Alli walked down the street; sweltering evening heat radiated off every surface. Steam rose from the underbelly of the city. The sun was a bright light at the bottom of a canyon of skyscrapers, a candle waiting to be extinguished.
Wiping the sweat off the back of her neck, Alli stopped in Nate’s Papaya Dogs. The yellow and white signage greeted the disinterested, chewing silently, staring, eyes focused on unknown points, and hunched over the mica table top counters.
The heat from the streets pressed in on her temples. Despite this, she ordered a tiny, white china cup of espresso. The beverage came back lukewarm and milk had been added to it. Alli sipped distastefully but drank the rest of the concoction.
Nealy clambered up on to the spinning black seat beside her. The waiter wordlessly brought the latecomer a Reuben, with A Thousand Island Dressing, and some fries. “Do you know that they hose out this place at 3 AM?” Nealy asked.
“No, I didn’t know that,” Alli said, eying her cup, and wishing it were not empty.
Her friend made a swift gesture in Alli’s direction, and the waiter appeared again, this time, with a new cup of espresso. This one was hot; Alli savored the taste of the ground beans. Fresh Arabica coffee, probably sourced in bulk, from Borneo.
“Thank you,” Alli said, “I see you like to come here often.”
The sun reflected off the aviator sunglasses perched on Nealy’s head, “Order the omelets and flapjacks.”
“But it’s Nate’s Papaya Hotdogs…” Alli said.
“Just do it.”
Alli ordered the food, and the same waiter brought the breakfast out in under five minutes. The omelet was whipped up fresh: American cheese, little cubes of pink ham; the flapjacks, thin and easy to tear, soft and light.
“How did you know that they could do this?” Alli exclaimed.
“I pass through here on my way home, from work, late at night, usually at 2:30 AM,” Nealy said, “I’m here when they start throwing the last customers out.”
Alli ate silently for a few minutes. The sun’s rays filtered through the diner, touching wrinkles and folds in the diners’ faces, and a hundred crumbs lying on the black and white, checkered floor. Hundreds of feet had worn down the tiles, leaving thousands of soft lines and scuff marks.
Alli used the flaky pancakes to mop up the savory cheese sauce from the omelets. “I will be right back,” Nealy said. She stepped outside, and lit a cigarette, in the waning, orange light, snaking down the buildings.
Alli cut the omelet slowly and watched the fry cook in the back hustle around an unseen grill. She could imagine the perspiration bursting from his pores, dampening the white apron, unknowingly running off a contorted brow into the cascade of grease popping on the stove.
Nealy returned, mopping her forehead. That afternoon, it had been a hundred degrees in Central Park, a flat, baked, green postcard in the middle of New York City.
“Do you want to come with me to Shanghai?” Nealy asked.
Alli put down her napkin, “When?”
“Two months from now.”
The espresso cup was empty again, “How? Why?”
“Don’t ask why,” Nealy said, “Just say yes.”
The waiter appeared out of the din and haze, on the other side of the counter, and refilled the espresso. “A cappuccino also, please,” Alli said, wiping her face.
“It’s for the venture capital firm,” Nealy continued, “but I do not want to go alone. We can eat shark fin soup and fugu, flown in from Japan.”
“How can you say that?” Alli asked, looking away. She downed the third espresso, in one go. Dallas had left, just one month ago.
空バウンド (based on “The Glow of Love,” by Luther Vandross)
Forgettin’ (based on “I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near)” by Michael McDonald, of the Doobie Brothers)
3) GreyscaleSound – Still You and I// (based on “Nothing Can Come Between Us” by Sade)
4) 豊平区民TOYOHIRAKUMIN – 夕暮れsunset
Related: All-Night Dive