“Um, I am going to check on the fire.” I didn’t know what to do with my fish-covered hands and I stood staring at them, more because of what they did to the fish – to Jason – than what was on them. He picked up the blue jug, poured water over both of them until they were fish-free. I shook them off and wandered off to the fire. It didn’t really need attention, but I poked at it anyway, and threw some more pieces of bark into the flames.
Before he brought the grill of fish over, he brought the knife, clean and free of any remnants of fish, and a lemon, plus a pepper mill and the plates. “Do you mind cutting this into wedges?”
I took the items from his hands in our now common unspoken affirmative. He rearranged the heated coals to create a flat surface on the fire to place the grill. When he returned with the fish, they were popping and sizzling as soon as they neared the low flames, mostly from the water he used to rinse them. He returned a few moments later with a bin of grape tomatoes, two bottles of water, two forks, and a few paper towels. He took two of the wedges of lemon and squeezed them over our lunch frying in front of us.
The smells of the fire, the fish, and the lemon all made me all the more hungry. I set the remainder of the lemon and the knife on one of the plates and headed to the truck. I rubbed the lemon juice into my hands, and sniffed the clean, citrusy fragrance – much better than the fish smell. I retrieved two apples, and when I got back to the fire, I began slicing them. I picked up a piece and offered it to him. Rather than extending his hand, he bit it right out of my mine. If I was this hungry, I figured he must be, too, and he inhaled the apple slice accordingly. By the time I sliced a bite for me, he was ready for another and I again fed it to him.
As I continued to slice the apple, I watched the knife dig into the fruit. I didn’t intend to be so angered by the fish cleaning experience, yet I couldn’t help thinking about how powerful the simple task of beheading a fish made me feel. I was hungry, and I felt like eating, but not like talking, as I stewed on my hatred that the unknowing fish unleashed, and I was in perfect company for a silent meal. I portioned out the remaining apple slices on our plates, as well as a handful of tomatoes each. I held the plates out as he used the knife to lift the fish off the grill. I made a point to have the three largest ones on one plate and the smaller two on my plate.
“Is that enough for you? You may have one of mine if you want it,” I offered before we started eating.
“I’m good,” he replied. He ground pepper on his platter and gestured towards me. I held up my plate and my fish received a light covering, too. We ate in silence, and despite the exposure of some emotions that I previously thought I held well in check, I allowed a measure of pride to float to the surface. I caught my own lunch. How about that?