Page 57 - WTP Vol. VIII #3
P. 57

 that splashes onto the white part of her black and white striped t-shirt, right across her breast. She had worn it specifically because Patrick thought it would give a nice Parisian vibe to the photos.
They both look at the splotch of chili sauce for a mo- ment, and then she cranes her neck down to lick it off. Her tongue spreads it further across the fabric, a leaching pink stain.
She looks at Patrick. Tastes authentic, she says. Red spots have risen in his cheeks.
Jesus, Karen.
Seeing them, a waitress rushes over with lobster bibs, tying one first around her neck and then around Patrick’s, despite his protests. Karen looks back at the crab tank. Her crab seems to have given in, now sitting almost docilely, tapping one claw against the glass as air bubbles rise around him and another crab is taken out of the tank. She looks at the claw
on her plate, then puts her lobster bib on the table and excuses herself to the bathroom. She spends
a few minutes trying to fade the stain with watery hand soap, then gives up and resolves to soak it in the hotel sink. She looks at herself in the mirror over the sink. Since she stopped wearing makeup her eyes are lashless, but there is an almost healthy glow to her bare skin—no matter what Patrick implies about all the wok-fried hawker food she’s been eating. She thinks maybe the humidity agrees with her after all.
On her way back to the table, she stops at a plaque near the turtle pool. It includes an engraved his-
tory and bas relief of the original owners, a couple who started it as a hawker stall back in the 80s. The restaurant is so named, the plaque explains, because the hawker stall never had a name or sign, so visitors started referring to it as No Signboard Seafood. Now the company, still family-owned, includes multiple locations, franchises, a ready meal line, and a beer company. There is a photo of the husband and wife, smiling without teeth, standing a little apart from one another. She can’t decide if they look happy.
Karen sits back down at the table, where Patrick regards his crab claw with a combination of determi- nation and bewilderment.
Their famous dish isn’t even chili crab, Karen says. What?
This restaurant. Over there it says they’re famous for
white pepper crab.
Patrick frowns. But Lonely Planet—
Well, Lonely Planet is wrong.
He looks at her, crab claw in one hand, metal cracker splayed open in the other.
Karen and Patrick have been together for just over a year. He is moody, artistic, and attractive in a bleak, sallow way. He impressed her with his intellect and worldliness, the confidence of someone who is used to being right. When he makes love it is either very slow and sensuous or fast, urgent, like they are late for something important. He always finishes. Karen fell in love with him quickly, and she thought he
did too. They moved in together after a few heady months, and at first it was great: spontaneous sex
on the kitchen counter, late nights with his friends discussing art and politics, smoking joints on the roof at all hours. But she has started to feel a bit resentful that she’s the only one bringing home a real paycheck, and she has been suspicious for a while that she is not his only muse. She tries to be evolved enough to not care, but it turns out she’s much more old-fashioned about commitment than she thought. Before the trip, she had been dreaming about rings. Lately, she can’t seem to remember why she ever liked him.
But there is something on his face, now, maybe the panic, the uncertainty, that endears him to her. Lately it’s been moments like this, when he loses his façade, when she gets a hint of that old feeling back.
It doesn’t matter, she adds quickly. I’m sure it’s still the best. You don’t even have to mention it in the blog post.
Right, Patrick says. He looks back at the claw, enclos- ing it between the jaws of his cracker, trying to get purchase on the slippery shell with the metal teeth. It springs out of his hand and back onto his plate, and with it a little splash of chili sauce on his bib. Karen remembers that Patrick, despite his Philoso- phy degree and expensive camera and research and bravado, has only traveled out of the US once before, to England for a study abroad trip in college. He talks about it like it was a semester—when I was studying in London—but it was just two weeks.
Damn it, Patrick says, and picks up the claw again.
Give it to me, Karen says, taking the claw and cracker, and splits it cleanly open. There, she says, putting it
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