Supermarket Sushi

Written by Haley McNiff

Photography by Aida Ebrahimi

Alone, she sat in the sterile white kitchen full of empty cupboards eating supermarket sushi with her hands. She dipped each seaweed-encased morsel into the muddy little puddle of soy sauce she had eked out of the mouth of a tiny plastic fish. She did her best to ignore the muted color of the unidentifiable vegetables neatly packed into the cylinders of white rice, popping each roll into her anxious mouth like she was knocking back pills. Like supermarket sushi – a London transplant just like herself – could be the antidote she needed. But it didn’t taste quite right.

She wished she had thought to buy chopsticks.

The corner store was only a few paces away, courtesy of the convenience of a city and all that. She could walk back in, buy what she needed. Stock her pantry with groceries. Start making a semblance of a life in her sterile white flat. Fill the clean, barren shelves with the ingredients to her mom’s homemade meatloaf and her dad’s trusty chicken noodle soup and the vegan chocolate bars her environmentally-conscious best friend bought her when she was having off days. She could almost taste the beef bouillon, the softness of celery soaked in chicken broth, the heady darkness of some ungodly percentage of cacao. Could almost will herself across the street and into the whir of the city outside for a taste of home.

Almost. She sat in the sterile white kitchen full of empty cupboards, overwhelmed by the blankness that marked her new life. She owned nothing. Even the particular brand of English she had bought into for so many years felt foreign against her teeth in this new place. It reverberated dully against the white noise of the spotless kitchen when she was alone and fading into the din of the city streets when she was not. Words tasted wrong when she turned them around her tongue and let them go – airy, empty, ungrounded. She felt airy, empty, ungrounded. She couldn’t bring herself to touch down in this new place. There was too much emptiness to fill, and it was staring her right in the face, all white and bare-shelved and achingly quiet.

She wished she had thought to buy chopsticks.

She ate the largest roll last, sinking her teeth into the white rice too slowly, too easily. Rogue sesame seeds fell from her lips, plunking dumbly against the plastic tray in place of the teardrops that refused to fall. It didn’t taste quite right.