Fifty-seven minutes by Rhythm Buaria


Art by Dominique Amendola

I set-up my establishment around the busiest corner of the street,

Six days a week and for twelve years now.

No sooner than the first batch of fritters is out of the pan,

Customers gather around, the usual ones, the first ones, 

Some of them whom I see six days a week, and have seen for twelve years now. 

It is a cycle of fifty-seven minutes, 

For each batch takes so much time to be cooked, sold and consumed. 

People from far-off corners of the city flock my establishment, 

To taste, what they say they have been told are the best fritters in the city. 

I give them half a smile,

The same half a smile which the regulars tell me I have given them for the last twelve years.

They wonder, I see it in their eyes, why am I not happy?

I have, they tell me, all that a man needs,

I am, they tell me, my own master. 

I don't respond, I hardly ever engage in conversation lest it may take me more than fifty-seven minutes for a batch. 

Ten batches of fifty-seven minutes later,

I close my establishment,

With my pockets full, and my soul empty,

The ghost of me boards the bus home. 

And as I lie down on my bed every night,

The monotony of it all gnaws my soul,

The monotony of it all crushes my spirit.

I wonder if my regulars feel the same?

Doesn't it bother them too that it's been twelve years and nothing has changed?

I twist and turn in my bed as I try to find an answer to this way of life,

The life I chose to feed me until my words would,

My words piercing me like a whetted knife,

Reminding me how the many batches of fifty-seven minutes murdered the dreams of my childhood.