It was three o’clock in the morning when I ate Chinese food out of a cardboard box, my sorry white ass sitting on a hard grey curb. My mind was floating freely when out of the blue she arrived: a stranger, a bronze toned angel in a pair of pale yellow jeans who sat next to me in silence—her leg pressed against mine, the both of us eating rice and noodles in a quiet unison, my thoughts attuned to her other worldliness. But what wariness I had gave way to an immediate wanting. I wanted the randomness of this she-angel, of our legs to be adjoined and at the ready to make sweetness under the summer night sky.
A tantalizing egg noodle dangled loosely from her chopstick.
“So what’s your name?” I finally asked.
“I’m not going to tell you,” she replied, sweeping the noodle gracefully into her mouth.
“What if you knew me for a hundred days, would you tell me then?”
“Even if I wanted to I couldn’t. See, I have no name.”
She put down a box of fried shrimp, gulped her food slightly and said: “I’ve got something to show you.”
As if by magic she pulled an oversized envelope out of a slight pocket and handed it to me.
“Open it,” she said.
I tore carefully at the envelope and removed its contents—nothing but blank documents.
“This is a birth certificate, but all the boxes are blank. There’s no dates, no place of birth, no parents name, nothing.”
I looked through a drug card, a bank card, a student card, a credit card. Nothing was written to tell the barest facts of who she was.
“So what’s with you?” I asked.
“I have no name, no identity, nor place of birth I can state. I know their faces—my father, mother, brother and sister. I close my eyes and see my childhood friends. I recall them all, but I can’t name them and they can’t name me.”
She pressed soy sauce out of plastic packet onto some fried rice.
“Pass me a napkin,” she demanded.
I gave her one and then she grabbed my wrist and turned over my hand.
“Now watch this.” She daubed a droplet of soy sauce on my thumb.
“Press it against the napkin…see you leave a print. Watch me.”
She too placed soy sauce on her index finger and pressed it against the napkin, but her finger made no print. She then broke a plastic pen and smeared ink on both her hands, then rubbed them hard into her pale yellow jeans but left behind no stain. The ink on her palms evaporated in bluish wisps into the night air.
“As far as I know I’m not from a distant stretch of the cosmos. I wasn’t touched by a shaman, ordained by a God. I was born this way. I leave behind no trace of me, just memories that never get told.”
I told her I was a writer of fiction. I could take was true tonight and write it as such but claim it to be a story that came to me in a dream. Not a publisher, not an agent, not an editor, nor a reader would doubt it. I could pass off fact as fiction and the two of us could be the better off for it. The memories she had finally to be told.
An eerie gust came in an instant. I dropped my head, closed my eyes and waited the seconds till it passed. I opened my eyes but she was gone…gone somewhere. Round the corner or up some stairs, I couldn’t say. Or maybe she truly came from an outer stretch of the cosmos. Maybe she ascended, rising nameless to that great Chinese Take Out in the sky.
I collected what the wind had swept—the napkins, the chopsticks, the plastic wrappers. I put them all together in a box and dropped the box and its contents into a metal trash under a city lamp. That is I threw all away but one fortune cookie wrapped in crinkly cellophane.
I crushed the cookie and read it; the advice coming too late: Beware the here and there. Beware a mistral angel.
Tomorrow I’d cook chicken Chinese style, a Hainan bird in a bubbling broth of onion and ginger. Or maybe I’d try French style—a coq au vin in a dry white wine. Or maybe I’d combine the recipes in a giant crazy dish and sit once more with my white ass on a hard grey curb and wait for an angel.
Poetry Pantry #412
15 hours ago