Page 56 - WTP Vol. VIII #3
P. 56

No Signboard Seafood (continued from preceding page)
 name in lights on Broadway. When her auditions went nowhere, the dentist she worked for gave her veneers at a discount and she sent her headshots to several agencies, but she never heard back. So, the theatricality of Patrick’s vision had suited her well: she saw herself as a partner, curating wardrobes, scouting locations, creating elaborate hair and make- up creations, flexing the creativity that she knew was in her, dormant, untapped.
One of Patrick’s favorite Instagram accounts is that of a photographer who captures the back of his wife in exotic places, her face always turned away, her hand reaching back to hold his. There she is, facing the des- ert moonscape of Abu Dhabi in a diaphanous blush- colored dress, a sky of pink and blue cotton candy clouds overhead and rippled sand dunes that swell into the distance. There she is, on the Great Wall of China, wearing a voluminous red gown and dragon- embroidered jacket with her hair bound up in some kind of gold headpiece, carrying a basket of lemons as she walks toward the jade-green mountains. Or
in front of the Taj Mahal wearing a gauzy white sari, the trim and skirt encrusted with beads, her hair wound in an intricate spiral as she drifts toward a fuchsia sky that imbues everything, the minarets and the dome and the water in the reflecting pool, with
a flushed romance. Or in the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean, where she wears a cheeky green bikini, surrounded by dolphins, the dappled light on her graceful thighs and their sleek gray backs as they all swim toward the vertiginous cliffs of an island in the distance. Her face isn’t visible in any of the pictures, but her arm is slender and her shoulders bony in a pleasing way, and Karen just knows she’s gorgeous. She knows the photographer and his wife do it on
the beach in Bali after they’ve taken their photos for the day and when she comes it’s like a fucking angel chorus has descended.
What an adventure it would be, Karen thought, what a slap in the face to the people who asked her what on earth she expected to do with a theater perfor- mance degree. For the first time in a long time, she was excited about something.
Early on in the trip, they had tried to do the follow-me shot with one of Patrick’s fisheye lenses but all you could see were the curlicues of damp hair bleeding into the neckline of her dress, which instead of being diaphanous and wind-swept was blotchy with sweat. Her biceps were awkward and foreshortened in an unattractive way, and suddenly little pockets of skin bulged along her bra line. Patrick had frowned and looked at the camera and tried it several different
ways—maybe it would be better if your face were in it after all, he said—but in the end neither of them were happy so they just got drunk and tried to have sex and it was bad and everything snowballed from there. Besides the Tree Top hike they tried more excursions—the island Pulau Ubin, the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, the famous infinity pool on the surfboard-shaped top of the Marina Bay Sands build- ing, all the famous outdoor hawker centers—but
no matter what she wore she sweated through the fabric and within minutes of applying foundation or mascara it was halfway down her face. Then she de- veloped a fungal rash in some delicate body mem- branes—a combination of humidity and synthetic underwear, Patrick had tsked—so by the time the waitress brings out the platter of chili crab on their last night in Singapore, Karen has just about had it.
The crab is enormous, already sectioned off into legs and thorax and covered in a small crimson ocean
of chili sauce, thick and fragrant and laced through with wisps of egg. They are handed an assortment
of utensils, a shell cracker, a little metal pick, some chopsticks, and a deep soup spoon. Karen looks at the crab on the platter and then at the one in the tank, who has levered himself back down onto the bottom of the tank. They look nothing alike—the one in the tank is a muddy brown and the leg segments and carapace on the platter are a bright red, which recalls for her something about a chemical reaction that happens in the boiling process—but she could swear he’s watching her. Or is the crab a she?
Is it just male crabs? she asks Patrick. Or do they cook the girls too?
He gives her that impatient look again.
I imagine it’s both.
But wouldn’t you want to keep the girl around? You know, to make more crab babies. Oh God, she adds, struck by sudden horror, what if it’s pregnant? Are we about to eat a pregnant crab?
Patrick puts his elbows on the table and rubs his knuckles into his eyes. He takes a deep breath. When he speaks, he uses his Calm Down Karen voice.
Karen, crabs don’t get pregnant, they have eggs or whatever. They are crustaceans. They have no mater- nal feelings. In fact, they have no feelings at all. Can we please just enjoy our fucking dinner?
Using the tongs, he plops first a claw, then a leg joint onto her plate, and with them a little wave of sauce

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