The conversation around me dulled leaving behind only the sounds of the waves smacking the wood columns below me. Three varieties from three different parts of the state were on their way to our table. My mouth watered in anticipation. I picked up the smallest of the three and doused it in lemon and cocktail sauce before tossing it in my mouth with a quick tilt of my wrist. Pure bliss overcame me. The sweet taste of the cocktail sauce with the tart of the lemon and a dash of salt from the sea combined together and reminded me what the good life was.
I followed with the larger of the remaining two. This one was flooded with lemon and cocktail sauce and I flung it into my mouth as well. Pure disgust overcame me. It was too big to swallow whole without risk of choking, but I could not bring myself to chew it. It sat there leaking out raw juices and salt water into my mouth. My vision became blurred. Beads of sweat dotted my forehead. The longer it sat the more my gag reflex came alive. I contemplated my options. Swallow and hope the threat my body was giving me of tossing it back up could be overcome, or spit it out. This was not what life was all about.
I could hear the seconds ticking by though I wasn’t wearing a watch. Preoccupied with their own delicious appetizers no one had noticed I was in peril. I would spit it out. I would be discreet and no one would ever have to know about my disgust for the fancy life. But no, Mom is looking across at me worried. She is asking if everything is alright. More people are tuning into my horrible nightmare. The only option is to swallow now.
Many agonizing seconds later, the ordeal was over and the little creature was safely in my stomach. The trauma of that night lingers with me to this day, leaving me paralyzed each time my eyes scan over a raw oyster menu.