twenty-six pieces…

…of raw seafood…also known as sashimi. that’s what i was dared to eat on my twenty-sixth birthday and that’s exactly what i did.

when i lived in the apartment owned by the church, where my high school friends also lived, i had a neighbor named c***s. 

c***s was about five years older than me. he made good money as a computer analyst during the day and drove a brand new, red, honda crx.

c***s lived directly across from me and always had his windows open. my sister and i used to sit outside and smoke, and make up different storylines about him.

we made up stories for fun to entertain ourselves. at the time, we didn’t have a lot of money, but we had great imaginations and 99 cent cigarettes.

we opened up the windows and doors of my apartment, played music, made up stories, and dreamed out loud. our friends always migrated over to us.

and there we would all sit on the patio, talk, laugh, and listen to music for hours each evening; concrete blonde, bronski beat, queen, u2, nirvana, and pearl jam.

c***s was part of our group. he was very mysterious and kind of a shadowy figure. he had a goatee before goatees were ever really a thing. he also wore a head scarf.

we saw c***s come and go at all hours. he had some interesting outfits for sure…silky, billowy shirts…knee high lace up moccasins…lots of head scarves.

m*****a and i came to the conclusion that he was either a pirate, or a bloodthirsty vampire. i’ll never know for sure, as we didn’t try to photograph him.

anyway, i always thought that it was weird that c***s, would want to be friends with me and m*****a, and ask to meet all of my friends.

when i did end up moving away and to the house on wood street, he showed up constantly to parties, dinners, and also at my work, as a customer.

c***s also used to invite us over to watch movies and go with him to run errands. i could just never figure out why he wanted to spend time with us.

i can still see him in my mind, always there, asking questions, listening intently, and just lurking about. he was my friend, but he was kind of creepy.

i remember seeing him always making notes in a pocket-sized notebook with a pencil. i asked what he was doing one day and he said, “taking notes.”

i thought at the time, that he was just being facetious, but i later found out, that indeed he was taking notes…about everyone and everything.

anyway, i was getting ready to turn twenty-six and c***s came to me with a proposition, it was a dare, actually and he knew that i never passed up a dare.

my inability to pass up a dare, has gotten me into “trouble” over the years and now i make it a point never to play truth or dare. i know better!!

so, c***s first invited me to go out with him and his friend, k*m, for my birthday. he told me that they wanted to take me out for dinner and i agreed.

and then, he said, “oh and we’re going out for sashimi and we dare you to eat twenty-six pieces of our choosing…and drink sake with us.”

and, he threw this dare at my feet, knowing full well that i detested seafood and that i really didn’t drink that much. i looked him dead in the eyes and stared.

i appeared confident on the outside, but was hating what i was about to agree to on the inside. i said, “sure, why not.” then, i shook on it. we had a “dare date.”

july 23, 1993 came quickly. i woke up on the morning of my twenty-sixth birthday with trepidation in my gut. i went to work and the day flew by quickly.

i found myself at home wishing that i had never agreed to the dare, but knew that i needed to just be a “big girl” and suck those pieces down.

i psyched myself up, rode with c***s and k*m to the restaurant, and knew that there was nothing that i couldn’t do. we sat down at the bar.

in front of me, was a man with a knife and a very tall hat. on one side of me was c***s and on the other was k*m. they began ordering. sake came first.

i figured that if i drank enough sake, i probably wouldn’t care what i ate, but i also knew that drinking on an empty stomach was a very bad idea.

i weighed out my options and decided that i would probably rather be sick and swallow things whole, than to taste it or feel it in my mouth. 

i made a bad decision, because i didn’t take into account the fact that when vomiting, you re-taste and feel everything when it comes back out.

anyway, i sat there and pieces of sea creatures began materializing in front of me. and, they made sure that i had the worst pieces first, before i was plastered.

i’m talking about things like octopus tentacles, whole shrimp with shells and eyeballs, squishy salmon roe, gooshy-stinky sea urchin, and soft-shelled crab.

i fought to remain calm, cool, and collected, but inside, i was disgusted by everything i put into my mouth. i felt my inner self leave and go elsewhere.

i remember being shoved head first into the “backseat” of c****s’s crx. i was so sick. somehow, i must have made it back into my apartment.

i remember hearing a familiar, calming, deep voice and i knew that no matter what happened, i was safe. it was c*****e and he was holding my hand.

i remember lying forward, “hugging” the toilet bowl. c*****e held my hair and rubbed my back as the soft-shelled crab flew out of my mouth and made a splash.

it was awful, the octopus was next. it was the last thing that i remember anyway. my stomach just kept contracting and pushing stuff out. it felt awful.

it tasted worse, the second time around. i was just happy to not be alone, because i felt like i was dying. i woke up on the bathroom floor.

c*****e had cleaned me up, rolled up a towel and placed it under my head, and was lying next to me still holding my hand. i was relieved to see him.

it was hard for me to try to fathom why this germaphobic man, was lying on the bathroom floor next to me, dressed all in white…white jeans and t-shirt.

but looking back on it now, i know that it was because he loved me. c*****e was ten years older than me and he was obviously not my type, being a man.

but, there was a really big part of me that loved him, too. that however was a part of myself that scared the shit out of me and i refused to acknowledge. 

i knew that, “uncle” c*****e (my sister and i used to tease him) was my best friend, my protector, and my “buddy.” all the things that made me happy. 

i also knew that, “uncle” c*****e was an alcoholic, agoraphobic, germaphobic man, who was in love with me. all things that scared me.

c*****e stuck by me, as those twenty-six pieces of raw seafood came back up, while c***s was nowhere to be found for days. he just seemed to vanish.

a few weeks later, he reappeared at my job. he wanted me to design several items to be framed. he opened his bag and laid out several pieces.

i designed the pieces. c***s paid and left. two weeks later, when the work was done, he came to inspect and pick it up. he was quite pleased and said so.

as he was leaving, he said, “i’ve been working on writing this for the last three years, i was wondering if you would read it and tell me what you think.”

i agreed and he handed me a three-inch thick, black, three-ring binder. it weighed at least 15 pounds. i went home and began reading.

as i read, i felt that i was reading about characters that i already knew, they were so familiar, but i just couldn’t put my finger on where i “knew” them from.

so, i asked my sister to listen as i read aloud. by the end of the second chapter, a pillow came at me from across the room, accompanied by a maniacal laugh.

i looked over at my sister, who was rolling around on the floor, holding her stomach. she was laughing while trying to say something, over and over. 

finally, after about fifteen minutes, she composed herself enough to blurt out, “i can’t believe that you don’t know who they (the main characters) are???”

i looked at her with a questioning look and said, “i don’t know…who the fuck are they?” she answered, “are you for real?” i said, “stop it and tell me!!”

and the maniacal laughter came again, before stopping long enough to say, “they’re us!! they’re every bit us!!” and then, i got it. he had been studying us.

c***s hadn’t been facetious when he told me that he had been taking notes, he was dead serious. and there my sister and i were…his two main characters. 

so, the three years that m*****a and i spent studying him and making up stories about him…he had been doing it to us, too…”turn about is fair play.”

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