I was nineteen and illegally camping in a bird reserve. My friends and I had met the man one day wandering the beach. Ten hours and a bottle of tequila later he and I were contemplating sex. I had the body of a goddess, a small goddess, and he was red haired and bearded, a Viking returned from the jungles of South Viet Nam. He didn’t want intimacy or connection in any significant way but then again neither did I. We were both returning from the battle zone.
He had returned to the states months earlier and was camping himself, although with more equipment. He had an old but well stocked green Chevy, with good tires and a camping stove. He was on the initial leg of a cross country wander, and staying with his uncle. He did not talk about his experience a half a world away and I did not ask. It was understood.
I don’t remember his name now… I am an old woman now and names are of no importance to me but I do remember the power locked in his body and his sadness. And the fact that he loved to cook. He would whip out that camping stove, a Coleman red, and an old seasoned skillet and make the most delicious omelets but it was the sushi that fascinated me. Somewhere along the way his uncle, who had lived in Asia, had learned to love sushi. His uncle had taught him to make sushi. I remember the reverence with which he prepared the rolls that we would gobble down. Smoothing out the seaweed cover, he would instruct me about how much rich and spicy tuna to add in as he did just that, then he would roll the sushi up expertly. He taught me to love Wasabi, soy and ginger, liberally spicing the already spicy tuna. As he rolled the sushi I could feel a calm settle across the kitchen. We all ate ravenously.
This was years before sushi became popular for Americans. There were no sushi restaurants, not even in the city. My friend and his Uncle were way ahead of the curve. I remember the calm of the tastes of ginger and spice, looking out at the Atlantic rolling toward us, endlessly moving. The sex was uneventful, but the sushi…
I hope he finally found a place to make sense of what he had lived through. Maybe he talked about it, maybe he didn’t but I wish him the peace of those minutes in the kitchen stretched out over years. I have left my battle-zone, I hope he has left his.
But then I no longer have the body of a goddess, the years have taken both the war and the elasticity. It is a fair trade.