Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sashimi Cashmere
a short story by CarolynForde

Two sushi chefs begin arranging their work under fluorescent lights. They lay the cold damp slabs of flesh in concentric circles, alternating from tongue pink tuna to opaque white squid. They are noiseless and efficient. Their hands move rapidly, hovering over their art. They are surgeons performing a delicate operation.
The spiral starts around her belly button. Her midriff is a checkerboard. They move to her upper body and cover her breasts with the round purple suction cups of octopus tentacles, her throat with green chizu leaves. Below her waist they place a small triangle of blowfish—poisonous if improperly prepared—where hair would have been. A brush with death is more thrilling and more costly when eaten off a foreign woman. Her legs are covered with California rolls. They place edible flowers in her navel, in her underarms, behind her ears and in her hair and even tuck one between her thighs. She is garnished.
She is rolled from the harshly lit kitchen into the dim light of the restaurant. As her eyes adjust to the darkness she sees only the ceiling, which is covered with pinprick halogen stars. She hears low male voices murmuring appreciation when she arrives at their table.
She feels small jabs as chopsticks lift pieces of fish from her chest, her shoulders, her ankles. She conjures the image of herself reflected in a gilded fitting-room mirror. She is flawless in couture. She is immaculate in Armani. The air feels chilly as the men remove the cold pieces of fish one at a time, revealing damp patches of bare skin. Staring at the ceiling stars she imagines she is at the beach. She wishes she could smile but remains expressionless. The raw fish is a blanket. She wants to stretch, to move her legs, but has to wait for the party to finish. The sashimi becomes cashmere against her skin as she thinks of the Calvin Klein sweater-dress she will buy tomorrow.
The drunken chatter is easy to tune out because she can’t understand it. The clicking and probing chopsticks are harder to ignore. One misses the blowfish entirely and slides where it shouldn’t, another tries to lift her nipple as though it were a separate piece of edible meat. None of the men enter her field of vision, and as far as she can tell, none try to see her face. She is a table, a plate with a pulse. These men are consuming the most expensive meal in the world. By the end, the artistic arrangement is left an abandoned and incomplete puzzle. A clap announces the end of the party. She is rolled away.