A Mutilation in Chinatown
Chinatown, located near the Southern end of the island, is a big wad of flashing neon-lights and cheap dumplings, laced with crummy stalls selling unbelievably shoddy trinkets and liberally sprinkled with sensory-overloaded tourists who move in packs and generally take it upon themselves to be in the way, always. It smells entirely and unrelentingly like fish. I also happen to love it, as does Em; it's weird and entertainingly chaotic, the food is really cheap and they occasionally have buckets of live frogs on the sidewalks for no discernable reason. How could you not love a place like that? So we go there a lot, for the good eats and the atmosphere and because, really, who doesn't enjoy being shouted at by pushy t-shirt vendors as your nostrils are invaded by clouds of trout stink?
Friday night, we continued this tradition. Both of us out of work late, grumpy and not feeling up to actually cooking, we decided that, since our train's going through there anyway, it wouldn't kill us to stop in Chinatown and fill ourselves to the brim with hot exotic deliciousness.
We took a back table at Wong's (our usual place) and drank tea and ate heaping piles of noodles and egg rolls and General Tso's chicken, relishing in the cultural back-slapping that white people get off of eating in an ethnic restaurant and being the only non-ethnic people present; we eat where those in the know eat, we think, and we're damned chuffed about it. We were happy and full and completely unaware that tragedy was about to strike.
I went to the bathroom, the seconds ticking down as the Sword of Damocles swayed perilously above my unsuspecting head. I did my business, I washed my hands then, as I turned to exit, I was struck by something amiss. The doorknob, very present and functional on the restaurant-side of the bathroom was, in the interior, completely gone; only a metal-ringed hole remained, it's opening yawning into blackness like a waiting alligator waiting to clamp down. Nervously, with sweat trickling and eyes twitching, I stuck my right index finger in the hole, gingerly, as one would push the button that launched the nation's supply of nuclear bombs. Nothing happened. My finger lay waiting in the dark, ready to pull; eager in it's duty. With a regretable cavalierness, I yanked on the door and it swung open, in the process taking a chunk of my fingertip with it and, most worrisome, slicing deep into the flesh right below the second knuckle of my pointer.
Gouts of blood immediatly came out and said, "Hi!" The pain was an open-palmed, hysterical slap that buckled my knees and made my vision swim. I spattered the bathroom with arterial droplets, desperately trying to stop the bleeding before unconciousness swarmed over me. A wad of toilet paper clamped around my savaged digit, I hurled myself back through the restaurant, grabing roughly 9,000 napkins from the dispenser at our table and collecting my girlfriend in the process.
It was bad. Bleeding and messy from the cut, raw and angry red from the ripped portion. We kept it wrapped in napkins and we boarded the subway toward home. As I sat on the hard plastic bench, the shock wearing off and the pain reaching it's boiling point, an older man stepped into the train and began to play a lively, backing-tape-accompanied version of "Puttin' on the Ritz" on his trumpet. It was all too surreal and my brain shut down, refusing to process any more information, just in case a troupe of midgets decided to enter and put on a spirited production of "The Madwoman of Chiallot."
Eventually, we got me bandaged up and doused with anti-infectious liquids; Em should be a doctor on the battlefields of the world, so adept is she at kitchen-table surgery and putting up with panicky soldiers (that would be me).
I'm going to live, I suppose, but, like the fisherman who's nearly eaten by a shark or an astronaut who's nearly eaten by a space shark, I have a new found respect for my sea, my space... my Chinatown. You dangerous beauty, you violent flower. I'll be back, baby... I WILL BE BACK!!!!