“Hold your chopsticks this way,” he tells her. “It’s how the Japanese do it.”
So he’s a bit of a bossy pants. But she’ll give him a chance.
“You want to prove you’re a dope?” he says. “When you take out the chopsticks, rub them together like you’re trying to get rid of splinters. Think about it. How insulting is that to a restaurant?”
Did she rub her chopsticks together? She can’t remember. She looks at them in her hand and for an instant imagines jabbing them into his eyes. Pow! Pow!
Okay. That’s a terrible thing to think and they’ve only just met and going all Oedipus is probably an awful idea. Try to focus on the good bits. He’s attractive. Not too fat or too skinny, he is three little bears porridge, just right. Dark eyes, dark hair, a crooked smile and the hint of a single dimple.
He’s slurping at his miso soup. A piece of green onion settles on his chin.
Berkeley undergrad, Vanderbilt Law, works for a public interest firm. Likes hiking, all music except pop, all sports except NASCAR (and why is car racing considered a sport anyway, that’s what he said in his profile and she has to agree). The last time he cried was when he went to the Musée d'Orsay and saw van Gogh’s Starry Night Over the Rhone. He thinks going to restaurants should be an adventure.
And that’s how they’ve found this place, newly opened, not reviewed yet and usually you might be a little wary of an unknown sushi place, but he’d heard the head chef used to be at Kiriko. Or Sushi Zo. It doesn’t matter, it’s some place good.
Of course he insists on omakase. “Why not let the chef pick?” he tells her. “He knows what’s the freshest, so what if it’s more expensive? This is on me.” He winks.
She forces a smile. The food is good. The sake is cold. She’d agreed to the omakase, but would prefer no sea urchin.
“You’re an uni virgin?” The piece of green onion is still on his chin.
“Not a virgin. Just a hater.” She could take her napkin and wipe off the green onion. Instead she eats her Spanish octopus with Japanese mushroom.
“I’ll make sure they bring us uni,” he says. “Two orders.” He smiles and the onion drops off his chin and onto the table.
The waiter presents a new platter and announces, “Blue fin tuna belly sashimi.”
When the waiter is gone, her date picks up a piece of the blue fin tuna belly sashimi. “Dating in L.A. is brutal,” he says. “Let’s face it, I’ve got everything going for me. So you should feel pretty lucky.”
She nods. Feeling wildly unlucky.
He smacks his lips. She can see bits of sushi in his mouth. “Excellent.”
He’s not wrong. He’s arrogant and controlling and talks with his mouth open. But the sashimi is fabulous. So fabulous she wants to call the waiter back and ask for more. Maybe she should date a sushi chef.
She watches him eat. Wonders how long you give a date before you realize it’s time to cut your losses.
She’s thinking about that as they eat skipjack, fluke, kanpachi, raw amberjack with shiso leaf and pickled plum. And uni.
She could cut him some slack. It’s not so bad, he’s nervous, he’s trying too hard. She pokes at her rice with her chopsticks. Take the high road, why be a judgy bitch?
He grabs the chopsticks out of her hand. He’s frowning.
“What are you doing?” he says. “You can’t stick your chopsticks in a bowl of rice. That’s how they honor the dead in Japan. Only dumb motherfuckers do that.”
“A friend of mine told me there’s a polite thing to say to the chefs when you’re leaving,” she says as he’s paying the bill.
“I’ve never heard that.”
“My friend spent a year in Osaka.”
He looks skeptical. “So what is it?”
“Wow, I hope I remember.” She taps the side of her head. “Kuso kurae. Geri shiteru, bakayarou.
“Tell me again?”
When they leave the restaurant, he waves and says in a too loud voice, but with much gusto, “Kuso kurae! Geri shiteru, bakayarou!”
She has already called her Lyft and sprints down the street away from him.
In the car on her way home she tries to think of a bright side. At least perhaps one day he’ll find a use for learning how to say, “Eat shit. I’ve got diarrhea, asshole.”
Ella Horton is a writer living in New Mexico.