Lunchtime. I left my writing class at a little past 1 PM on Friday with ten dollars in my pocket and headed towards the Subway on Eighth Street. I was in the mood for some Jared-healthy food. I entered the small Subway, went straight past the fountain soda and chips and stared at the menu. So many choices: oven-roasted chicken breast, veggie delight, steak and cheese, turkey. One of the workers appeared from the back with a fresh container of tuna. I stared at the tuna as it glared right back at me, daring me to order. Nausea filled my body as I thought about my dad.
“Just try it,” he had said. “Seafood is good for you!” I refused as I observed it, disgusted. We were at our Subway in Elmhurst, IL, the first business my dad ever owned. He would pick my sister and I up from school and bring us to Subway. We did our homework and watched TV in the back while he worked. We ate Subway at least three times a week and I was sick of having turkey.
I eyed the tuna which, to me, looked like the chewed-up sandwich the boys would display in their mouths during lunchtime in Ms. W’s fourth grade class. It smelled like rotting animal and looked slimy. I did not want to put that in my mouth. I said no firmly. My dad went into strict father mode. “Nausheen, come on. Don’t be a baby,” he said, stern. “You have to try everything once.” He handed me the 3-inch sub made especially for me.
I studied the sandwich. Tuna, tomatoes, lettuce and onions. Tuna and tomatoes, damn it. I had already tried tomatoes once and didn’t like them, so this was cheating. I glared at my dad. He stood with his arms folded, waiting. “One bite,” he said, raising his eyebrows.
I brought the sandwich close to my mouth, trying to position it so I wouldn’t have to take a bite of the tomato slice. The smell of rotting animal filled my nostrils. An open mouth with chewed up salami in it was the only image that was in my head. I took a bite.
Tuna tasted exactly how it smelled. Like death. I dropped the sandwich and ran to the bathroom, trying to make it to the toilet before I threw up on the floor, which would really irritate my dad. I made it to the sink. Everything inside of me came up and shot out of my mouth. I was shuddering and crying. I felt exhausted in a way that you can only feel when you’ve puked violently. My dad rubbed my back and brought me a glass of water and a cookie. “It’s okay, you don’t have to eat it,” he said.
“I told you, dad!” I was still bawling, unable to stop.
I took my eyes off of the new container of tuna and looked back at the menu. “Can I get a 6-inch, veggie delight?” I asked. “No tomatoes, please.”