This was the first time in a while that Perl had been to a restaurant again.

“Ahh, I bet this will distract your mind from Delfi for a bit,” Haskel said, “you cannot be sad all the time, after all.”

“Yeah, you may be right, thanks Has,” Perl replied. Ever since Delfi had broken things off between them, he had become increasingly secluded. His career was meandering along, but mediocre middle-management was never a challenge anyway. His friends expected him to be heartbroken, but in truth he hadn’t felt in love anymore for months.

They pushed through the door and were greeted by a handsome tall server who took their coats.

“Welcome back, Haskel,” said the server, “this way to your table. We have a special menu tonight and I’m confident you’ll enjoy it. Right up your alley. You’ve brought a friend along, I see?”

“Sounds great Vim, and yes, I’ve brought my friend Perl.”

Vim turned to Perl, “A pleasure to welcome you, sir. Just to confirm, you’re one meter eighty tall and weigh seventy kilograms, correct?”

“Uh, yes, but,” stammered Perl.

“Nothing to worry about,” Haskel said, “I provided them with your information beforehand.”

“It’s to ensure that we do not overdo the portions,” said their server, while he poured Perl and Haskel some clear sparkling liquid in pitchers filled with ice. “Make yourself comfortable, and then we’ll serve you a first course soon.”

Perl took a sip from his glass and allowed himself to relax a little. He sighed and smiled cautiously. “I’m sure she would have loved the atmosphere in this place. It buzzes with passion and creativity. She was always the more adventurous of us both.”

“This is what we have all been worrying about,” Haskel said, “you haven’t been able to think about anything else. You’re rewriting the narrative as if you’re nothing without her, but all of us remember the passionate guy you were back in university. Where did that man go, Perl?”

Perl hesitated. What was he doing with his life? "She was perfect for me, Has. Delfi inspired me to sail again," Perl's voice quivered, "I've never felt as close to my parents before as when I did when we were on the seas."

"And that is beautiful," Haskel said, "and you can still experience that connection! You can sail on your own, heck, any one of us would love to join you in your boat if you'd care to ask."

"I stopped. Sailing is now doubly painful for all its memories."

"Come on man," Haskel put his glass back on the table, rattling the three layers of cutlery, "try to leave those memories behind and move on. That is what our dinner is about, after all."

A soft bell rang from the kitchen and moments later Vim appeared, weaving through tables with other guests. Most people looked to be ambiantly conversing, though some were dining alone, seemingly unbothered. When Vim reached their table, he put down two large white plates for Perl and Haskel. The outer rings of the plate guided their attention through all its empty space to the center, adorned by a dome of slightly opaque crisp.

"We call this, The Heist," said Vim. He conjured two small metal hammers from his sleeve and carefully placed them alongside the plates. "It's meant to be shattered, symbolizing the start of the meal and its effects it will have on you. Underneath lie bean sprouts from the Japanese emperor's personal garden. They glisten from a garlic confit and sparkle with salt crystals, all resting atop a cushion of baby mint leaves. Enjoy." Vim bowed politely and retreated again.

"Wow, looks amazing," Perl took his small hammer and looked up at Haskel. When assured, he hit the top of the crispy dome, causing it to collapse in pieces. A small cloud of spice wafted up, hinting of savory and earthy tones. They both gathered crisps and sprouts on a spoon, smiled at each other, and then tasted their bites at the same time.

Its strong and fatty tastes combined with the collage of textures hit Perl powerfully, almost as if more than just food flowed through his senses. He felt his brain tingling, an explosion causing ripples through millions of neurons and synapses. It felt unlike anything he'd ever experienced.

"How is it?" asked Haskel.

There were no words. "It's..." But there were actually no words. Perl felt a panic stirring, then finally some English came to him. "It's… powerful. Is it meant to feel so powerful?"

"What do you mean?" asked Haskel, but his lips hinted into a smile.

"It's as if my brain appreciates the food on a level that I've never felt before." Perl smiled broadly, "truly fascinating, never would've thought this possible!"

They both finished the dish in awe. Perl felt lighter. Worries far away, even though he'd felt stressed coming here. Vim brought them more dishes. Stunning works of creativity, unique ingredients and tastes, and mind-boggling experiences. Perl started to lose track of it all as they sampled their way through the tasting menu. But the smile playing on his lips and touching his eyes never disappeared.

Until something broke.

"Who am I?" asked Perl, after he swallowed his last bite of pine-roasted celeriac glazed in flowery nectar.

Haskel looked up at him, eyes wide. "Are you joking with me? Please tell me you're just joking."

Perl looked confused.

"Fuck, they must have gotten the dosages wrong. But they never do. It can't be." Haskel had put down his cutlery and napkin, and was now frantically looking around. "Tell me, what do you remember of Delfi?"

"Who's Delfi?" asked Perl.

"Your ex-girlfriend, remember."

"I had a girlfriend? I must be a charming guy then. Can you tell me more about me?"

Haskel groaned. Their server was nowhere to be seen, and all of the other guests were in their own bubble. "Look, Perl, I'm sorry," Haskel said, "I should have never taken you here. It was just… It seemed like the perfect solution, to forget your pain. We just wanted the Perl back that we knew."

"Is this… do they serve food that triggers amnesia?" Perl asked, "am I losing memories right now? What don't I know? What have I forgotten?"

Haskel became silent. He didn't know what to do. It had gone too far.

And then, dessert arrived.