seasoning a Thanksgiving Turkey. I’d start infusing my water with Cheetos. I’d even light a Cheeto like a cigarette and smoke it between sips. I’d pressure others into snorting Cheeto dust, and I’d tell off anyone who refused to share my Cheeto-flavored lip gloss. I’d start thinking, feeling, and behaving like a Cheeto. 

Looking down at the crumbs that remained, I knew this had to be my last taste of what Chester called “the flavor you have to believe.” It was the mix between corn chips, imitation lime, and spicy mouth farts that I once thought brought me closer to God. As I began to feel the fire in my lower intestine, I knew this wasn’t God, but the Devil. So, I stood on the precipice of that great Void, tossed the Cheeto crumbs out the window, and felt the heat that was searing my insides slowly dissipate from my body.

Maybe it was my decision to become sober, or maybe the pot was wearing off, but everything around me began to feel so real. It wasn’t the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto I was after, but the Truth. Truth like how my real name is Brian but I tell everyone to call me Duane because it sounds cooler. The truth between vulnerability and Hot Cheetos. The truth that when faced with fire, you might get burned. 

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Amanda Herely, Flaunt Magazine, Issue 188, The Eternal Flame Issue, Considerations