Fiction / November 2007 (Issue 1)

Market Guy

by Marco Yan

I was by no means a market guy. Neither would I have the desire to shop in a wet market nor the slightest inclination of putting myself near that hellish place. Yet this time, for her, I summoned the rest of my fidgeting courage and set foot in the market which, under the blistering sun, was no different than a battlefield.
'What is this place?' I grumbled, finding myself besieged by the intense odour of rotten vegetables, the continual screams of hawkers and trillions of housewives desperately jostling for the ingredients of their recipes. I hesitated, having absolutely no motivation to move on. Uneasiness roared. 'I think I can do this for her,' I reassured myself in a whisper. I then joined the legion.
Weaving through the crowd appeared to be impossible for me as the ladies holding their plastic bags refused to make way. I was pushed and touched by numerous hands that did not apologize, and my shoulders ached because of those who bumped into me in their hurry. And inevitably, I got my eight-hundred-dollar jeans wet—all to buy a twenty-dollar fish in this mayhem. I sighed. Never letting go of her face in my mind, I went on. The ladies continued marching, sweating and shouting to each other and only occasionally halting to get a pound of lychees or a watermelon at bargain prices. The invisible cockroaches were marching too, alongside the dirty and turbid water. The trapped searing air and the smell of sweat tickled my consciousness along the way. Helpless, I read my checklist of tonight's delights again: I still had to buy some meat.

'Can I have ten dollars of pork please?' I believed my voice was entirely unheard as an old lady was yelling beside me. 'Excuse me, I'd like to have ten dollars of pork!'
Finally, the butcher spotted me. Examining me, he exclaimed, 'A young man, ha, what a rare customer!'  With an impressive voice he continued, 'Ten dollars of pork, right away!'
I glanced around from where I stood: no, I did not belong in this place.
'For your dear mother eh?'
'My girlfriend,' I corrected him. 'Today's her birthday.'
'I see,' the smile on that coarse face seemed to fade. 'A romantic night in, right?'
I nodded, 'A surprise.'
'Yeah, cooking a meal is a real surprise, young man,' he said. 'Look at these ladies, they are here every day, buying vegetables, meat and fruit, just for a daily surprise. Okay, here you go. Hope to see you again, lad.'
When I turned around to leave, I again saw the army in their florid suits, an army that fired surprises. A sudden thought struck me and I dropped all my plastic bags.

Blinded by a surge of tears, somewhere, I imagined a very devoted soldier, who had been marching in this hell for twenty years, to raise me.
Website © Cha: An Asian Literary Journal 2007-2018
ISSN 1999-5032
All poems, stories and other contributions copyright to their respective authors unless otherwise noted.