By Rudy Martinez
Tuesday, 25th of June 2019. Bushwick, Brooklyn.
Three or four times a week, I go to a Puerto Rican restaurant called La Isla.
On the days I don’t order half a rotisserie chicken with yellow rice and black beans, I get pork
with yellow rice and black beans.
Today, I got the pork.
I got the pork after calling my mother to ask her how many times a week I should eat pork.
I trust my mother’s advice over a doctor’s.
She said three-to-four times a week is fine, especially since I’m active and the pork isn’t fried.
My mother yawned four times during our eight-minute conversation, so I said goodbye after we
briefly discussed a picture of drowned migrants, a young father and daughter, that the world was
witness to today.
I walked to La Isla, trying to wrap my head around what it is like to drown during a desperate
attempt to reach the greatest imperial power to ever exist.
After ordering pork with yellow rice and black beans, the gentleman to my right received half a
rotisserie chicken with white rice and red beans.
He moved the plate of chicken closer and bowed his head, presumably to pray.
I watched him pray.
I watched him pray and pray and pray for about 30 seconds as his food cooled down.
Seeing him pray, deferring the instant gratification chicken, white rice, and red beans can
bring, was inspiring.
When it came my time to receive a slightly different plate of food, the ideal being similar (meat
as the centerpiece with rice and beans playing parts in an ever-reliable supporting cast), I
would pray, too.
This guy knew nothing about me. He’d find my prayer authentic.
I’d even silently count to thirty, just for added measure.
The woman who brought my plate over asked if I wanted anything to drink and I said no; she
walked away before I could ask for limes and hot sauce.
Time to pray.
I moved the plate of pork closer and bowed my head to pray.
My eyes were closed, and as I counted to thirty all I could think of was that picture.
Two migrants, a young father and his daughter, drowned, discovered face down on the shores of
the Rio Grande.
When my time was up, I slowly raised my head and looked forward in contempt.
I don’t know what I hated more: the gentleman to my right, his material conditions, my light
skin, ICE agents, an amalgamation of all these things, or something else, something
Imagine what it’s like to have someone to thank, to blame, to beg — someone besides oneself.
I wanted to ask the gentleman to my right what had occurred during his prayer.
Did he thank god for his food?
Maybe he prayed for open borders or the rise of a legitimate people’s party?
I wanted to ask the gentleman to my right to estimate how many times he prays a week,
confirm that each of his prayers lasts around 30 seconds,
and then ask how long he’s been praying.
Let’s do some math.
After reaching a sum, I’d pull a page from my pocket notebook and scribble the sum on it, in
somewhat messy block lettering.
Keep this, I’d tell him.
Add to it every time you pray.
You’d think I’d walk out after that, but I’d still have food to finish, pork with yellow rice and
So, I’d go back to minding my own business.
Rudy Martinez is the son of Colombian immigrants and a graduate of Texas State University. He currently resides in Brooklyn, New York.
Image: “Big Lafayette,” San Francisco, California, acrylic on canvas, by Brianna Keeper