Page 54 - WTP Vol. VIII #3
P. 54

 Karen is sitting at a table in one of the most famous chili crab restaurants in Singapore and trying very hard to focus on her boyfriend’s face. She is distracted because just behind his head is the tank with the crabs that they, presumably, are about to eat. Most of them are sluggish and a bit stupid looking but there is one in particular that seems to be watching her and gesticulating in Morse code with his claws, tip-tapping on the glass something like do not eat me or I am the second coming of the Messiah. Karen isn’t vegetarian, but she also isn’t accustomed to looking her dinner in the face.
It doesn’t hurt them, right? Karen asks, and immedi- ately has the sense she is interrupting whatever Patrick had been saying.
The crabs. Don’t they cook them alive?
He looks at her blankly. Karen, I don’t think shellfish have the capacity for pain.
The restaurant is called No Signboard Seafood, situ- ated east of the modern steel and glass city center in a district called Geylang, known for its preservation of colonial shophouses, high-quality, cheap food, and red-light district. Not that there’s anything cheap about this place, Karen reflects while looking at the menu. It’s a good thing Patrick’s paying. Actually, it’s a good thing Patrick’s paying for the whole trip—Singa- pore is a very expensive country.
Karen says, What do you mean, capacity? They have nerve endings, don’t they? Survival instincts?
Well actually, pain as humans understand it has more to do with suffering. For example, Nietzsche—
Their waitress appears, saving Karen from a philoso- phy lecture, and regards Patrick with consternation as he asks for ice water and a Tiger. When Karen asks for one too, Patrick looks at her with surprise because she doesn’t usually drink beer, it gives her bloat and sometimes diarrhea. This was supposed to be a ro- mantic night, but the crab is still signaling wildly and she’s going to need help getting through this meal.
By the time Patrick finishes ordering their drinks and chili crab, he seems to have forgotten about Ni- etzsche.
Anyway, he explains, this place was on Lonely Planet. It’s supposed to be the best.
Patrick has spent months planning and researching and watching travel shows and this trip has been one long episode of the Travel Channel’s greatest hits: Singapore’s Best Chicken Rice and Singapore’s Best Fish Balls and Singapore’s Best Laksa—so on their last night, of course it is Singapore’s Best Chili Crab. Patrick so purposeful, focused, from one carefully curated meal to the next. Everything photographed meticulously, everything with detailed notes, every- thing eaten slowly and then discussed and dissected and measured against everything else they’ve eaten. There is a lot of discussion of authenticity.
Patrick is trying to make a name for himself as a travel blogger, and Karen is supposed to be his globe- trotting model and muse. They met at a networking event for Young Creative Professionals. Karen isn’t a creative, as such—right now she’s the administrative assistant for a dentist’s office—but she has dreams to be, and her roommate promised cheap booze and moody, sexy men, which proved to be only half true until Patrick showed up. By then, Karen was two and a half vodka sodas in and the night had been a bust, so when he sauntered up and introduced himself as an aspiring travel blogger and foodie who was look- ing for his next adventure, she paid attention.
But it turns out that Karen doesn’t actually like travel- ing all that much, or at least not Patrick’s version of it. Like yesterday, when they went on the Tree Top Hike in McRitchie Reservoir, a narrow, quivering suspen- sion bridge through the jungle’s upper canopy that brought them up close and personal with a pack of macaque monkeys. There were signs everywhere that said not to feed or approach the monkeys, but Patrick told Karen to hold out a piece of her Clif bar to an especially curious specimen so that he could get this just-so pic of her feeding it while leaning over the steel cables, wearing a khaki safari hat and combat boots, her hair in a long ropey braid over her shoulder—like a modern Jungle Jane, he explained—but she refused because of the signs and surely they had all sorts of exotic jungle diseases. They had fought about it there, in front of other people trying to edge past them on the narrow bridge, until finally they compromised and she stood sort of near them uneasily. He took some photos and then frowned at the screen and muttered something about Photoshop.
No Signboard Seafood
eliZabeTH marian CHarles

   52   53   54   55   56