It was winter in Chicago and I was wearing blue and green shiny heels on the “El.” I had bought them in anticipation of this evening, thinking that they looked like the sort of shoes that should be worn to sushi. I was probably holding hands with my boyfriend. We had been apart for seven months, and we couldn’t stop holding hands.
The wind whipped around my legs, encased in nylons. We had to walk for several blocks and halfway there, I couldn’t feel my feet. I worried that I might accidentally step wrong in my heels and break my ankle.
But I didn’t.
We arrived at our destination, a small sushi restaurant which had come highly recommended by the neighbor of the friend I was staying with. I had made reservations, but it soon became evident that they hadn’t been needed.
We had the place to ourselves.
We had talked, that night and earlier that week, about our wedding plans. We had a date swimming in the future. We had not yet begun to fight about the color of the bridesmaid dresses.
That night, I was introducing him to sushi for the first time.
I’m not sure exactly how it started for me. I think some friends back home had invited me along to sushi for the first time.
There is a little restaurant in Spokane called Sushi.com (which, ironically, didn’t have a website until recently). I’m pretty sure that was the first place I tasted sushi (other than grocery store California rolls).
The menu was large and overwhelming and they ordered rolls for the table, giving me a chance to try a lot of different things.
I was hooked. I loved the fresh taste of the cucumbers, the texture of the avocado and the flavorful salmon, the tangy punch of the spicy tuna.
From then on, I went to sushi regularly. Sometimes with those who already enjoyed it. Other times, I would bring new initiates, ordering rolls for the table carefully, as my friends had done.
My boyfriend and I sat together, knowing that our time was drawing to a close. He would be traveling back to school and I was studying abroad for a month in London. We weren’t sure when we would see each other next.
I ordered sushi for us, carefully, thoughtfully.
They brought it quickly, and I watched nervously as he took his first bite.
He smiled and squeezed my hand, taking another roll between his chopsticks.
We made short work of that plate (and the ones that came after).
I was supremely happy that night, with no shadow of a notion that the beginning of March would bring a fissure and an irreparable break to this relationship.
It was the new year, and I was sharing sushi with the man I loved.
A year later, I ventured into a larger Indiana city on a day off from school with my roommate.
We were in search of sushi.
We had done our homework and found a place, in central Indiana, that seemed to get good reviews. After a leisurely day and some cryptic directions, we made our way there.
It had been months since I had been to sushi, and I was craving it.
Even my roommate, who was from New York City, had to admit that this sushi was delicious. We consumed more than we probably should have, drinking endless cups of green tea to go along with it.
Later that night, after we returned to the dorms, we began to notice a change in the hall. That night was the beginning of a flu epidemic which lasted for most of January.
That night, I began to feel very ill.
Though the sushi wasn’t to blame, even the thought of eating it brought on nausea.
I dated a boy that spring, not knowing the depth of my mental block. On our first official date, he took me to sushi. I ate all of the tempura vegetables, but couldn’t bring myself to eat more than one bite of sushi.
When I moved back home, I went to a bachelorette party at Sushi.com. I did my best to try to eat, but I found myself leaving hungry and finding other options at home.
In a bind for a magazine, this past winter, I found myself needing to review a sushi restaurant. I took a pair of new friends along and forced it down. I felt so close, but I still went home with a stomach ache.
Over the years, I’ve been frustrated about sushi. I truly loved the whole experience, the flavors, the deep fried green tea ice cream at the end of the evening. It was awful to have something I enjoyed so much taken from me, seemingly without cause.
After a while, I gave up, put sushi in my rearview mirror and spoke sweet, comforting words to myself.
Lately, I’ve been learning a few things about healing. No matter how hard I wish wounds to be healed, they do not heal on my timeline. The Spirit binds my wounds, and they often heal slow, itching for a while, even though they are still tender.
I’m learning to lean into this process, and not to wish it away. I would rather that the skin be unmarred and the bones re-grow straight. Even if it takes longer than I think I can stand.
This past week, I began to crave sushi. I could taste the raw salmon on my tongue as I dropped off to sleep. I woke thinking about the rolls I would always order, no matter what else I switched up. For the first time since that fateful day, so many years ago, I was hungry for sushi again.
On Tuesday, a friend and I went to hear Molly Wizenberg, a food writer from Seattle, at a local bookstore. We went to dinner beforehand, and I asked if she would like to go to sushi, hoping that she would say yes.
I arrived at Sushi.com with a strong appetite and started to scan the menu. The part of my brain that knew what each element tasted like and predicted how it would taste together kicked into gear. My mouth began to water.
My friend and I ordered several rolls and shared them. Unlike the other times I’ve tried to force sushi back into my life, these plates did not stay laden long.
I allowed myself to slow down and enjoy the experience I had been craving. I let the fish linger for a moment on my tongue, savoring the flavors and the quenching of a hunger I had carried for so long.
As I feasted, I noticed a new flavor. It tasted a little like redemption.