Sunday, March 1, 2009

We Only Eat Life

by Regina Edelman

Many living bodies will pass through the bodies of other creatures. That is to say, uninhabited houses will pass in pieces through inhabited houses, giving them something useful, and bringing with themselves their own harm. This is to say, man’s life is made up of things which are eaten, and they bring with them the part of the man which is dead.
–Leonardo da Vinci

I read to Daryl for him to approve my writing:

Yesterday I fasted and went to the doctor for a checkup. My doctor is Chinese, but grew up in São Paulo where I came from, and practices here in Chinatown where I live now. The Chinese markets here display tables full of food propped outside their storefronts onto the sidewalk, and even sell live turtles for soup. I think they’re for soup. I only have vague knowledge of how to cook a turtle, and I don’t even understand eating them in the first place. Once Daryl’s old roommate told me that he saw a party of diners in a Chinatown restaurant cooking a turtle in a pot over sterno in the center of the table. Alive, the poor beast tried to run away from death, which is certain we all know, but closer to that turtle. The poor thing tried to climb the hot walls of the pot, but how could the innocent run from the cowardice of her condemnation? The Chinese party pushed her back down to the bottom of the pot with its water close to boil. They laughed until the poor turtle died. Horrible! Cruel! But is it any different than the killing of cow, chicken, pig, fish, the poor sheep, or how many other lives in other places and times we don’t know of on Earth? It’s not a question of who eats what, no matter what hemisphere. The fact is that we only eat life. The only difference depends on whether we kill in sophisticated form, fast with no crying, or brutally like worms do. The sun, father of colors and lights showed clear and tinted the fruits in the Chinatown market: fresh vegetables covered in spines, green leaves that we know, that we don’t know, strange roots, ducks hung upside-down, chicken feet, testicles, and ribs of cow or pig, intestines hard to define if pig’s intestines or what are exposed for sale in the butchers’ and restaurant windows. Dried and salted strange little creatures like cockroaches are merchandise too in the exotic markets. A scenario in the pasture of man on my way to the doctor’s office on Canal Street filled with children yelling playing running, and old ladies who told fortunes. A shoe repairman squatted on a stool with his tools laid out on the sidewalk, busy with his customers waiting for their shoes. Clumps of men and women played dominos at tables in Columbus Park. Women fed the pigeons in spite of sign plates that read, Do Not Feed the Pigeons, on the park fence. If I was a pigeon, I’d like to raise my family in Manhattan, easy food here, for man, squirrel, rats, and cockroaches.

A fish at least two feet long jumped from a table. He twisted on the hard sidewalk, despairing without oxygen. With a spear, the fishmonger hooked the fish’s head and put him back on the sale table where he belonged now.

Daryl stopped reading and looked seriously at me. “This is beautiful, Gina,” he said. “What are you going to do with this?”

“I’m going to write a novel.”

“You can write a novel. We have a lot of work to do,” he said.

©2009 Regina Edelman

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