I popped into Barnes and Noble to check out some boardgames after biking with Gordon to his bar in Park Slope. Out of curiosity, I stopped at the RiteAid next door and just as I’d read everywhere online I found no toilet paper, soap or hand sanitizer left. On the way back to my bike, I stopped to take a photo of the golden light against a brownstone. Watching the day die against the red bricks of a building I’d never be able to afford made me feel hungry, so I went into the nearby fish market to pick up a cheap salmon roll. There was only one other customer inside, and I recognized him as one of the regulars at Gordon’s bar next door. I remember being told he owned a big venue, in South Slope, maybe.
Browsing the fish on ice, the regular pointed at a whole side of wild Alaskan salmon and the man behind the stall told him it was going to be $120 dollars. “Fuck it,” he nodded, “fuck it, I don’t want any of that farmed shit.” I felt a little self-conscious, standing there with two packs of instant noodles and a $4 sushi roll so I reached for the last bag of mussels chilling on ice chips near me and moved to the register behind the regular, who was clutching his huge bag of salmon like his life depended on it. He recognized me and we acknowledged each other with a nod. The cashier said in a very thick Japanese accent that the regular wasn’t the only customer to buy a whole side of fish today. The regular didn’t understand him but with my years living with my mom’s own accent, I paraphrased the cashier without thinking and the regular grunted in response. “Oh yeah, well if only I could find some black beans now.” he complained, and I smiled politely.
As I unlocked my bike outside, I thought about how I had just watched this man buy over one hundred dollar’s worth of wild Alaska salmon and I didn’t even have any toilet paper left. Biking home, I scanned the faces of everyone I passed, gauging their mood, wondering if I’m behind, not taking this situation seriously enough.