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Chapter 23

Living on the surface means finding amazing food- narrow streets, rich flavors, and friends.

Today I collected a sackful of oranges, and another of persimmons.  As I filled a tall green bottle with bean milk  at the bean curd shop, I chanced upon my neighbor.  She was buying a mash of sweetened beans garnished with onions.  The shopkeeper, my neighbor, and I stood about chatting.  The shop doubles as factory and street facade.  Factory worker, shopper, shopkeeper, and passerby are all fair game for hellos and friendly conversation.  I finally gave in and bought a little tray of mash.  The dish was a rarity- one can only stand around in front of a delicious treat so long before picking up a pinch.

At home, as I tasted a thick slice of orange persimmon and filled a glass with white milk, S. Pillier came over and settled across the table, behind an arrangement of drooping yellow leaves.  Soft white light filtered in from the the frosted glass of the old, south facing, kitchen windows. 

He spoke, "So here you are, in this world, Otoyk.  You have arrived.  It tastes good to eat well, doesn't it?"

"But there is more to the world than just eating, tasting flavors.  More than just sharing your table with friends, guests, and strangers. "

"You must do something with the food in your belly."  He picked up an old Kazantzakis book I had been reading.  His cunning eyes scanned the pages until he found a passage of Zorba's words:

"Tell me what you do with the food you eat, and I'll tell you who you are.  Some turn their food into fat and manure, some into work and good humor, and others, I am told, into God.  So there must be three sorts of men- I'm not the worst, boss, nor yet one the of the best.  I'm somewhere between the two.  What I eat I turn into work and good humor.  That's not too bad, after all."

Sometimes in books we find reflections of ourselves.  Sometimes we find reflections of the kind of people we want to be, cannot be, or simply admire.  Here, reading the words of Kazantzakis, the character of that old book had come through time and paper to finally bubble out of S. Pillier's own fleshy mouth.  That old voice became S. Pillier's voice. 

As Kazantzakis' character began to dance, I remembered dancing on Machiit.  It was a dark winter night.  An old man was singing an old song, his voice bellowed, calling out to the Tital Tital people, waking them up.  We would soon go and meet them in their villages to dance with them and eat with them.  In a line the men were dancing, I was among them.  Across from us the women were dancing.  We hopped, bounded, flew.  My long necklace followed the movement of my arms, up and down.  We breathed hard, you could almost hear the hearts beating, and everyone was smiling.  The floor beneath our feet began to bounce.  The whole house began to move, resonating.  We traveled together, there and back again, screaming out with joy, waking the villages along the way.