So we’re sitting in the spot and I’m feeling like the man. I have this beautiful woman sitting across from me acting like she owns the place – telling the waiters to do this and that. The sounds of dishes slapping down on the tables are sounding like a train moving across the country. It’s a grounded feeling – one of connection that doesn’t come very often and hasn’t come many times since. A true adventure in the making. She ordered and tossed the menus back at the waiter before sitting back and exhaling.
The wall in back of her was made of mirror and I caught a glimpse of myself though I wish I hadn’t. My mouth was wide open with a clown smile painted on without the pain to add any comic effect. The noises in the restaurant stopped being so magnificent. I stopped being so magnificent. I looked at the girl and saw her chewing on a piece of gum like a cow chomps away at a piece of cud. An old couple next to us who must have been married for at least 30 years because they didn’t talk but reacted perfectly to each others movements looked at us, then at each other, then back to their plates that had exactly the same amount of food on them. I shouldn’t have checked out my reflection.
The waiter brought the food that she had ordered – two bowls of this streaming soup, two small bowls of rice, and a plate stacked with some meat I couldn’t identify. She took the gum from her rotating jaw that now seemed to grow in length and stuck it under the table – which the waiters saw. Without waiting for me, she started inhaling the soup like her lip were a straw and making a sucking sound so disturbing any amount of hight I might have been feeling vanished like so many dreams vanish when you decide to enter office life. I’m jumping around a bit, so let’s stick to the table. She then grabbed the little bowl of rice and brought it up just below her lips and started shoveling in the what kind of meat is that meat into her face, talking all the while about “This is the best way to eat. Just live it up and don’t wait. You have to indulge and just take in everything. I’m not waiting for manners or what people tell me to do, right? I’m just going to take it all in whenever I can. This is the life I’ve chosen, I don’t know about you.”
I hadn’t taken a bite yet and at that moment didn’t feel hungry at all. I can only remember flashes but remember being disgusted at her rate of consumption. She continued.
“I feel that way about men too. You know, I’ve been fucking this guy Colby for a few weeks now. Motherfucker doesn’t even call me to see if he can come over – he just knocks on the door and thinks I’m going to lay down for him. Right now, right now – hold on -” she was trying to talk but the amount of air for any sound to come out was blocked my mounds of rice, meat and soup. “So right now, like I said, I’m just taking it all in. That’s what I’m about.”
I realized then that everybody around us could hear what she was saying because she was shouting over herself to be heard. I felt small like a cartoon on the other end of a long dining table like I had shrunk into the size of a child. I looked back at the mirror, thinking I would see the same pretty girl in the reflection that I had seen back at Levi’s house, but that image had fallen away. Was I even there in her mind or just something else she was considering inhaling at some point in the evening. I excused myself to go to the bathroom, but headed straight out the door and onto the late night Chinatown streets with an empty stomach but not an ounce of appetite.
Now Chinatown in San Francisco is right next to North Beach, the Italian section of the city. I crossed over the imaginary border and started walking up the slightly inclined street of Columbus, not looking for anything but distance from what just was. I walked until I got to City Lights Bookstore, the place where everything started in the world that I was trying to get into but could never touch only read about. I stood in the alley that they renamed Jack Kerouac alley, and felt peace under the lamp post. I got glimpses of couples walking by with huge smiles and light conversations about themselves or someone they new, but I didn’t have any of these. The people who gravitated towards me spewed words, not conversations. And what could I talk about? How my my new room mates liked feeding people their own blood? How my friends were starting to get into powders but I just wanted to stay on herbs? How everything I enjoyed took place 40 years ago and could only be looked back on and never experienced. How, even if it was experienced, it would only be in re-creation instead of just making something new?
These were not light conversations and because of this, those little stories that people tell in the office these days, and I’m talking about now, the world that I will have to get back to in a few minutes, the stories that they tell sound nothing like this. They go more to the side of “this was my first internship” or “I used to get so drunk and..” or other light things that people have stock answers for. My answers weren’t stock – they were filled with me standing in an alley looking for the right soundtrack to move on with. There were some tough nights to be sure, but looking back, how many people can say they stood under the lamp post in the alley behind City Lights after ditching a whore in a Chinese restaurant because she had bad manners?
Perhaps I should offer that up while we’re waiting for the client to dial in to the conference call today.