About a brief lunch break which somehow happened to remind me of events I have never mentioned here before.

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It was Slobodan's first day at the office. I picked him up at security, two stories below the surface of Manhattan. He was there to pick up his new picture ID. Between meetings we both only had about 30 minutes to get some lunch. The closest place to get some good food was Korea town. The closest restaurant in Korea town to be serving lunch at 3:30PM was the one with the cliff and the waterfall. I really do not remember the name. Probably not yet. The cliff and the waterfall extend over the entire large east wall. Two full floors of faux nature, all inclusive with protective overhang, plastic plants, never ending supply of mountain water. There is also the white concert piano. It has its own little area on the second floor. The pianist must climb over a narrow mountain path to get to his instrument. He must press himself against the boulders and probably also make sure to never kick the piano down onto the tables below. Lunchtime was actually over. Probably at three. We were directed to the second floor. I sat with my back to the window. As I was moving into my bad feng shui spot, the glare of the sun, reflected in some surface outside, blinded me so severely that it took quite a while for me to see the table, the piano, the cliffs, just in general where we were, again. Not that I had forgotten. It was just that the brightness of the light made worked almost like the opener of a new scene. Was I now looking at the past? Was this here a vision of the future? Were we now in a parallel universe? All of the above? (None?) The menus arrived. I made sure not to order anything that would have any beef. For the last weeks, all of my orders seemed to contain pieces of the animal. I wanted to not eat meat this time. I wanted to make sure. We both ordered the same dish (I think it was 10-28... which translated into a name I can not remember. At least not yet?) Small side dishes arrived. There was the tofu, there was kimchi, more pickled stuff, some leaves, some strings, some things. (All spicy, yet delicious.) I think it took me this long to actually realize that there were people sitting next to us, at a larger table, a bit further away from the window. They were two women, probably in their early twenties. I could not guess their heritage, I could not quite pinpoint their possible origin. It did not really matter at this point. They were sitting across from each other and they were finishing their meal. Closer to me, sitting in a high chair, was a bare-chested boy. He was maybe two or so, I could not really guess his age. For once I do not really know too many bare-chested two year olds (I don't know any). On the other hand, he had a very strangely built body. It was the body of a much older person. His chest resembled almost a miniature version of what mine looked like when I was sixteen. I am by no means a muscular person, but this boy looked as if he were a teenager who had just discovered weights. The boy did not speak. He looked around as if he were a trapped wild animal. He grabbed one of the empty side kimchi dishes and banged it repeatedly against the edge of his seat. At the same time, he made very loud, high pitched, shrieking noises. Over and over again. Both women ignored him. They carried on their conversation which was about, "you know her who told him about the other guy who then told the other girl about what he thought was that other outrageous thing." I liked the taste of the very dark leaves covered with some sort of red paste. Some of the mayonaise covered tofu chunks (and I do not know if either of the just named was even remotely involved) tasted really quite delicious as well. By the time our main dish arrived, the boy's screams were penetrating even the most focussed attempts to ignore him. The woman, who I assumed was his mother, said something to him, then checked something in what appeared like the back compartment of the child. She pulled the boy out of the high seat and placed him on the floor. He continued screaming, now standing up, walking around, running, standing. I just now noticed that his outfit had been originally designed to cover his torso as well. It just had been opened, turned into something like light blue pants. They were now also dark blue and brownish and had other colors. The mother left her seat. She was now standing with her back to us. I just now noticed her massive, wavy hair. She looked like an incredibly steep mountain of hair, from which two legs extended only to not drag the hair-ends on the ground. At least not for now. I imagined her hair would continue to grow, quickly, it would soon flood the space around us, it would envelope the boy in his soiled pants, us, the tables, the floor below us, the mountain, the white piano, maybe all of Korea town. I have to say I was afraid the mother had just decided to change her boy right there, on the table. I imagined her changing the boy right between the side dishes and the beef plates. I felt thrown back to 1995, when it was my job, for the entire year, to change children of a range of ages, often unpredictable ages, definitely at lunch time, several of them, one after the other, in a badly ventilated room, when my partner would often throw up in a stall next to me, or just leave, or... The boy did not smell a bit. The mother took a diaper. She took the boy by a hand. She left the area around our tables. She left the floor. The screams of the boy were soon more distant. They sounded far away enough for us to hear the other woman speak on her cellphone, about "you know her who told him about the other guy who then told the other girl about what he thought was that other outrageous thing." a waiter arrived and cleaned their table. the same waiter brought desert. the woman ended her conversation and began to eat desert. The boy returned maybe 15 minutes later. All he was wearing now were his shoes, untied, and a giant diaper with some small pictures on them. No, I do not remember what the pictures were of. The children I would change were often too old to have diapers with pictures. About three minutes later, the mother came up the stairs. She looked defeated. In her outstretched hand however was something that looked almost like a light blue skin of an animal: Light blue and dark blue and very, very brown. Actually. Very brown. Her friend pulled a plastic bag out of the back net of the carriage. The mother then very carefully lowered the completely soiled piece of child clothing into that. She tied a knot. they then both tied the boy's shoes. The mother grabbed the now oddly quiet boy off the floor with both of her arms and she slammed him into the high seat. Now he screamed again. She must have hurt his knees or shins, or maybe his back as well. She pulled him up again. This time he had enough time to stretch out his legs and so he ended up in a position that looked a bit more like sitting. He grabbed one of the plastic dishes off the table in front of him and began banging it against the edge of his seat. Maybe this was why he looked so muscular. He probably really liked hitting things over and over with all his force. The women ate their desert. It was chocolate and green tea ice cream. I think it was. Brown and green were the colors. They left soon after. The half hour of lunch was over. We had to return to the office. There were separate meetings. Tomorrow there will be more. Very important. Did I ever even tell any of the stories of 1995? Did I ever even mention any of this here? I just checked... I did not... Hmm... Not sure if nine years are enough of a distance? They probably are not. I should wait.

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i, for one, look forward to the stories of 1995.
and stories from future lunches as well.

"I should wait."

Life is far too short to do anything that includes the word "should" in it.

Love your stories.


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This page contains a single entry by Witold published on September 20, 2004 10:55 PM.

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