What you see is row upon row of gleaming fillets of halibut and grouper and salmon. You see the shiny scales of fresh rainbow trout. The fluffy pieces of catfish, begging to be battered and deep-fried. You see the neatly arranged shrimp, waiting to squirm their way into a bowl of pho or a stunning shrimp cocktail. You see the majestic king crab legs, full of lucious meat...
What you don't see is the struggle to lift heavy boxes of fish and the pain of falling with said boxes on an icy cooler floor. You don't see the scars on my brown hands from being stabbed repeatedly with shrimp tails, crab legs, and sharp knives. You don't see my ashy, puckered fingers at the end of a night, wrinkled from chemicals and cold.
You hear the loud hum of bone saws, cutting your porterhouse steaks, bone-in pork chops, and depending on who's there, frozen salmon. The friendly, helpful banter between employees and customers, and the P.A. system advertising the pharmacy and the discounted chickens in the Deli department.
What you don't hear is the soft, under-my-breath swears of frustration, the muted moans of pain as your muscles slowly cramp due to months of refridgeration. You don't hear the hateful shouts from the management that make you feel worthless and dumb. You don't hear my unconsolable, child-like weeping in the arms the love of my life, hopeless because he can't heal me.
You smell the ocean-y scent of fresh, succelent sea scallops, and the clean, watermelon-like odor of organic Irish salmon. You smell the honey-soy-ginger marinade of chicken and vegetable kabobs, and the coconut and oreganato panko coating of the probably too old mahi-mahi fillets. You smell the strong, mouth-watering affair of steamed peel-and-eat shrimp and snow crab clusters, heavily spiced with Old Bitch Seasoning.
You don't smell the ammonia-based cleaner on the bathroom floor, snorted in, because of the severity of your sobs. You don't smell the expensive cologne on the store manager as you essentially beg for some type of feedback on what kind of job you are doing. You don't smell my nervous sweat as I wonder with every small mistake, if this will be the straw that broke the camel's back.
Because you don't have to. Every time I work, I deal with a fierce internal struggle between my pride and my common sense...