Every week at the Farmer’s Market, the Seafood Man stands proudly with his coolers full of the week’s catch, as he should, knowing fully well that he and the Mushroom Ladies have the hottest, priciest commodities at the market. I stare at him longingly as I fork over $1 for a pound of kale and another $1 for two eggplants from other, more affordable vendors. This is my price range at the market. Sometimes I’ll splurge on berries or peaches, but generally I have a $3-per-item limit for myself, and seafood just doesn’t fit into my budget. It kills me, a little bit, to pass his freshly caught crabs or see my friends buy tilapia for fish tacos later in the week, but I’ve prioritized an omelet and kettle korn over fish, yet again.
He always has a trivia question, which, if answered properly without the aid of a smartphone, generally wins one a lobster tail. I glance at the question every week, hoping that one Sunday, I’ll just instinctively know the answer. It’ll just come to me because, that week, I’d be destined to have lobster tail for dinner.
I go to this market every. Sunday. Never have I guessed the question properly. Most weeks I don’t even bother, while others I’ll stand in front of his table for a good five minutes and wrack my brain for memories of Seinfeld episodes or basic American History facts. Perhaps my losing streak is a sign of why my trivia team did so poorly in its one week of existence.
And then last Sunday, everything changed. I was forcing my kale into my resuable bag, when I overheard, “Wait, so what’s the answer?”
I looked up at the board before I looked up at the inquisitive soul.
“No, l know this one! ...may I?”
I’m not aware of what I’m saying, my body’s just going with it. My mind is hours ahead of me, already submerging my free lobster tail in large saucers of butter with a large glass of pinot grigio in the other hand. What a lovely Sunday evening was in store.
The Seafood Man signals for me to answer, gesturing that he’s given me the floor, the opportunity to prove myself worthy of his trivia. My Venezuelan roots have prepared me for this moment. After 24 years, I was going to milk my heritage for a free lobster tail, and I internally acknowledged that it was some perverse form of affirmative action that I fully supported.
“Angel Falls. The world’s highest waterfall is Angel Falls and it’s in Canima - the rainforest in Venezuela!” I sputter it out quickly, as though if I don’t, I’ll forget that I’ve been to this massive waterfall. He nods, but not enthusiastically. He looks amused, but not in a Bob Barker “Let’s look at what you’ve just won!” kind of way.
I look back at the whiteboard where the question was scrawled hours before.
“What is the world’s highest waterfall and what country is it in? Guess correctly and win a free … NOTHING.”
My heart sinks.
Affirmative action is a lie.
I will be eating kettle korn for dinner, if I can ration it to last until 6pm.
I won’t be buying that bottle of pinot grigio.
I’ll submerge my sorrows in saucers of butter.
I’ll never win that lobster tail.
“It was too easy this week,” Seafood Man lets me down gently. “Everyone was getting it right and we ran out.”
I was shamed. I quietly walked away, my head low, to buy four bell peppers for $1 - left to wonder what it would be like to one day be able to leave the Seafood Man with my head high, and a plastic bag full of aquatic goodness.
Until next week, I suppose.