Blessed be the invisible hand of the market
that prodded the opening of a dozen eateries
over the course of just a year: trusty old supply
meeting fresh demand like a May-December affair.
Blessed be the shopkeepers and their workers
fielding orders feverishly with no proper workflow
to speak of, just the beautiful mess of paying attention.
Blessed be the elderly couple selling diced turnip and
papaya, retirement far from their minds; and the
peanut vendor glad to be overwhelmed in the
noontime sun by a small mob, with their one-word
conversations of “Sweet,” “Salty,” and “Spicy.”
Blessed be the narrow, wet sidewalk made narrower
by all this pop-up commerce, and blessed the
city administrators—maybe customers themselves—
who have not yet thought to demolish the whole thing.
Blessed be the regularized woman on the way to
remitting cash back home; blessed especially the old
beggar and his special child, patient in their spot and
grateful with every gift; and the workmates jostling
and jesting, passing up the mall not only for something
cheaper and healthier but also to be nourished
by an unsanitized view of the different walks of life.
While the Web page loads to show me what inun-unan is in English,
I put the phone down, say grace, and—with the kind of nonchalant
ambidexterity we apply to things we’ll take for granted on this day—
pick apart the bones off one side of the fish, separating morsel from
nonedibles: red-orange scales, tail, spine, what remains of the head.
As if to honor its memory (or as though it would), I pause to marvel
at the fresh whiteness of this piece of sea meat, harvested at dawn
by fishermen who continue to fish despite being unenriched by the job,
from the bounty of a sea that continues to give despite being polluted;
and at how effortlessly fish-molecules—infused with vinegar—merge
with people-molecules so that at any given time, you have something of
sea and land, animal and plant in you; at how, no matter which specific
arc of the circle of life you bite, someone is bound to be offended, for
food is really a matter of one dying for another to continue living. And
it’s not your fault this is how things are, for how else do you in fact take
part in the dance of the universe but through standing on the shoulders
of giants; entering the world, for instance, through a life-threatening
event. You can only hope that by heeding the call to “take and eat,”
gracefully, grudgingly, gratefully, grumpily, any manner but guiltily,
you may eventually stop trying to live off the fat of your ability, off
the produce of your guarded, steely sufficiency, and like fish, broken but
multiplied, lay down your life.