It was unbelievable. I had accepted a job in Japan. Telling my family would be tricky. I had been unemployed for almost 2 years so, the news of having a job should be met with joy. “Well…if THAT’S what you want to do.” The head shaking. The arched eyebrows. The tone of disappointment. Grouse encapsulated my family’s opinion. “Japan?! What do you want to go there for? You don’t speak Chinese!”
A month later I had sublet my place in Queens and decided to stay with my mom for a few weeks before leaving the country. “Let’s go to the Chinese buffet tonight” she suggested. “You’ll have to get used to eating that stuff.” Mom always looked out for me. “There are Japanese restaurants in New York” I said. “I’ve had Japanese food many times.”
Grouse met us in the parking lot of the Chinese Buffet. “Did you talk to Anitabeth today?” she demanded. Grouse was a prosecutor. “No. Why?” mom asked. “She’s having Thanksgiving with the asshole.” Grouse’s daughter, Anitabeth, had been dating a dashing ex con who wore a shimmering anklet that pinged his whereabouts to the authorities. Grouse had refused all contact with the man after he got drunk at the fourth of July barbecue and called her a duze patzo. “I told her ‘fine! have Thanksgiving with that asshole. And drop dead while you’re at it!’” Grouse’s emotions were absolute.
“Is that raw?” Grouse and I were standing at the Chinese Buffet’s sushi/salad/pizza/fried chicken bar. “It’s just carrot, avocado and cucumber” I explained, piling California roll onto my plate. “Yeah, but it’s raw, right?” “It’s just vegetables” I stressed. “Well, you’re braver than me.” Back at the table, Grouse pointed out to mom how brave I was. “Look what he’s eating.” “Oh God. I don’t want to look” said mom. “It’s just vegetables and rice!” “Well, he’s gotta get used to eating that stuff” was mom’s defense. Grouse prodded further. “And you really want to live over there and eat that stuff?” “You eat vegetables here, don’t you?” I reasoned. “Yeah, but that’s raw, right?” Then came Grouse’s final word on the subject. “Just do me a favor, will ya? Don’t be bringing one of THEM back HERE.”