Lustre by Tommy Bradson
a book about loneliness, lust and doing something decent before our quick death.
I walk in the lightest of rains without an umbrella. I cross the road when the little man turns green. I take the back streets to avoid quick looks from homeward bound pedestrians along the main drag. Some of them wear suits and sneakers. Some of them think about suicide. At the end of a string of shops, on a quiet corner is Ming’s Noodle and Dumpling House; my fluorescent food hall, my eight dollar special, my Thursday night family. At my seat by the shopfront window I find an unexpected and perfunctory solace. My brother the can of coca cola. My sister the bowl of chilli. My father, the chinese chef in his sauce-stained t-shirt spitting curse words over the stove. And my mother, the woman I’ve never met, leaving the bathroom with a wad of loo paper stuck to her orthopaedic slippers. She grabs her dirty stir-fry, her pack of prawn crackers and shuffles passed me without a glance. I can see the glisten of a gold tooth nestling between gaps in the chef’s mouth as he farewells her out the door in broken English, waving a greasy spoon. Turning back to the steaming wok he throws handfuls of bok choy and baby mushrooms into the bubbling fat that pops and hisses with each new morsel.
I sip my soup. My pork dumpling, egg-noodle soup. It’s nice to sit here and slurp and shift between watching the confused customers struggling to read the menu and the long legged lady waiting for a bus across the street and the hard working kitchen hand with his beltless jeans halfway down his arse and the quick passing pedestrians and the couple quietly arguing in the corner. They are all my cousins and kin. They are all my Thursday night family.
A young girl enters the shop with a phone pressed to her over-made face, yapping into it like a terrier in some eastern-asian dialect I cannot distinguish. Mid-mouthful I watch her swan over to the counter. Long streams of a black silk fall straight down her back almost reaching the top curve of her flat arse. I imagine her to not be wearing panties. The same silk of hair in a tuft pressing slightly wet against the zip of her high waisted shorts. I slurp a little broth off the plastic spoon. The yapping continues. The chef grins. Without removing the phone from her face she yells and yaps at him and then into the phone, and then at the chef again. The glitter of her manicure catches the fluorescence from the ceiling as she waves a thin-fingered fist in his direction. He yells back. She yaps some more. Then softens. And pulls the phone from her face. She presses her body against the counter, her small tits flatten at its edge. I think she’s pouting. The terrier whispers in the chef’s ear and he begrudgingly opens the till, hands her a few crumpled coloured notes and slams it shut. She leans further still, kisses his wrinkled cheek and resumes her strange bark into the phone. She doesn’t turn back to say goodbye at the door.
I watch her hurry down the street and, thinking of snaking my fingers under her cheeks to reach the heat of her snatch, I slurp. The chef is motionless at the counter, staring at the space where the girl stood. A mole twitches lightly near his upper lip at the edges of a difficult grin. Something in the wok continues to sizzle.