It was the kind of heat that burns from the inside out and the forecast was for more. So, this is Texas. I hid for a day in the artificial environment of the 27th floor. Boredom roared and I was compelled to be somewhere other than in a motel room. Even trying to figure out the transit kiosk in the glaring sun couldn't be worse than this.
I gave an old woman on the train behind me the most casual of glances, and she used it as an opening to talk about the heat. Being the only white boy on the train, it seemed redundant to tell her I wasn't from these parts and the heat was killing me too. She talked about getting home where although she didn't really have air conditioning, she could just sit still. Her stop came and she passed out the sliding aluminum doors into the blinding heat. I slipped back into air-conditioned induced paralysis and watched the people and cityscape passing by in the windows. Cell phone conversations provided stories of future employment and trouble with kids--shared with almost brutal volume inside the car. But, it was somehow perfect.
The sushi bar was right by the aquarium. The irony was too perfect. "Dark and dirty" was the review that come up on my phone. The location and the review were an irresistible combination, so I fled the 107-degree heat into the beat-up storefront. There was no smell of fish in the air and the sushi coolers along the bar seemed in order, so I ordered. The flat black on the walls was uneven, like it was a time-lapse of many partial paint cans getting used up. It went nicely with music that sounded like some sort of tragic opera where each line ended with guttural gagging. I sat at a rickety table and a smile-less young woman brought me ice tea.
It was they type of food I hope for when my travel instincts tell me to take a chance on a sushi shop with a negative review next to an aquarium. I'd been living on airport cuisine and hotel restaurant soylent green so I was grateful to have a meal put together just for me--the lone customer in the restaurant. In an act of transparent flattery, the owner of the place said he could tell by how I used chopsticks that I must love sushi. He returned to my table with a dish of raw tuna. I ate the first chunk without soy sauce. It was perfect. I asked him where it was from. "Hawaii," he said as he fled back to the kitchen. He returned with raw salmon and told me it was from Alaska. It was perfect, too. So good I never bothered with the wasabi.
I fought sleep on the train ride back. The spike of energy from the raw nutrients in the fish was almost overpowered by finally being full of food I didn't have to unwrap. A muttering man who wouldn't sit clung to a suitcase. From the suitcase he pulled out tissue after tissue to wipe the sweat from his brow--then frantically tossed the tissues to the floor like they were on fire. He could have been schizophrenic, or just damned hot. Either would justify his behavior. The fare inspector walked by him without asking for his ticket. Me she asked.