For the last two years of high school, my friends and I frequented our local strip mall sushi joint. We adored Sushin (a straightforward name that fit its suburban simplicity). In Murfreesboro, our town in the middle of Tennessee, eating sushi granted us a rare degree of sophistication—or so we believed. We loved the crunchy shrimp rolls and the chicken teriyaki. But most of all, we loved that we could munch on them while inhaling Marlboro Lights in the smoking section.
One Wednesday, I cruised to Sushin with my friend Sarah in my car’s passenger seat. I’d been driving for six months, and my Mitsubishi Eclipse was the center of my world. I must have gotten distracted dancing to the hip-hop we were bumping, because I nearly missed the turn and had to jerk the steering wheel hard to swerve into the entrance. It was a mistake. The Eclipse slammed into a thick wooden post supporting a mailbox. With a sickening crunch, the wood splintered and the mailbox plummeted.
‘Oh my God.’ My fingers trembled as I twisted the volume dial down. Tears filled my eyes. I’d wrecked my car and obliterated Sushin’s mailbox.
They would ban me for life.
How much would it cost?
My parents were going to kill me.
‘Should we leave?’ Sarah whispered. Amidst the panic, her loyalty touched me.
I eyed the glass door of the restaurant. Somehow, the crash hadn’t brought any employees outside. Still, I shook my head solemnly. ‘I have to tell them.’ I don’t know where the conviction came from.
The tremble had worked its way through my body so my limbs were quivering. I backed the car from the wreckage and moved it to a parking space, then sprang from my seat to see the damage. Unfathomably, maybe magically, there was none. My car was in perfect condition.
However, the magic didn’t extend to the mailbox. The wooden post was severed. It was time to confess my crime. Summoning my courage, I squared my shoulders and went inside.
The hostess stood behind a cash register and a bowl of ginger candies.
Breathlessly I blurted out what had happened. Wide-eyed, she ran to the back to get the owner while Sarah went to our friends’ table to explain. After a moment, the owner emerged: a suspicious-looking middle-aged Japanese man. I repeated my story.
Wordlessly, he walked outside to examine the damage. I followed. For a long time he stood with his back to me, hands on his hips, and took in the carnage. I awaited my fate.
Finally he faced me.
‘Thank you!’ He threw his arms out wide as his lips stretched into a grateful grin.
I watched him, bewildered.
‘We’ve wanted to knock that down for a long time, but it’s too big. You did it! Thank you!’
I stared in disbelief. ‘Really?’
‘Yes, really!’ Sunnily, he turned and sauntered back into his restaurant.
After a minute, I followed. I needed a crunchy shrimp roll and a cigarette, stat.