Their beautiful skin is the color of perfection, the shade of impeccably cooked lechón.
She watches as curls of smoke rise to kiss the sun. No one notices her yet: the short, chubby child at the edge of the crowd peering in. Men, women, and children jostle her, fighting to get a good view. The smell of roasting pig wafts over, tantalizing and suffocating in the heat. Flashes of golden brown skin, the color much like their own, appear in the gap between the bodies. She watches, mesmerized at the sight of the pig roasting over the fire.
The girl sneaks an upward glance at the faces that have returned fresh from Sunday Mass. She’s jealous of their glee, their loud jubilance at the promise of succulent, crispy lechón for tonight’s fiesta. A celebration meant for the village to welcome mother and daughter back home to the islands for the summer. A party paid for by her mother, including the pig she and her daughter cannot eat.
Her eyes fixate on the pig. In the smoky haze, she watches herself being roasted. Her hijab is gone, her head shaved. Her plump, uncovered body is impaled from head to toe. The crowd surrounds her, a sea of arms, legs, and faces merging in the smoke. She knows the figures have been bronzed from years of broiling in the sunshine, brined by warm sea breezes and showers in the afternoon rain. Their beautiful skin is the color of perfection, the shade of impeccably cooked lechón.
Anticipation grows. They watch unwaveringly as she is spun round and round over the burning coals. In truth, she looks forward to being taken down and served on a bed of banana leaves. She knows that when they open her up and look inside, they would finally see that she is the same as them.
Her meat would be just as delicious as any lechón the village has ever had. She would be flawlessly cooked, her flesh flavored with onion, garlic, bay leaves, and lemongrass. Their discovery would bring forth the villagers’ approval. She would witness their noisy enjoyment. “How good her glaze!” they would coo. “How crispy her skin!” Yes, they would moan over mouthfuls of her tender meat, enticing with its subtle hint of otherness. She would be happy. She would be loved.
But this would never happen. Hours pass as her body is spun around and around. She sees the excitement on their faces change. The crowd grows restless in the heat. They’ve been waiting for so long for her to cook. Too long.
The man turning the spit stops to scrutinize her. “Hoy!” he exclaims in confusion. “She’s still RAW!”
A wave of disbelief crashes through the crowd. Gasps turn to howls of fury as they stare and poke at her naked body, still pink despite the smoke and flames.
The crowd turns away.
“We can’t eat her. What a waste.”
“Do you see her skin?! She must have never done any cleaning at home. Rich puta. It’s shameful how they flaunt their money. Talaga, look at how big this pig is!”
She hears them all.
“Yes, this pig’s too young to be that developed. Look, she’s already having breasts. ”
“Oh, it’s because she’s never been hungry. Mataba!”
The voices grow louder. Each insult causes the blaze beneath her to rise higher and higher.
“She shows off her English too much. You’ve heard her speak, yeah? Why can’t she speak right? Is she dumb or does she think she’s better than us?”
“What do you expect? Ay Jusko. It’s probably because they don’t have the right God.”
“No!” The girl wails. “I’m just like you! I am lechón, too!” But they do not hear her. They only hear the squeals as she turns around the pole pierced through her body. She is unable to protect herself from their eyes, from the deafening onslaught of insults. She struggles against the bindings. No one hears her, the one who cannot be cooked. That is all they see, that is all that matters to the crowd.
Tears blur her vision. Her cries go unnoticed.The fire rises up to consume her.
She prays it will.