Ben and Lana argued over the broth that the blind ramen chef had served them. Ben — whose taste buds were so powerful he could immediately conjure in his mind the three microscopic grains of red salt that Lana had surreptitiously dissolved into his glass of water — was disappointed over the flatness of the broth.
“Cooking blind with knives and fire and boiling water not enough?” Lana asked.
“Well, it’s bland. I was expecting more. This chef is mythic.”
Lana had recently lost her sense of smell. Three bouts of sinusitis had left her momentarily anosmic. She leaned her face in over the bowl of noodles, the bleached tips of her hair dipping perilously close to the steaming broth, and closed her eyes as she breathed in. “I’m nose blind. I won’t be able to taste this.”
For her, the entire world had lost its color. An entire dimension was no longer accessible. The world was a panoramic reel of moving images, all encompassing yet uninhabitable.
Invisible to her was the smell of garlic, chili oil and pork broth. Lost was the smell of Ben’s fabric softener, the smell of his hair, the pandering hibiscus air freshener in the car, the sweet-and-sour fermented dregs in the garbage bin, the freshly clipped grass along the sidewalk — all of which would have enveloped her on the way to the restaurant, moving through her as she moved through them.
“Excuse me, I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation about the broth.” The chef appeared — a dark, angular shadow cutting up over their table. His eyes were padded by darkness, his smile a scar carved into a cutting board. “In fact, I’ve heard everything. Please let me offer you a special broth. I’ve been working on this for some time. And it’s nearly perfected.” The broth was as clear as water, and a little pat of light rippled along its surface.
“Wow,” beamed Lana. “And while you are enjoying it, may I also offer you a story?
“We’d love to hear it,” said Ben, stirring the broth.
“There was once a time when the sun and the moon shared the sky. It is said that the sun goddess once sent her brother, the moon god, to visit Ukemochi no Kami — the goddess of food — on earth. In order to welcome the moon god, Ukemochi began to plan a 20-course meal. First, she faced the ocean and spat out a fish. Then she faced the forest, and out of her mouth leapt various game. Then she turned to the fields, and blew rice onto the land. From these she created a feast. When the moon god arrived, he was disgusted that Ukemochi had created a meal that she had regurgitated from her mouth. Insulted, he drew his sword and killed her. Upon hearing the news, the sun goddess was inconsolable, and she promised never to speak to the moon god again. Thus the sky was divided into night and day. As for Ukemochi, from her lifeless body sprouted wheat, rice, beans, vegetables — all of the food in the world today.”
“So, I’m the moon god of the story,” said Ben, flatly.
“It’s just an old Japanese tale,” said the chef.
Later that evening, Ben began writing a short, yet critical review of the restaurant. His was the sole voice of dissent — a contrarian hand held up in a sea of hands wrung in praise.
Lana lay in bed, turned to her side to avoid the light from Ben’s laptop. She brought her hands to her nose and struggled to detect the green tea in her moisturizer.
Outside, the moon hung low over the city — luminous, yet surrounded by darkness.
“A SHARED SPACE” is an ongoing reader-submitted column.
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