There’s a time when you realize you haven’t done anything for a while. You haven’t written, you haven’t felt like you’ve been experiencing life, you feel like you can’t start up again.
I had started this year with good intentions. Get new media options up. Video. Audio. And for the first day of this year, I did great.
Then I had food poisoning and it all sort of went out of whack from there.
But now, five months later, I’m going to tell you a story.
It may be a real story, it may not be.
The important thing is that I tell it. It starts like this:
Dinner after work is always a conundrum. Do I go home and save money? Or do I go out and bring home leftovers that languish in the fridge? Or rather, food that languishes until my food poisoning paranoia sets in and I throw them out.
Today, I decide to have Japanese since we had a barbecue at work.
A bowl of miso and a tamago roll and some green tea and then a pleasant walk home. Not a bad plan.
Today Trung welcomes me and I sit at the sushi bar at the back, at my usual spot. Peter says hello and sells me a typhoon roll, their special tonight. I order a green tea and head to the restroom to wash my hands.
When I return, there’s a family of four seated next to me at the sushi bar.
One boy, younger. One teenage girl. One blond housewife. And one dour looking man, his face blood red hot, his palms pressed against his temples as if they were the only things keeping his head from exploding.
His words feel chosen, deliberate. “I just want you to answer the question.”
The teenager exhales and rolls her eyes as she shakes her head and checks off her sushi order on the menu.
My tea arrives and the green cup is warm in my hand.
“You never listen to me dad,” she says, not lifting her pencil from the paper.
The man’s voice is low, but not low enough. “You are lucky we are not in the country of my birth. You would be thrown into the street and killed for your disrespect.” He grabs the paper and starts erasing some of her sushi orders. She protests briefly, but the mother intervenes.
I drink my tea until my typhoon roll arrives. Eight large pieces of avocado, crab, toro, and tempura breadcrumbs, wrapped in seaweed and rice, and each topped with different fish eggs. One of the piles is bright green, and I eat it first.
I find out that the green pile of fish eggs is wasabi infused tobico roe, and it is delicious.
Over the next three pieces, the family’s conversation unfolds through a series of disconnected poisonous sentences.
“Only freshmen losers need their mothers to help them.”
“You didn’t even finish all the sushi you ordered last time.”
“I’m sorry, I’m tired, and now I just want to have dinner, but then I get treated this way.”
“You’re an alcoholic. You always drink too much.”
“I love edamame.”
“You know what? You may not want to blow up in public, but I will.”
The mother moves from her seat, taking her Kirin Light with her. As she sits down at the bar she brushes against my hat, knocking it to the floor. She apologizes as I pick it up and place it back on the bar. She looks at the typhoon roll on my plate. “Is that good?”
“It’s a little large, but I like it.” I reply. I consider the rest of the roll, but then ask for the check.
The mother stops one of the waitresses and orders a large warm sake. It arrives with one cup, and she serves herself. She looks at her daughter. “It was food poisoning last night. That’s the reason I was throwing up.” She downs the sake like a shot and follows it closely with a swig of her beer.
My food returns to me in a plastic container and I pay in cash, over tipping. I check my watch. It’s been twenty minutes since I arrived.
“It’s raining,” Trung says. “It’s starting to rain hard.”
“That’s okay,” I say. “It’s not too far.” I put on my jacket and get ready to leave. I wave goodnight as I walk into the rain.
Trung stops me before I hit the sidewalk. “Let me give you a ride home.” Trung’s car is directly in front of the restaurant and unlocked before I can refuse. The ride is short and we talk about the restaurant until we get to my building. As I get my bags out of the car he says, slowly, almost respectfully.
And I laugh.