I just wanted to give everyone an update on the current state of my digestive track, as I went out for Szechuan hot pot for the first time last night. But first allow me to set the scene for you...
Picture me on the edge of a cheap, wooden chair in a small, brightly lit restaurant in Oakland's Chinatown. A few minutes after the waiter has finished asking the standard Are-you-sures, he sets down a junky, old burner with such an old connector to the gas can that it seems like it could explode at any minute. He soon brings out a huge bowl and sets it on the burner. Like a grunt on recon, I probe cautiously at first, picking out familiar pieces of beef, shrimp and mussels from a boiling cauldron of spicy broth. I like what I taste, so I start fumbling with the chopsticks more rapidly as I stop discriminating and start pulling out pig intestines, liver, and other unmentionables.
The heat begins at my lips as the numbing effect of the infamous peppercorns takes hold and doesn't stop until the heat of the chilis have warmed by whole throat and stomach. The sweat begins as beads on my forehead but quickly advances to a full-on flop sweat. My hair is naturally thin so as the sweat bonds my hairs together, you can clearly see my pink scalp. The spiciness is becoming hard to handle and I'm breathing so heavily that I'm almost grunting. The occasionally moan of pleasure dueling with pain emits from a deep-down place in my body I can't even control.
With each bite, my shirt is getting flecked with stains of red chili oil as the toxic substance drips through my beard and down my chin. My mouth is so numb from the peppercorns that I basically have a speech impediment, but I'm wide-eyed and rambling nonstop at Rachel because the pain has released so many endorphins that I'm practically delirious. She is saying almost nothing because she is starving and didn't really want to go this restaurant anyway and the food is too incendiary for her to eat. She tries in vain to mask her contempt for me, but who can blame her?
Eventually my belly is so full that I can eat no more and waive the white flag. The table and napkins are ruined. The aftermath must look like some deranged savage cut the throat of his own horse and scooped out the entrails with his bare hands. The restaurant is cash only, so I borrow some money from Rachel, throw down the cash on the table, and stumble out into the night, still drunk on heat.
Flash forward to today: My stomach is bubbling and gurgling like a volcano getting ready to erupt. I sit in my cubicle like a prisoner on death row who has exhausted his appeals, resigned to my fate and waiting for my inevitable date with destiny in what I hope will be my sanctuary: the least frequented restroom in the office.