by Éric Plamondon
translated by Dimitri Nasrallah
Véhicule Press (Esplanade Books)
DONE FOR TONIGHT
I’m at Pad Thai Noodle Restaurant, at the corner of 8th Avenue and 18th Street. I’m on my way back from Ground Zero. It’s September 11, 2007.
I saw Trinity Church. I saw the Woolworth Building. I saw St. Paul’s Chapel. I walked along Broadway. I saw the Stock Exchange. I saw City Hall. I saw thousands of stores open all night. I crossed twenty red lights and fourteen green lights. I saw three hundred twenty-four yellow cabs. I saw atm machines on the sidewalk. I saw the scaffolding in front of stores being renovated. Through the clouds I saw the 9/11 memorial, Tribute in Light. I saw women and men. They walked with backpacks and handbags. I saw the dampness of the day after a rain. I saw subway grills steam up from the sidewalks. I saw several fire hydrants. I saw sidewalk newspaper boxes disemboweled, doors open. I saw the clientele of a bar leaving with their takeout in tow. I saw a bouncer built like a tank, chatting with a waiter. I saw two pretty girls in black and white dresses, looking English but they were really American. I saw their bracelets. I saw her pearl necklaces. I saw straight couples. I saw gay couples. I saw faces from far away yet from here. I saw all the faces of the world between 18th and 20th, between 42nd and 40th, between 34th and 35th, between Bleecker and Fulton, between Wall Street and Trinity.
I saw a woman in a red blouse talking to a couple, he was white, she was black. I saw her shaved armpits. I saw an Indian lady with her brother; they were having a conversation on a bench near the front window. I saw Banana Republic and Gap. I saw Equinox and the New York Sports Club. I saw Helio and Citibank. I saw the New York Sightseeing Tour bus with tourists riding on its roof. I saw a young girl with long blonde hair join the Indian lady and her brother. She wears a grey t-shirt. She smiles. They’re happy to cross paths. The two girls in black and white are about to finish off their spring rolls by dipping them in a slightly reddish sauce. They drink through straws. I drink my Patrón Platinum tequila. I saw a white polo t-shirt with Adidas shorts. I saw fingernails painted red. I saw turquoise earrings. I saw a necklace of amber stones. I saw candlesticks lit on tabletops, their flames lighting up the centers of urns carved to look like the baroque façade of the Gesù Nuovo church in Naples. I saw the three friends leave under a rainbow flag of gay pride. I saw the same flag hoisted in Venice against the war: Pace! I saw Wild Diesel Knight 1978 on his red back. I saw her fake necklace of glass pearls. She has dirty blonde hair, she wears black-rimmed glasses and she eats with red chopsticks. Under the table, I saw her waxed right leg crossed over her left leg. I saw her curl her toe. I saw her adjust her mid-sized white belt. I saw her bring her mobile phone to her right ear. I saw her black skirt as she came back from the washroom. I saw that she looked at me. I saw that her right ear wasn’t beautiful, too large. I saw my neighbor on the left get up to use the washroom. I saw the girl to my right look into her purse. I saw white dots on the blouse of the neighbor who stayed behind. I saw the washroom door open and, behind it, a mirror. I almost saw myself in it. I saw the humid watermark my tequila glass left on the oval wood table. I saw their plate of Pad Thai arrive. I saw her squeeze lime over the dish. I saw her pass her right hand along the back of her head, through her hair. I saw them talking. I saw the man facing her get up to pay. I saw the waiter forget something, leave, and then return with the bill folded into a brown faux-leather folder. I saw the MasterCard logo. I saw her sip from a straw, her eyes looking up at the ceiling as if seeking approval. I saw the waiter throw a towel in the kitchen. I saw him come back from the washroom. I saw him try to pick off a wad of paper stuck to his shoe.
I saw a No Parking 7 AM – 10 AM, MON – FRI sign tremble as a subway train rumbled below and then a truck passed by. I saw a couple, the woman with a baby in her arms. I saw that it was 10:25 PM. I saw them leave. I saw the bottom of my tequila glass. I saw the cook come back after stepping outside to have a look at the city bustle along the sidewalk. I saw a senior in a pink t-shirt using a red golf umbrella as a cane. I saw that the ice cubes in my water glass had completely melted away. I saw bubbles of condensation. I saw the number 19 emblazoned in black characters on the back of a t-shirt. I saw the boss behind the cash register. I saw the dishwasher with a Yankees cap on backwards. In the space of ten seconds, I saw nine cabs, a bus, and a Hummer pass by. I saw the lights fade. I saw another couple prepare to leave. I saw two women on the sidewalk. I saw that they had almost finished their Pad Thai. I saw the waiter removing candlesticks from the middle of the oval wooden tables. I saw the woman in a grey blouse pulling out some green bills, but those colors could have been inversed. I saw her fold her napkin after removing it from her lap, and then set it back on the table. One hand in her hair. I saw a cab stop for someone. I saw her make a phone call. I saw the waiter ask me, “The check?” I saw the lights twisting above the bar in silver pendants. I saw two immense palm leaves posed in a vase at the end of the bar. I saw the waiter leave with my amex. I saw a black man with iPod headphones dangling from his ears. I saw a white woman with a Duane Reade bag. I saw that I’d better go, that it was all wrapping up, that I was done for tonight.