M. R. R. Gutierrez
The time you were adventurous and tried the crocodile dishes—the first, fried in batter, tasted like particularly tough chicken, and the second, hunks of patterned flesh plumped into a plate full of spiced, red liquid, smelled like cinnamon and tasted like cinnamon and felt half-decayed as it slid between your teeth, melted over your tongue, and slipped down your throat ensuring that you would avoid all Thai food back in the States for at least two years. The two times, three times, four times you went to Yoshinoya to eat the beef bowl, each sliver of meat attached to another by the thinnest tendon which you didn’t bother to cut. You just swallowed the one and had to decide, while choking, whether to try and swallow the second or pull the first back up. The two months without salt. The Japanese restaurant where she told you it wouldn’t taste like fish so you took a huge bite of unagi sushi. The recipes in the treatment book that looked great until you tried them. The seventeenth occasion on which the restaurant got your order wrong and you finally broke down. All the times you spat up as a child, regurgitating things you were certain you hadn’t eaten at all recently. The bite of guacamole at your mom’s friend’s house—homemade with tortilla chips—that tasted so good you had three more bites before your throat began to close. When you forgot that the full feeling is a warning, kept stealing fries off of your dad’s plate, your brother’s barbeque ribs, your cousin’s baked potato so large it needed its own plate, until your tiny stomach swelled so much you didn’t stop crying until the Pepto kicked in. Desperately eating a cheeseburger after the low-iodine diet, and the inability to digest it afterward—trying to laugh at a Woody Allen movie and the inability to do so to past the ache in your spine. The time you accidentally drank a sip of your best friend’s beer, didn’t like it, and poured the rest down the sink—the beer that another friend had brought back from England. Thoughts of the food in the hospital room—the plastic-wrapped wheat roll, the rice, the freezer vegetables, and the roast beef, smells of the ochre marinade, saltless—making you just as nauseous as after the radiation pill made you throw it all back up. After the hospital, able to eat again and smelling the waffle cones in the ice cream parlor, picking rocky road and tasting absolutely nothing—in front of a plate of fettuccini alfredo and tasting absolutely nothing. The times you burned your tongue on the breakfast tea.
M. R. R. Gutierrez is a writer and assistant editor. She graduated from USC with an MA in Professional Writing. She has been writing since she was six years old, when she wrote a short poem about the "beech."