Days of Conveyor Belt Sushi
I am closing tonight / with The Manager who insists / I personally make his iced coffee / as soon as I clock in. / The Manager reminds me / about breaks and California law. / But I’m not paid enough / to risk losing a table. / I compromise with cigarette breaks. / I still split my tips. / Halfway through my shift / I stuff myself with wrong orders / a game of chubby bunny with cut rolls. / The Sushi Bar Chef is getting suspicious / if my green tea is hot sake / and if I’m splitting my tips right. / The Regular walks in / ten minutes before closing. / The Manager welcomes him / with a fraternity handshake. / The Regular ignores the meaning of / market price / then refuses to pay / for the toro sushi times five / and the sake bombs times two. / The Regular waves the tip tray / a twenty as the carrot dangled / in front of my face. / Sir, please don’t call me / jailbait / then request for a hug. / That night / and so many more after / I compromise my morals / for gas money / and actual non-slip shoes. / The evening drowns out the karaoke bar. / Refilling soy sauce becomes / a ritual / less sodium as long-lasting fragrance. / The conveyor belt stops / for now. / The neon OPEN sign / haunts my dreams .
Maria Prieto (she/her) has worked in the fast food industry and at sushi bar restaurants for years to live off tips. She occasionally worked retail during summers and when it was time for Black Friday shopping. Nowadays, she mostly works from home via Zoom. Her book reflections and recommendations can be found on Instagram @mpjustreading.