“The sea can’t heal the way it used to.” ~ Leonidas Perez, Coetupu tribal leader
There are metaphors comparing people to sardines packed tight in tins, with only a little oil or briny water to lubricate the idea of spaces between. At tapas places, I don’t quite know what to think of boquerones laid out in a wheel next to a little bowl of olives.
For most of my life, I knew sardines only in this form— decapitated herring or mackerel bodies pressure-cooked in batches, whose nearly macerated flesh we could eat without needing to pick out the bones. We ate them mostly in the rainy season, doused with vinegar and black pepper and chopped red onions.
When the power went out, we hauled plastic and metal drums into the yard to collect rain, and shredded old newspapers to start the fire in a makeshift stove. After we steamed a pot of white rice, we could make a game of pulling out in one piece the spines to lay on the side of the plate, the notochord one fine hair stringing tiny ivory-colored shingles. Their chalkiness mingled with the odor of damp mattresses.
I don’t know if I have the right to think of myself as a good person. And I don’t know how to begin to address the question: what is your greatest fear? On the one hand: seasons out of sync; the wide skirts of a hurricane whirling over the sea of Japan, swallowing lorries and airports. Necklaces of fallen bees. Whales ferrying their own dead, reluctant to relinquish them to nowhere. On the other: looking through glut in the produce and canned food aisles at a warehouse club; oil and sugar the smell of an overwhelming despair.