The girl at the market offered me a sample of fried okra. The older man standing next to me took one, turned to me and nodded. “Hunger comes naturally to us,” he whispered while holding it up for me to see, “eat what time has left for you.” He winked and I took the sample, biting down hard to satisfy my sudden starvation, hoping the pressure would alleviate my growing discomfort. I finished quietly and turned and walked away. He followed me but stopped a few steps behind, placing handfuls of okra in his basket while I examined my peaches.
His voice punctuated the silence building between us. “Listen to your heart,” he urged as if he was describing nothing more than my own heart’s throbbing. “Unless you know the way, you’ll never find it,” he followed softly. I turned to him and for a moment there was only us. “You are hungry,” he commented while pointing to the okra in my basket. Not knowing when or how it got there, I smiled awkwardly and walked away, chewing the inside of my cheeks as though there were something more to be said, to be hungry for.
At the register the old man leaned into me, licked his lips, breathed deep and exhaled, “We all eventually lose our hunger.” He paused. “But, a market can really tie things together,” he continued, “from the empty pantries to the ingredients, the leftovers, to ourselves.” I sighed, gathered my groceries and walked toward the door, realizing just short of exiting that for the first time I was alone. The seconds grew cold and for a brief moment this market, this life, they faded away, leaving me with nothing more than knowing how easily my world could be erased when I thought there was nothing more.
Ariana D. Den Bleyker is a Pittsburgh native currently residing in a small town in New York where she is a wife and mother of two. She earned a B.A. in English-Writing from William Paterson University. Her poetry has appeared (or is slated to appear) in Stone Highway Review, Homestead Review, scissors and spackle, Grey Sparrow Journal, and other fine journals. Her first chapbook, Forgetting Aesop, was recently published by scissors and spackle.