sushisoto What I am thinking while falling backwards off the barstool in Sushi Soto is when the fuck did I get so old? My head smacks, something cracks, I throw up mainly on my chest, and the bartender runs over. Because blacking out would have been even more embarrassing, I don’t. He is a very polite yeller. “Sir? Sir your injury is bad? Yes sir I can help you!” I can’t explain how these shenanigans happen but they’re why Annie dropped me off. She knows I’m not worth the trouble and one of her stories was starting soon and she’s fed up with missing her stories. Today’s story: Murder by Design, on HGTV, where that Latina who used to do the weather on channel 9 interviews home decorators on death row. Even though we tape everything Annie still watches it live. She also hasn’t been too keen on me lately. She wouldn’t even look at me the last time we had sex, and a person has to work pretty hard not to look at the person they’re having sex with. I think she hurt her neck actually. She’s got a bad neck bone. It doesn’t make me love her less but it does make me pretty sad sack sorry for myself. I used to be a thin person and then sometime during cancer year I’d become a fat person. I really started to notice it in the shower. This one evening I was in there before bed and was thinking about masturbating but also spent forever cleaning my torso which had become really hairy and that must have been what first got me worried because no guys on TV have hair on their guts. This stuff was black and tightly curled like dick-area hair. I couldn’t get even a piece of a hard because of the dick-area hair that was everywhere and when I tried to suck my stomach in to feel a little better about the hair it didn’t really go in which hadn’t ever happened before. When I tried again I really gave it some effort while straining to look at myself in the tiny mirror next to the showerhead, and no dice. We’re talking Tummy City. I watched the water roll down my belly and all the fur I’d sprouted with absolutely no horny feelings until I got cold. Ever since then I’ve resigned myself to being a tubby guy. From the way I slump around the house checking on the contents of the fridge, secretly hoping that a treat mysteriously might appear from behind the containers filled with leftovers from Annie’s lunches with the girls from church – Oh goodness an éclair I’d say – a truly grade-A chubbo, and pop it in my mouth with the joy reserved only for the hairy fat and stupid who walk zombielike to the fridge only 20 minutes after dinner to betray their rationality because they want cream filling so bad they’ll try and will it into being. This fall is no good. I really hope I remembered to charge the phone. There is no way I’ll get a cab with this mess all over me, no way, Annie’s gonna pick me up and that’s it. I’m making the law. And why can’t she tell me to quit it if she’s so concerned about a few beers or whatever? And what do I come here for in the first place? The beer isn’t super great and the food is way too expensive and rubbery. The wasabi leaks. Like when you don’t shake the mustard bottle before you try to put it on your sandwich and that watery stuff gets everywhere? That’s what this wasabi is. The bartender emerges from where they make the not impressive wasabi carrying a small beach towel. It has Tweety Birds in various sports uniforms all over it and is baby blue. He smiles and blankets the towel over my chest. “Please sir you are not trying move please. We call ambulance already, will come soon. Yes please.” I try to talk to him but the words don’t really come out right. They sound like farts or animal noises more than “leave me alone pal” which is what I am trying to say. I let him keep petting me with the towel. His face is really close to my mouth and his bozo haircut makes it look like he’s been electrocuted and then decided This is the look. With this style of hair, I, a human male person, am looking presentable! I am having a bad day. So is this guy though. When Annie was driving off in the Lexus I could tell she knew something was gonna happen. She always knows! I swear the woman must be a psychic, which would be hilarious because she’s so religious and that’s probably not allowed at her church. A group of people are standing above me like a pyramid. I think I can make these fart/animal things coming out of my mouth turn back to English if I try really hard. I should have noticed how everyone who eats here is white. White people don’t care about leaky wasabi. Except for the employees everyone else is whispering. I’ve turned a bad sushi restaurant into church. Oh fuck me twice. Craig is here with Hanna. Craig was a client of mine until his daughter Hanna got into a big accident last year and our insurance company refused to pay for it because she had been on her phone. This was right after they changed the law in California and Craig was super pissed. I think he’s with Insure Geeks now because of their big “United we Text” campaign. If you have a smart-phone related accident on your record you can still get insurance for like, $50 bucks a month. I think Insure Geeks are pretty close to bankruptcy. I especially hate their mascot which is a raccoon in a toupee and a lab coat. His name is Rocko I.G. Buttertoes and he is more successful than most of the people I know. The I.G. stands for Insure Geeks, which you learn in the commercial where Rocko gets an honorary doctorate from Harvard for creating a potion that turns the DUIs on his driving record into a sexy lady raccoon. “Check it out he pissed himself” Craig whispers not quietly. The bartender, now gently petting me, asks, “Sir your pee is fine?” “Fart fart bark fart” I say back and Craig is eating this up. I can’t move my head to check and see how much I peed which is a concern. Actually I can’t really move anything? Is it bad to not feel my body? I think it’s bad to not feel my body but it’s worse to have to look at Craig’s fat face. At least Craig has probably been fat his whole life. When Annie got the news I ate nothing but drive-thru and spent my free time sitting around waiting for her to die. What I didn’t realize about being fat is I hate myself. “He’s broken something serious,” a guy eating a spring roll says. I am waiting for the pain to set in but it doesn’t come. Everywhere is buzzing. I smell my pee now and it’s worse than the vomit. My phone is inches away from my left hand and I can’t get to it. God. I can’t move at all. At our wedding there was about a minute during the vows that a bee kept buzzing near Annie’s cleavage. I was trying hard to look her in the eyes, to be totally present, but I couldn’t stop worrying about the goddamned bee. She said she never saw it. She used to walk everywhere. The weather being what it is here and us living near downtown, she loved the extra time outside. I think she got lots of attention from it too, given most people are attached to their cars. A pretty blonde with nice legs breaks up the monotony of being stuck in traffic downtown. She found the mass because her friend Gwen is a hypochondriac. Gwen had a mole on her left boob and was convinced it was malignant so she went to every doctor within earshot and told them to diagnose her with cancer and none of them did because she didn’t have cancer she just had a gross mole. Gwen needed to fill the not-having-cancer void so she became a cancer evangelist. She convinced Annie to get her breasts checked. I only remember flashes of the treatment. Hair in the drain. The smell of leftover McDonald’s in the car. Driving her bras to the dumpster down the street so she wouldn’t accidentally see them in our own trash. The paramedics burst through the door and push Craig out of the way, which is nice. They ask me a bunch of questions and I respond with my noises and they stop asking me questions. They put a huge brace on my neck and cut my shirt open. They are beautiful and they are my friends. One of them steps on my phone. The screen shatters but I don’t even care. I just want to go back home and then back and back and back to when I was young and she was healthy and we ate meals together. The sushi guy is now taking the lead, “he fall down, was bad. Crack his back, big time. He can’t move.” The medics gather around me like pallbearers at a casket. They lift me slightly and slide a plank under my back. They put a mask on my face and tell me not to talk. The mask is very large and it smells like a new car. It is cool and it is soft and I am very tired. On the way to the ambulance I see the sky. It’s summer school blue and did I tell you Annie has these knockout blue eyes? When I was still too scared to ask her out I’d think about how great those eyes would be to look at every day and that sort of positive thinking helped me get less scared. On our first date we went to watch the planes. There used to be a diner near the gates that had a big window facing the runways. She loved resting her eyes on the planes as they ascended – scanning the angles they’d take as they ran headfirst into the clouds. She’d keep an eye on the clouds for a few seconds after they disappeared. The window was real thick so you couldn’t hear much of the engines but you could really feel them in your gut. The big thunder waiting at your feet until leaping like a child towards your beating, living heart.
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© Raul Rafael Alvarez