This is not a story about fish. It’s more about toilets, but we will get to that.
It’s true that the kids are overwhelmed by the fish.
Loch, who is five, is fascinated by all the rows of multi-colored dead fish on ice. He is exuberant about the live blue crabs which keep waving their legs in the air while trying to crawl out of their tub. Most of all he is mesmerized by the live lobsters and various swimming fish in tanks, waiting to be plucked for someone’s dinner.
Nine-year-old Lexi is impressed by all the severed fish heads with their frantic bulging eyes and festive teeth, while in another long case I am disconcerted by by all the animal parts. Tripe, brains, knuckles, tongues, stomachs, spleens and splintered bones are laid out in haphazard ways.
I gulp and feel suddenly intrigued by vegetarianism. The animal parts strewn about have made me, a Primitive Meat Eater, go kind of glinzty.
Aside from the fish and the bloody animal piles, there is lots of other stuff, foreign to our American eyes.
Row by row with our rolling cart, we all wander and look at unusual products.
I toss fish powders and some seaweed soup mixes into the basket.
We get a few fresh but unknown vegetables that we won’t know what to do with when we get home with them.
The store is dirty.
The kids are excited and curious as we wind our way up and down the aisles between fire crackers and bags of various dried mushrooms and jars of fish paste.
Then he begins (and won’t stop singing) Hanuaka songs in a loud voice…and we are not Jewish.
The store is dirty and packed with people and suddenly I have to pee.
I make my way to the bathroom with some trepidation. If the store is dirty, what will the bathroom be like?
It is dirty.
But, what catches my attention is the sign in the stall I choose to use:
‘Don’t stand on the seats. If you squat on the seats make sure you look for any droppings you may have left behind on the seats and wipe them off.’
Which means you hang over the seat but you don’t touch your butt to it. I don’t want to slap my quivering butt into any of those loose, dirty droplets.
A few weeks later I am at my art class at Carol’s house. We four have been meeting for ten-plus years, so we are comfortable with each other.
While we are discussing the complexities of life and art, Carol says something unusual.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about something…I’ve been wondering lately how many times have I sat on the toilet in 84 years?”
We don’t know what to say.
After a long pause, I ask, “Do you have an answer to that question?”
“No,” she says, “but I’m still thinking.”
Because of my fish drawings, you may have thought this essay would be about fish in an Asian market, or that it might have some redeeming quality; maybe something educational or some biblical or metaphysical truth that would make you feel better about yourself or your life.
No. In my mind it is more about toilets and what we do on/in them according to our culture.
Not that defecation is that interesting. Everything does it.
And it’s not consuming my life, like it is Carol’s. (Pooping is kind of a weak side note for me.*)
I drew fish because I like to draw fish better than I like to draw toilets and I did find the bathroom sign amusing.
So take what you want from this essay, something or nothing…however it suits your life at the moment.
I simply see it as one of those interesting Adventures or highlights that dot a life as we live it.
* I wrote a popular book about pooping and various health issues. “The Herb Lady’s Notebook.” http://www.amazon.com. Or you can read a part of it for free on my website. See below.
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