Thursday, March 21, 2024

I was afraid I’d be the only one, eating alone before six, but there were a couple tables taken. Soon after I sat down the late-day sun cut through the rain clouds, catching passersby with umbrellas on their shoulders. The light came in and glinted off the table polish and the goblets and the techno music.

The Indian man to my right orders a biryani very spicy and when it arrives I wonder if it is. Soon I hear him sniffing from the heat. They asked him what he wanted to drink and he said a Coke, a Diet Coke, as if it was the same thing or he didn’t give a fuck. He devoured quickly and even had some kind of fucking dessert. I’d ordered my chicken curry medium spicy and could have stood a little more. It was good but I perceived a terrible sameness in the dish. Why do I always get chicken? Would lamb make me happier, or shrimp? Where is that magic dish out there that satisfies everything?

All I want to be is a good patient, a good customer. Good guest. To say the right, vaguely pleasant thing when called upon. Not to fuck up. I specified the garlic naan and from the look in the waiter’s eye it seemed to go over well. I was proud to remember the name of the mediocre Indian beer when I ordered a second. King Fisher. Is there any other kind?

A young couple came in, she of Indian descent, he a milk-fed American boy. She asked him if he’d ever heard of tikka masala and he said no. You order for us, he said. It became clear they’d just started going out. The tentative jibes, excessive deference. She said she told her parents about him, that he worked in finance. He reacted warily. “Finance but not finance where?” and she said no.

On my way there I passed by the 9/11 memorial and I’d never seen it before, didn’t even know it was there. I just had to look. I didn’t know what to expect as I approached the wall. And then I saw the maw, the water pouring down then down again. It brought to mind a scene in a bad science fiction movie or TV show, the hero in danger of falling to the center of the earth. It also seemed like it had been there a very long time, many decades, a century or two. On my way out the sun was gone and the wind picked up like crazy. I went to see it again.

A woman at the bar has a t-shirt that says Steak Diane.