I crack an egg over steaming-hot, sticky rice and there I am in Suginami-Ku, Tokyo, having dinner at a yakitori with my mother on my birthday across the street from our Airbnb.
Is it the richness of the raw yolk, the sesame seeds, or the scallions that summon the nostalgia from the belly of my recollections, causing my stomach to rumble in the mornings? What am I hungry for? And why so early, even for a work day? Of the few journeys I’ve taken on this planet, why have I brought back this particular dish, scribbled over the back of a crumpled receipt in my wallet with the ink beginning to fade, as a longstanding souvenir I knew wouldn’t lose its novelty once I returned, and in fact, would only enhance the memories I had?
I sprinkle some scallions. Itadakimasu.
And there I am in Suginami-ku, Tokyo, having dinner at a yakitori with my mother on my birthday. I’m a stranger in a foreign place and I am pointing at the screen of my phone to photos of a dish I saw on a Google review, and all of this after having ran through the rain back to our air bnb to fetch the pocket WiFi.
The waitress smiles, points at the photo and says, “Tamago kake gohan,” and I repeat it back to her, “Tamago kake gohan.” She smiles, “hai,” bows then goes to the kitchen. The cook is turning our skewers of pork, spinach and cheese, chicken. If it isn’t the smell of food cooking in front of you on a rainy evening in Japan, in November, that suddenly catches you in the downpour of a thousand memories, then what is it that wakes you up in the morning and insists on remembering? No, more than remembering, for the voice making demands from the depths of your own gut isn’t at all satiated with just remembering. Drastic measures must be taken, like time travel, and the vehicle by which you move about through time and space? Your own nostalgia. I imagine that this would take several trips for such a craving to be fulfilled. But is the craving ever fulfilled? My nostalgia growls from deep within my stomach when I’m hungry for something more than just a memory of a delicious dish —I am hungry for previous versions of myself, new moments to respond to, another me, for whom I’ll pine both today and tomorrow.