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Monday, Aug. 15, 2011 - 2:04 a.m.

--- 42 and Lexington

He pointed at a mysterious clear glass decanter on the shelf of Sake bottles. A horizontal rice terrace of brown bottles with slender, tapering necks.

What is that, he asked.

The Japanese girl behind the bar counter smiled at him. That one is not on the menu, she said, in heavily accented English, making each syllable sound smaller than it was, in a uniquely Japanese way.

There was no label on the decanter. The transparent liquid inside had a cerulean hue along its meniscus. In the small, dark-wood Sake bar, it almost shimmered.

He nodded. She turned towards it and lifted the decanter with two hands.

This was his eigthth drink. He had kept ordering just to make her appear. He watched her as she poured the sake. A stray fringe of dyed, brown hair swayed in front of her face, as if moved by an invisible breeze. A single vein on her right wrist traced a meandering course up her forearm.

The transparent liquid flowed over the lip of the decanter, and fell as a vertical, quivering waterfall into his glass sake cup.

When the cup was filled, she gave a brief bow, and left.

The sake's fragrance made him think of indistinct purple flowers. He smiled as he lifted the cup to his mouth. No one could see him smile, except through the summative refractive error of sake and glass. He smiled not because of a satiated pleasure—but because of an aching melancholy.

In two hours' time, he would be at JFK, boarding the plane for Singapore still slightly inebriated.

A Taiwanese stewardess would welcome him aboard, secretly wonder where he had been drinking, and if he would cause any trouble on the flight. He would walk dizzily to his aisle seat, collapse into it, and quickly become unconscious.

But for now, he is sitting alone at a sake bar on 42 and Lex.

The world slows down as the sweet haze of sake wafts through his brain. He pondered the empty space facing him. There was only an empty glass of sake, a mysterious glass decanter, and a hushed space where a nameless brown-haired Japanese girl should have been. Like the sake in the bottles, she had quietly sublimed into the darkened air.

He raised the empty glass and toasted himself. To me, he thought, and all the unrealized possibilities I have come across.

--- EVA Air

Two things happened as the plane reached 9000 metres above sea-level. He awoke—and realized he could not remember the Japanese girl's face. The neurons that held the visual memory of her face had shimmered and disappeared from his brain. He tapped the side of his head with one finger, over where his hippocampus lay. This was the seahorse-shaped bundle of neurons that solidified short term memories into long term ones, as the memories traversed the sinuous arc of the seahorse.

Maybe it was the effect of the sake. Such a mysterious liquid: it had the effect of both making her appear, and disappear. He continued tapping his right temple, hoping to coax the image of her face back, from the lightless brain fissures she had become lost in. Yes, to coax her back from the darkness.

A stewardess bent over him, and asked if he was having a headache. She was the same one with the simple Taiwanese smile who had welcomed him on board the plane.

He smiled back at her, and said no. He looked at her and thought of a line from Chungking Express. On board every flight, there is always one stewardess you want to seduce.

He watched her black-stockinged legs disappear down the aisle.

She had left him with a bubbling plastic cup of diet coke and a frisson of lust, that gradually fell into a sense of longing, like dust settling in an old house. The exploding coke bubbles tickled his nose as he sipped from the plastic cup. He wanted to put his arm around the slimness of her waist, and to hold her.

He looked at the screen in front of his seat, showing the navigational details of the plane's travel. He had met her at 9183 metres, at a latitude of 40-38 North and longitude of 70-36 West, while 9:38 pm Eastern Standard Time stretched into 9:39 pm. This was a single dot in the time and space of the universe that would never be traversed again.

For some reason, he imagines the stewardess at her home in Taipei. He presumed it would be an old block of apartments with an asthmatic lift. She is seated at the small square kitchen table with her parents having dinner. Her green stewardess skirt hangs in the background, drying on a clothing rack. She picks up a cube of tofu expertly with chopsticks and places it in her mother's bowl, as all three of them eat in silence. There is only the occasional clink of chopsticks against porcelain bowls. Her father asks, where are you flying off to tomorrow?

He got out of his seat and went to the back of the aircraft, where she had gone. How the hell was he going to seduce her? He bent over the circular window of the rear airplane door, pretending to look out. He could hear her behind him, metres away, opening cans of coke and pouring them into plastic cups. A steady music of clicks and hisses.

The clouds rushed past them at six hundred kilometres an hour, like time falling away, as their bodies stood in perfect stillness.

Suddenly, he shivered with a deep, rarely-felt coldness. He had became aware that there were individual centimetres of distance between their bodies, and that there were invisible meridians of the seas which were rapidly being crossed.

He realized too, that he was habitually drunk on pretty girls—inebriated on the blind avenues of the universe each girl would lead him to: from pseudo-intellectual affairs in university, the psychic touchings of toes on college lawns, to the desperate, mascara-smeared oral copulations in a club's bass-shuddering toilet cubicle. She could be any one of the approximately one thousand women he would meet in his life.

But perhaps more than that, he was addicted to that loss of control, the disappearence of gravity—falling air rushing through his fingers, as he falls and falls, for all the unattainable hers.



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