One Hour In A Small Thai Restaurant, Including Soundtrack
I aced my first test. Blew the curve. Just ask me about cell structure and function.
This time though, I'm no so sure about the material. Bio Chemistry, my Achilles Heel, my 'Gentleman's C' in high school, the one class that kept me from straight As.
Molecular chemistry. Middle ground. I'm no good at middle ground. Give me little bitty quarks, give me cells (because cells are BIG, really they are. Huge. Which makes each of us a universe. Anyway.) but not this middle ground...
I needed a place to study. Home wasn't working. Too many distractions. I pass a little Thai place every time I go to school. After class tonight I decided to give it a try. Besides, I've been hungry for two weeks, eating like crazy and still getting hypoglycemic. Maybe I just needed someone else to feed me.
I walked in and had my choice of tables. Though the phone rang off the hook for carry-out, the place was empty.
Before I could open the menu, the waitress asked, What you like?
Cool. Hmmm. Spicy, I said. Chicken. Greens. No bell peppers.
Ok. I bring you soup too. A statement, not a question.
Tom Yum Kung?
She nodded and ducked into the kitchen.
The chef was the roundest, fattest Asian guy I've ever seen. He looked Sumo. After the excellent soup he brought the main dish to my table himself. Oh merciful Thai gods it was good. So spicy I felt my cheeks flush – no small feat; I love heat. A rich, smooth sauce, baby bok choy, basil, tender chicken... if keep going I'm going to attack the leftovers in the fridge.
People streamed in and out behind me, placing orders and picking them up. Then finally I had company. A guy walked in and hesitated before he was told to pick a table. I tell you this because I don't think he was a regular. That becomes important, I think.
What can I say? He wore blue velvet. Whoa whoa whoa.
Jeans and a blue velvet shirt. Glasses. As wholesome-looking as one can get wearing a blue velvet shirt.
So between toe-curling bites and watching Mr. Blue Velvet, I pulled out my notes, hoping to loop together the facts that bounced around in my brain. Bonds, of all things. I couldn't get bonds to bond. I had words – covalent, hydrogen, Van Der Waals, ionic, polypeptide – but I had no understanding. Each was its own atom, and happy to stay that way. A full valance. A full dance card...
...There. A metaphor I could use. A gel to put in front of the light.
Relationships. The atoms do a dance. More than that, they form different bonds according to relationships. Covalent, strong as soulmates. Hydrogen – some marriages not so lucky. Ionic – opposites attract. Free radicals – kidnappers destroying a family...
And then the Asian Muzak stopped, and the sappy Farang music started. Kenny Rogers sang, “Lady...I'm your knight in shining armor, and I love you...” and I bit my lower lip remembering how I LOVED that song as a girl... And then Bill refused to get married to a woman who loved him so and always will, and then by the time he got to Oklahoma she'd be sleeping, THEN, kids...yes, she did...she
He didn't even look up from his book. I was DYING and he didn't even look up.
Well, until the Sumo came out dancing with his waitress.
Watching them dance expressionless, him so surprisingly graceful, her so self-contained, the wind picking up and blowing the icicle-style Christmas lights against the windows behind them like strings of amino acids, Mr. Blue Velvet setting his book aside and clapping. Well. It felt like home.
The pair danced back into the kitchen. Blue Velvet paid and left.
I don't remember the next two songs. But when Unchained Melody came on I knew it was my cue to make like an atom and split. And it was, since the music stopped after that. But I left with a much better understanding of bonds.
When the twenty-something guy at the bus stop asked me what time it was and I told him, and he argued that it was impossible, because he'd just left the library two minutes ago, and that was fifteen minutes ago, and how'd he lost twelve minutes, and did he miss his bus, and how was he going to get home, I just got in my car locked the doors and drove, baby.