Another week is whipped from under
By Parson Thru
It’s almost the middle of March.
I’m standing at the fish counter preparing my lines.
The man is washing the work area down.
I greet him and he turns around.
“Buenos días! Que desea?” he asks.
I ask for 200 grams of langostinos cocidos.
“Where are you from?” he says in hesitant English.
I tell him I’m from England, trying to keep my Spanish going. Nobody ever talks about “Britain” or “the UK” here.
He scoops up a handful of langostinos and drops them into the weighing pan, dripping the last few in to reach the 200 grams.
“How long have you lived here?” he asks.
I tell him almost three years.
“Not long.” he says, and I agree.
Then he says “I’ve only been here for one and a half.”
That surprises me, as up until then I’d have said he was Spanish.
“De donde eres?” I ask him.
“I’m Palestinian.” he replies. “From Gaza.”
He’s wrapped the langostinos and stuck the price on.
“How do you say Palestinian in Spanish?” I ask.
“Palestino.” he answers.
I need a fish, too – the woman at the meat counter hadn’t seemed interested in serving me. I look along the sections of fish. I had a trout last weekend, but they don’t look so good today. The sea bass look fresh: shiny with a nice bright eye. Someone once told me to look for that. The dorada above them look nice, too. I’ve never cooked a dorada – there’s something more exotic about it.
I ask for one in Spanish.
He takes one from the top of the counter and holds it up for me.
“Éste?” he asks. They all look the same.
“Sí. Bueno.” I answer.
“Limpio?” he asks.
“Sí, por favor.” I reply, and he sets about scraping the scales away and cutting the fins off with a pair of scissors. Something sickens me about watching flesh being cut in that way. He finds the vent with the point and snips up to around about the gills. The noise reminds of the crunch when I accidently bite the inside of my mouth.
He hooks the innards out and drops them into a bin that I can’t see, then rinses the empty cavity.
“Your Government is very bad.” he says. “They’re doing bad things to Palestinians.”
“All governments are bad.” I offer, making the money sign with my thumb and finger.
There’s so much shit going on just now that I’ve lost track.
I notice a stocky old lady next to me. She’s wearing a long brown raincoat and giving us both dark looks. Maybe she’s just being patient.
“I don’t mind people like you.” he says. “Or Americans even. But I don’t like your Governments.”
I ask him his name.
“Muhammad.” he answers.
I tell him mine.
“Encantado!” he says.
“Igualmente!” I reply.
He weighs the fish and wraps it, sticking the price on.
“Nada más.” I answer and he swings the bags across the counter to me.
“Gracias!” I say.
Then, completely randomly, “Palestine needs lots of friends.”
I’ve no idea what I meant and I’m not sure Muhammad knows either.
We wave and exchange “Adiós!” and “Hasta luego!” and I’m off, heading for the checkout.
When I look back, the old lady is pointing at the dorada. It’s on special offer.