Lately, because I’m spending so much time in the woods, I’ve been brushing up on survival techniques and seeking out new information—water, shelter, fire. It’s been a hard winter, so far, and the end seems ridiculous to think about as each day seems colder than the first day of the season. In twenty-below weather, I’ve been trudging through knee- to thigh-high snow. I break the quiet of the forest with my breathing, and occasionally:
If you’ve ever had a small tree branch whip against the bridge of your nose on a raw, cold day, you understand.
I recently enjoyed a night out at a hibachi restaurant, which was the first time I’ve been around a large group of people since I traveled to Portland to see the screening of the short film I wrote. Even though it had only been a matter of weeks, I had to adjust tremendously to be comfortable with a crowd. Hibachi was a good choice because I was forced to abandon my usual dining caveats. Except for the gong and birthday songs, which seemed to happen every ten minutes, I had a remarkable time and my ‘survival’ education took a different perspective. Before I go any further, for those of you who have never been to a hibachi, there are some things you need to understand:
- You will probably get hit with food, unless you can catch it in your mouth, so don’t wear clothing that will make you cry if you get it dirty.
- It’s noisy and there’s a fucking gong. Don’t bring someone for their birthday unless you like gongs.
- You sit with people you’ve never met, and their close proximity (the fact that you’re literally eating with them) gives them permission to say things that will piss you off or, at the least, make you uncomfortable.
- If you can’t bring yourself to dismiss some dining standards, hibachi is not the place for you. Not participating makes you look like a dink.
We waited for a while to be seated. The hostess forgot who we were twice within ten minutes, but we were finally sat and the show was about to begin. At the hibachi across from us, the people eating there were finishing. Dessert arrived and all but the two women at the end opted to try what looked like a small white pile of bread pudding. These two ladies, no doubt ‘real women,’ sampled the dessert with their spoons. The woman closest to me, a blond with hairspray-stiff hair, stonewashed jeans and leather jacket, whatever Whitesnake song she’d been listening to in the tape deck of her car probably still humming in her ears, cut a small piece of the dessert off with her spoon. Her counterpart, similarly dressed, but a brunette with a perm and that same stupid puffy bangs thing did the same.
The blond woman placed the spoon down beside the plate, waved it off with a back-handed wafting motion and made the same motion to her hair with the other hand. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen someone try to flip their hair and only successfully bend their wrist.
Then, as her brunette friend continued to eat with her spoon, the blond dug her two fingers into the dessert, scooped away a mouthful and devoured it. Her friend placed her spoon down and did the same. At this point, I raised my eyebrows as I observed. I continued to watch as the consumption of their dessert became a race, became savage and carnal—a matter of survival. As the two of them scooped faster, their heads lowered closer to the plate until the last few finger-scoops practically slid off the plate directly into their mouths, which proved more convenient, especially when utensils like chopsticks or spoons are difficult to use. The last time I saw two women behave that way, a man with a rubber band around his dick coated his shaft with whipped cream.
I ordered two sushi rolls and an entrée. And I used chopsticks so I could manage to control myself.
Here are all the really exciting parts in chronological order: Soup. Salad. Sushi. The itamae arrives.
The itamae looks at me and pulls two squirt bottles of sake from his cart.
“Open your mouth,” he says.
And I did as I was told because it wasn’t prison.
“Sucky Sucky. Yeah, baby.”
We were halfway through our meal when another group was seated across from us—the abandoned lair of the hair-band groupie goddesses. Their itamae eventually arrived and banged his shit around. He was less enthusiastic with the sake than our itamae. When he got to the point of tossing clumps of rice, the tension rose to such a level that I was on edge and hoping I could finish my meal before some sort of violence erupted.
The man directly across from me waved off the itamae when he presented a clump of rice. The itamae tossed it anyway and the man blocked it with his hand. The rice dribbled over the table to the floor. For a moment, the man stared. His expression changed. A look of horror struck his face. He reached down toward his feet and began wiping. He frantically reached for a napkin and went back to his chore. The show went on for their party, but the man continued to focus on wiping. His eyes became weepy with anger and he finished, bringing his shredded napkin into view and placing it on the table.
The man’s eyes dipped into his skull as he stared at the itamae—a vehement glare that made me wonder how long it would take for someone to get stabbed. I was reminded of tree branches slapping against my face and I felt a sense of empathy for him. I realized then how large he was, how his shoulders hovered over the spot in front of him and crowded the people to his left and right. The moisture in the man’s eyes thickened, and finally, he stood. I put my chopsticks down and scooted my chair out slightly.
The man left his party. As he rounded the tables I watched him. I watched him storm out of the restaurant in his neon, bright-as-fuck, loud-as-that-fucking-gong pink sneakers, muttering a pattern of invectives. Then, in my head: Give me two pers, I need two per, So I can get to stompin’ in my Er Ferse Wuns, Big boy.