The Middle-Aged Parent’s Fifteen Minutes of Paradise
I open the soy sauce packet with my teeth, being careful to not rip it longways and spill the dark juice across my chin and shirt sleeve.
Grocery-store sushi awaits, rubbery rice embracing slices of fish so cold they have no flavor. Except for the soy, that saving elixir dripped along the surface ever so carefully, not to waste a drop.
Each bite delivers a satisfying zen moment. Which it should, considering each bite costs about $1.10. Do the fish know they’ve gone up in price? I hope they are getting a cut somewhere downstream.
If my kids were here, they’d be shoving sticky fingers all in my sushi, claiming the best pieces. But I am alone, a heavenly fifteen minutes alone, and not in a bathroom stall or staring at my cell phone half asleep at a stoplight. I am just … alone. Home. At a table. With food. Present. Flow.
I get excited at the thought and my legs kick with glee. I kick the cat, the fat one, who waits beneath chairs trying to crib the occasional free belly rub. He moves away, looking at me in acknowledgment that he plans to kill me in my sleep and feast on the marrow in my bones.
Today I ate a bagel with cream cheese, another bagel with cream cheese, a chocolate croissant, and washed it all down with seven cups of coffee. Every time I open the fridge, apples tumble out. We went to an orchard. Everyone got to pick a basket. It was not a well thought out plan. Now I can’t see what else is in the fridge, behind the tumbling apples. I can only reach the bagels and cream cheese. And catch apples.
There are apps for people who too frequently dine alone, to help them connect with others. They take pictures of their food to prove to the world, “Hey! I've eaten!”
When I dine alone, it is an event worthy of 600 words' remembrance. It is a robe of glory I wrap myself in, relishing the sound the shoddy chopsticks make as I break them apart, thoughtfully admiring the tiny individual splinters shorn from the master wood. Indulging in the glorious display of red and orange fish so elegantly placed within the disposable plastic to-go boat between a turd of wasabi and fake grass.
I sink in humility before the craftsmanship of the sushi chefs, who individually thanked me, bowing, as I pulled my selection from the cooled display case, acknowledging in clear wonder and awe how I selected the choicest, tastiest cuts. Thank you, thank you.
You’re welcome, grocery store sushi chefs; a courtesy nod. You. Are. Welcome.
And now, as I complete the ritual with a final bite, loading this omega 3-rich, lean protein onto the 3,000 calories of buttery carbohydrates I’ve already consumed earlier today, I begin to feel smarter, more powerful, and hyper-focused. I am better than the man who sat in this seat fifteen minutes ago.
I am filled with maguro shipped from exotic shores abroad solely for my dining pleasure, and mine alone. Just the fish and me. Now, only I remain. Hear me roar, creatures of the earth! I am the apex predator!
It’s been about ten minutes since I finished and now I have terrible stomach cramps.