The following is an exercise in writing fiction that I did at a Grub Street workshop this month. That day was the first time I had written fiction in years, and to be honest, this is more like an embellished “based on a true story.” Actually, a lot of what I wrote that day was not really fiction. I felt rusty and out of practice. I did not read this out loud to the class, but I let my friend read it soon after and she loved it. Hopefully, it’s not only because it’s about her. Please comment if you wish.
She was excited to eat at this vegetarian restaurant, and as I was tasting the edamame for the first time, and the rubbery blocks of tofu squishing between my teeth, I asked myself, what had I gotten myself into?
I wanted to impress her by being adventurous, but being a meat-and-potatoes and sometimes-junk-food kind of guy, this felt more like I was jumping off a cliff and reaching for anything resembling food. I suppose I did grab a branch or something, because the next foreign object I had cautiously put in my mouth had all the flavor and texture of a twig.
I toyed with the generous pile of green leaves on my plate. It wasn’t lettuce or kale, but it was stringy, sticking to each other and the cubes of tofu and chick peas. I picked at the green monster, imagining myself as the little kid in the Calvin & Hobbes comic strip, in which his food comes to life and begins to orate the Hamlet soliloquy. I start wrapping the sticky, stringy green mess around my fork like I do with spaghetti. I held it up to my nose and steal a whiff. I was hoping for some redemption, some essence of hope that perhaps it only LOOKED horrible and that the smell would offer a hint of delectable bliss that I had yet to encounter. Instead, it was a neutral-to-pale scent that conjured up images of steamed broccoli and my laundry basket. I sighed, and looked at the rest of my plate. Eyes of quinoa were staring at me, pleading with me to run away and take them with me.
I had no option but to taste it. I stuffed it into my mouth and squirmed. I closed my eyes until it was successfully down the hatch.
I looked at her. She was all smiles and looked content. She looked at me, rolled her eyes and pointed her fork at her plate of the same concoction.
“This,” she said, “is the best I’ve ever had. I’m really glad we chose this place.”
Hmm, I said, and poked my finger into the tofu. It bounced back.