My house has artists the way others have silverfish. My kids are mini art-factories, pumping out scraps that become priceless masterpieces once they scrawl the words “I Love you Daddy.” The “I love you Mommy” pieces are also valuable, but less creative, as I consider these non-fiction.
I spend a lot of time pumping words into novels and blogs hoping to create masterpieces without having to resort to kissing up to my parents.
And then there’s my wife, Junko.
The other day I stood watching her dissect a head of lettuce so that she could individually wash each leaf before preparing a salad and a couple of thoughts passed through my brain much in the same way that light doesn’t. First: The disquieting notion that my wife was smiling while dissecting a head. This was immediately followed by the thought that I eat a lot less bugs than the average person.
According to the first article in the list after Google performed an exhaustive search, the average person consumes between one and two pounds of bugs, per year. This means that, by now, I would have eaten my wife’s weight in bugs had she not been preparing most of my meals, for the last 12 years. As it is, I have consumed one and a half of my children’s weight. Why I see this in terms of how many of my family members I have eaten, I do not know. Suffice it to say, I am a survivor and you do not want to go down in a plane in the Andes, with me aboard.
Once, when we were dating, I took Junko out to dinner at one of the fancier local restaurants, whose name I will decline to mention. Actually, my memory is a bit foggy on this detail. It may have been another local fancy restaurant whose name I will decline to mention. Yes… more likely there.
At any rate, as we tucked into our first course, I noticed a small pile of black dots accumulating at the edge of Junko’s salad plate.
ME: “Are those peppercorns?”
ME: “Wha-a-at? There can’t be bugs in a salad from a restaurant as fine as this one which I will decline to mention the name of.”
JUNKO: “Actually, I’ve never had a salad in a restaurant which did not contain a bug.”
ME (checking over both shoulders, leaning forward and whispering, conspiratorially): “Do you think it’s because you’re Japanese?”
JUNKO: That look: The one that asks, “Are you four?” It made me simultaneously feel foolish and proud to be a Canadian.
ME: “Well it’s just that I’ve never had a bug in a salad. Ever.”
JUNKO: “You just ate one a few minutes ago. And last week, at that other restaurant that you always decline to mention the name of, I saw you eat several.”
I turn over a new leaf and sure enough, there’s a little black beetle swimming in Balsamic and goat cheese, with a touch of ginger and honey. When I say “swimming,” I mean dead.
ME: “Why didn’t you say something?”
Twelve years of marriage later I have come to realize that, for Junko, my suffering is an endless source of amusement. Being Japanese, Junko has made a lot of meals that elicited my “Who ate this first?” response but I set myself a strict policy to try everything at least once, before declaring it unfit for my consumption.
The first time she served fresh water eel I made myself eat every last scrap even though I thought it tasted like rancid worm rectum. I hate rancid worm rectum. When I looked up from my plate, I noticed that Junko had eaten everything except the eel. I asked her if she was saving it for last. She said, “I think it’s off.” When I asked her how she could silently watch me choke down an entire fish without mentioning this, she giggled.
Once, when I had an ingrown hair she offered to pluck it, noting that she plucks her body hair all the time and assuring me that I would hardly feel it. She tweezed the offender and tore the entire inner lining from my left nostril. My eyes watered and I dance around the house, screaming into my fist for about 20 minutes. She laughed for an hour and encouraged the kids to join in.
To be fair, she also laughs when she hurts herself. Still, it’s weird.
If everyone were like this, standup comedy would be radically different, and involve a hammer.
When I look around our house at the few things that she keeps out for display, I am reminded of all of my treasures, which she has carefully packed into boxes for display in our attic. Admittedly, the house looks a lot better than my bachelor pad—though I do miss my boobie beer stein and Kirk and Spock salt and pepper shakers.
I am the conservative, even-tempered, straight-arrow type who might just as easily have become a chartered accountant living in obscurity, as a writer living in obscurity. And now, as I stand watching Junko scrub each lettuce leaf then pat them dry with a towel I realize that, of the two of us, clearly, she is more the true artist, currently applying her talents to the fading art of homemaking.