Searching for Umi

gene candeloro
Oct 2 · 5 min read
Photo by Reinaldo Kevin on Unsplash

I finally landed the job I had been working toward for months. It is downtown! I was making great money, finally. I figured it was easier to eat out every night than to shop, cook and clean up each night. At least for now. I loved MOFU and Izakaya the best. But I loved all food.

The story of Izakaya is a strange one. The first time I walked in a very attractive American girl came and asked me if I would like a drink. She said her name was Willow. She seemed out of place. The only American waitress and very attractive in a subtle way.

I ordered a glass of red wine. I don’t believe you must have white wine with this and a red with that. Just more stupid rules. I order what I want, not what some stupid guy in a magazine tells me I should have. I like red wine. Period. I did look forward to getting to know Willow though!

Willow dropped the wine off in front of me and said. “I’ll give you some more time and I will be back to take your order.” I glanced up as she walked away — very nice.

Willow never came back. I just sipped my less than average wine. Then, out of nowhere, a very petite, not unattractive, Japanese woman appeared. She bowed her head respectfully and dropped a gorgeous bowl of Tuna Poke in front of me as she said: “I am Umi.” She then vanished. I tried to say, “Wait, wait, Umi. I didn’t order this.” But she was gone. I searched for Umi or Willow but never saw either of them again that evening. The food looked amazing, so I dug in.

The tuna was so fresh and the sauces were amazing. It had a few things in it I did not recognize. I made a note to ask Umi about them. As I had my head in my magazine another Japanese woman dropped my check and was gone in a flash.

I decided to be a regular. I was really looking forward to seeing Willow and, hopefully, getting to know Willow. The host seated me and dropped a menu on the table. As I was reading the menu, I saw Willow approaching. Honestly, I think my heart skipped a few beats. She had an amazing smile, which made me feel so welcomed. She asked if I wanted the same wine. I nodded yes. She remembered! She dropped my wine and walked away.

In about 60 seconds Umi approached. She bowed slightly as she had done last time. She then placed in front of me an amazing sashimi plate with a side of spicy mayo. How did she know I like spicy mayo? Again, I tried to say, “Umi, Umi! I didn’t order this,” but she was gone.

I searched for Umi or Willow but never saw either of then

The same exact thing happened the next two times I ate there. All my attempts to get to know Willow never materialized; such a shame. She never stuck around long enough. And Umi kept bringing more and more amazing dishes. Seems she was upping the ante. The dishes were more elaborate each time. Always with a side of spicy mayo.

As I drove home I was very perplexed. My waitress orders for me, then disappears? This was becoming Twilight Zone Sushi.

I flew to Miami for Christmas as I do every year. Yes, I ate sushi at almost every meal. There is something about Miami sushi. It is the best I have eaten.

When I got back after Christmas, I went back to Izakaya. My plan was to chat up Willow before she took my drink order and ask her directly about Umi. A pretty host sat me down and I looked over the menu that I never needed. Then, a very nice Japanese girl asked if I would like a drink before I ordered. I was disappointed I wanted to say, “No, I’ll wait for Willow,” but I didn’t see her there that night. I hoped she was all right because she always worked Thursday nights. I ordered my usual boring wine. She brought it quickly and asked if I was ready to order. That was really strange because I never ordered here before. No Willow? No Umi?

The pleasant waitress brought me my order. I had to ask for spicy mayo; there was none there. I asked her, where was Willow or Umi? She said she had never heard of either. I asked how long she had worked there and she said, “Just over a year!” I was amazed! “And you have never seen or heard of a Willow or a Umi?” She said, “No. And I do most of the training, so I would definitely know them.”

I could feel the blood drain out of my face. I got a bit scared. Umi, where was she? I asked for the manager. A good looking kid that definitely hit the gym approached me. I asked what happened to Willow and Umi? He looked at me strangely. “Don’t know them,” he said. I tried to tell him I come in every week and they waited on me every time. He said, “Sorry, I think you have us confused with another restaurant!” He then just walked away.

I began by searching every sushi restaurant in Raleigh. Then, every Asian restaurant. I had to find either one of them. I had to talk to them. I had to know each person. I asked every restaurant manager if a Umi or Willow worked there; they all shook their heads “no.”

Willow was so special, so beautiful; Umi never took my order, but delivered everything I love, including my spicy mayo! How could this be possible?

I still search every restaurant I go into. I look at every woman walking downtown. I have never found them. Now I spend my life searching for Umi and Willow. How insane is that?

I honestly no longer enjoy eating sushi.

gene candeloro

Written by

Writer, photog., wanderer. Hopeful romantic. Lover of all things dogs. I write about ordinary people. Follow my Relentless Pursuit. Medium Noteworthy Writer.

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