My lips started swelling. My throat closed up. I could barely breath.
I was four years old when I asked my mom for a piece of the salmon that she was cooking, excited to try a new food. I had no way of knowing that an allergic reaction would come almost immediately after my second bite. It was the second piece of fish that I ate, never the first, that triggered my fish allergy. This realization came to me after this first incident, when my mom fed me another type of fish: halibut. She wanted to experiment if I was just allergic to salmon, or all the fish under the sea. My mom anxiously watched me as I took a bite of the white fish. I was very excited at first:
“Mom, I like it!”
I quickly pierced another piece with my fork and threw it into my mouth. The excitement was short-lived. Right on cue, my throat and mouth began to swell. I jumped up from my seat and ran around frantically. My four year old self clearly thought this would take some of the pain away. My mom caught up to me and, just like the last time I got a reaction, gave me some Benadryl. It worked fairly quickly. Within ten minutes, the pain and swelling ceased. Though I was pretty much back to my normal self, I was still very shaken up.
That was the last time I had a severe allergic reaction. Those two episodes were enough to keep me as far away from fish as possible.
Again, with my flawed, preschool attitude, I believed that I was special for having an allergy. I would often tell my friends how I had an Epipen, bragging about how I would have to jam its needle straight into my thigh. Yet, I still watched as others would enjoy lobster, sushi, and salmon, and secretly envy the fact that they could eat them without almost dying.
This envy for those who can eat fish came up in many circumstances throughout my childhood, and I even feel it today, but one of the times when I felt the most envious was in third grade. We went to visit a Japanese restaurant, as we were learning about Japan that month.
Two words: allergy table.
I walked into the Hibachi-style restaurant, ready to eat Japanese food while watching a chef set onions on fire. My friends and I quickly set our sights on a table and went to claim it. I was mid-step when a teacher grabbed my shoulder and turned me toward her.
“Don’t you have a fish allergy?”
“Yes, I am allergic to fish and shellfish,” I said with pride.
“Come with me.”
I was whisked away from my friends and brought to the infamous allergy table. There, I sat with the girl allergic to pomegranates and a boy who was allergic to almost every food imaginable. I glanced over to my friend’s table and saw them laughing at the jokes their chef made while cooking the vegetables. Our’s made no attempt at any jokes.
When the chef was done cooking, he placed our meal on our plates. It consisted of chicken, rice, and vegetables. It was underwhelming to say the least. I could only imagine what everyone else was eating. They probably got shrimp, sushi, and maybe even tuna. At that moment, I truly wished that I could try seafood. After seeing everybody enjoying their, non-allergy-table, food, I knew I was missing out. I quietly ate my chicken.
When lunch was over, I met up with my friends again on the bus. I told them how I only got to eat chicken.
“Don’t worry, we only got chicken, too,” one of my friends said.
Then why would they make me sit at a separate table? I angrily thought to myself.
I was slightly ashamed for my false envy, but I still wished for my food allergy to go away.
Even today, when I’m in Cape Cod, watching my family crack open their bright red lobsters, or when they order mussels, one of my most coveted meals, I still feel a strong tinge of envy. This feeling is hard to hide when I know that I will most likely never be able to eat fish for the rest of my life. However, every fours years, when I take a trip to the allergist, I still hope that he will finally say that I have grew out of my allergy. At most, I hope that he will say that lobster is no longer on the over 30 items of seafood that I cannot eat.