A short essay by Haruki Murakami, from the book Murakami Radio.
I borrowed my friend’s jet black Mercedes Benz. It’s big, it’s shiny, it’s a beautiful car. I smashed the right side view mirror into a pole as I was entering a parking lot. “Oh no, what am I going to do?” I thought to myself, a cold sweat dripping down my neck. Then I woke up. It was 3:42 AM.
What did my dream mean? That I have to eat some eel. The black Mercedes Benz symbolizes eel, and hitting the mirror represents my self loathing for eating something so bad for me… wait, that’s a lie. I just want a reason to eat eel. I really had that dream though.
Eel’s so good. I’m not going to downplay it – I love eel. I wouldn’t eat it every day, but once every two months or so I get the hankering. Eel has this mysteriousness about it. Once I make the decision to go out for some eel, something odd happens. I get this strange, unique feeling. It’s hard to explain, but it feels good.
I haven’t always liked eel. It creeped me out as a kid. Everyone else would be enjoying it for dinner while I sat there watching them. But one day I suddenly starting liking it. I can’t figure out for the life of me why my taste changed, but I gave it a try and the rest is history.
Years ago I stopped in to a quaint eel restaurant as I was roaming the Nara countryside with a friend. We were taken to a table on the second floor, no one else around us, and ordered our eel. It was already 1PM, and my travel companion and I were starving. They brought our tea but then they never came back. An hour passed. I threw myself down on the booth, stomach growling louder and louder. I went downstairs to figure out what was going on. But all the lights were out and nobody was there. Not the owners, not the customers. It seemed my travel companion and I were the only two people in the restaurant.
“Um, excuse me?” I said, walking down the hallway. At the end of the hall I found a little room that looked like it could be the kitchen. I peeked inside, and in the faint light of an old Polish film playing on the TV, I saw an elderly hunchbacked man facing away from me and brandishing a thick skewer. The man swung down with the skewer, piercing an eel through the neck. It was like something out of a strange dream.
I turned around in silence and made my way back up the stairs to my table. Soon after the waitress brought us our meals. “Sorry for the wait,” she said. I don’t say this to be funny or bend the truth in any way: the eel was incredible. Eel’s such a special food.