Every order of sushi should come with a barf bag tucked discreetly beneath the plate. This idea struck me dead in the gut the night my husband pestered me to try a gelatinous foreign body plopped across a sticky rectangle of rice.
After a barrage of, "C'mon, you'll like it. Just eat it. You never want to try anything new," I gave in and placed the morsel on my tongue, gently biting. Immediately my mouth flooded with saliva. My eyes watered. The alleged delicacy tasted exactly like licking the inside of a bait bucket left in the sun with 30 dead minnows festering.
I guiltily recalled the summer day, out of sheer boredom, pure meanness, and intense curiosity, that I coaxed my older brother into eating an acorn. The bitter taste screwed up his face like a Funhouse mirror might. It brought me unspeakable joy.
What goes around sooner or later comes around, I suppose; thus my husband sat across the table from me with a satisfied smirk, much like the one I wore on the day of the acorn incident. Meanwhile, my gills turned green. Somehow, the flesh of the fish expanded to fill my entire oral cavity.
I chewed with surgical precision, so as not to trigger a gag reflex. The more I masticated, the more massive the chunk grew. Finally, I heaved it into my napkin, which I then shoved at the next passing waiter.
On my cocky spouse's plate sat two rings of green seaweed; one with the slimy tentacles of a precious baby octopus draped down the sides, and the other with spongy strips of a juicy jellyfish boiling out. He selected the octopus and confidently wrapped his lips around it.
The strangest expression crowded his features as he mumbled, through tentacles and such, "What part of an octopus would crunch?"
"The beak?" I half asked, half stated.
His face blanched. He checked under his plate for a barf bag. In the end he had to swallow - the waiters were on to my napkin trick. The lone jellyfish jiggled when my husband gripped the sides of the table with both hands and fought down the sweet infant ink monster.
My beloved considered the jellyfish with a glazed look.
Hoping to help, I engaged in a brief soliloquy about smelt. Smelt, a lyrical name for fish eggs, kept popping up, a vestige of my pressured foray into raw fish. I complained to my mate, who breathed like a dog in labor, that when I thought I'd at last swallowed it all, more came slipping out of lip folds and cheek creases in little bursts and spurts.
Suddenly, without notice, he gulped up the jellyfish display. I made out the word, "Chewy," stifled by the mass between his cheeks and gums. Tears seeped from his forehead, and he rocked back and forth in rhythm with his jaw movements. Foreseeing that what goes around could come up, I grabbed a table linen and held it under his chin.
Later, leaving the restaurant, I jabbed, "How bad was it, really?"
He woozily responded, "I can't talk about it."
While at the beach this week, the above evening still fresh on my husband's breath, our children, as always, gathered a variety of ocean life from the tidal pools and constructed a nature display upwind from our chairs. I watched my husband, his brow furrowed, fidgeting in his seat.
"What is wrong with you?" I asked.
"I'm thinking of baseball."
"Because it's all sushi to me," he choked, indicating the kids' menagerie.
Have I mentioned unspeakable joy?