The miso soup is salty and rich, and I muse about the biological basis of flavor and umami. How did we escape knowing about a fifth flavor for so long?
I could, perhaps, create a list of past, present and future loss. I could attempt to justify my current obsession with mortality. I could, alternatively, bury myself in socio-psychological research and write an article about existential angst and the effects of the recognition of life as a temporary state on the self-imposed emotional isolation of many Westerners.
None of these options would prevent the inevitable glazing of my listeners' eyes or have any positive effect on me, the speaker.
The couple sitting next to me at the sushi bar share a pile of eda mame, and I guiltily picture the bag of it in my freezer, forsaken and pushed aside for more than a year.
I picture you - each of you - shuffling uncomfortably on your bar stools, fiddling with the labels on your beer bottles, as I describe how my life becomes circumscribed from time to time, my muscles seizing in mute panic as I contemplate leaving my nest on the couch. I watch myself earnestly trying to describe psychophysiological pain, and I shake my head with pity and disgust.
The salad is crisp and covered in ginger dressing. I first tried this particular type of dressing on my 16th birthday, when my mom took my brothers and me to a Japanese steakhouse. It was the most exotic thing I'd ever tasted, and my mom was giddy at being able to buy us that experience.
There are parts of myself I don't talk about - can't talk about when I'm aching, at least with any directness. Not even with my partner, the most significant person in my current life. We lie in bed, curled together, the lights out, and I am safer than I have any right to be. I try to put words together: Subject+Verb+Object, the signifier and the signified as close as they can be. The words evaporate before they leave my left frontal lobe and, instead, I talk around the signified, straining for analogies that are only meaningful to me. I find I am unable to translate even concrete grief - both old and new - into language. In my frustration, I blame minor deities for my linguistic ineptitude.
The wasabi hits my tongue followed by the tang of pickled ginger and the soft, cool slice of fish. My nose runs and my mouth is happy.
For now, this is enough.
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