Conchinita Pibil

Moving his fork like a rake, he scrapes through the pork
and shovels the marinated meat into his mouth.
Mouth still full, he squeezes a straw through his lips
and takes a large sip of diet Pepsi, rinsing out the flavor
of the barely chewed bite before swallowing.

His face puckers, pale skin constricting and gathering into folds,
like the wound banana leaves cradling the meal he is abandoning.
He tosses his fork to the table and reaches into the pockets of
his tailored trousers to fumble through a wad of cash.
He counts out four, pauses, and subtracts one,
shoving three brittle bills underneath the sweating drink glass.

“That’s the last time I trust the cook,” the man says,
pulling himself off the tired wooden bench table.
How do you consider that Mexican food?” he asks,
walking out the door without waiting for an answer.

Pushing her braid behind her back and tucking her bangs behind her ears,
she weaves past the kitchen counter and stands in front of the meal
she had prepared that the man had probed, dissected, and left behind.

Dipping her tired fingers into the red sauce, she plucks off
a piece of the Conchinita Pibil and places it on her tongue.

The subtle taste of achiote whispers to her, reminding her of
the stories her father used to tell her about
her abuela and the market in Mérida.

Oregano, peppercorn, cumin, and allspice
twirl in her mouth, circling around the achiote,
amplifying its telling taste.

As she chews again, the smooth taste of Ceylon cinnamon
appears and latches on to the achiote,
forcing her body to feel rather than remember.

With eyes closed and arms wrapped around herself,
she travels through the tastes of her father’s home.

Right before swallowing, she becomes aware
of a taste sliding down the back of her mouth,
drowning out the voice of the spices.

Opening her eyes to rays of the Los Angeles sun
sneaking through the window and saturating her face,
she remembers the oranges she used in her cooking.

Thinking sweet nectar would work
just as well as the sharp bitterness of the
Neville oranges in Yucatán,
she squeezed California oranges into her
Abuela’s recipe for Conchinita Pibil.

With tears rushing down her cheeks,
she grabs the man's napkin on the table
and spits out her chewed up pork.