It's chilly outside as I'm stepping out of my car. I couldn't find a parking space nearby so I ended up parallel parking on an iced over space three blocks away.
God I hate the city.
But Carol insisted on this "fabulous" and "exclusive" restaurant that had just opened up. Exclusive. That's just code for expensive plates and small portions. I know I won't be able to leave without dropping half of a paycheck on the tip alone. But I've cancelled on her one too many times and dealing with her, despite her hoity-toity bullshit, is long overdue.
I'm shivering, even though I'm wearing a jacket and a scarf and gloves and boots. There are two dirty bums on the side of the street, begging with outstretched, shaking arms. I look them both in the eye as I give each a single penny.
"Don't spend it all in one place."
I walk away, laughing to myself until I lose my footing on a patch of ice and land hard on my ass. The streets are crowded, packed with people who look away the moment their eyes land on me. Of course.
God I hate this city.
Then I see a hand in front of my face. It startles me. I look up and a face comes into view. Blue eyes. Brown hair. Square jaw. Male. Eyebrows scrunched together. A frown. Was it concern?
"Are you ok? Looks like you took quite the tumble there."
I take his hand. It's soft and manicured.
He stares at me for a moment once I'm back on my feet. Before I can move around him, he grabs my arm.
"Can... I have your number?"
Not what I was expecting.
"I'm in a hurry," I say, shaking free off his grasp, "Just take my business card."
I hurl the square of stock paper at him. It actually has my real number on it. Sort of. One of the digits is missing. If he can figure out which, he'll get his date.
I leave without another word.
Now I'm in front of the restaurant. Briefly, I consider walking out to my car and canceling, claiming to be sick or injured or something. I decide against it, mostly because Carol has already spotted me. She's walking over, calling out my name. Dammit.
"Sam! It's cold out, darling. Get in here so they can seat us!"
I do as she tells me. The restaurant's foyer ends in a door that leads to the dining area. There is no way to see what lies behind it. I don't know how to handle that, so I focus on the entryway around me. It's dimly lit and filled with men and women in suits, standing and waiting and angry about it. There are no chairs, only art hanging on the walls. It's strange modern art that clashes with the decor on a fundamental level. It's the kind of art that pulls you in with its twisted geometry and random patterns and lack of structure and is that Jesus hidden in there, a bloody baby nailed to the cross? I look away. Carol sees me glaring into that endless chasm of jumbled imagery and giggles.
"Modern art is so strange, isn't it? It looks like someone just threw paint on a canvas, but…" She goes on about it, trying to deconstruct something that isn't there. I keep my eyes averted.
Even though we were the last of the current patrons to enter, we are the first to be seated. The loitering yuppies all mumble in disapproval and this pleases me enough to forget about the pictures. I feel myself smile as we turn into the restaurant part of the restaurant. Carol takes this as a sign that I approve of her choice of eateries. She begins to ramble on and on about the "raving" reviews and Oh my God it took so long to even get a reservation and I hear they book months in advance now and I've tuned out her inane chatter.
If the entryway was considered dim, the main room can only be described as two notches up from pitch black. There are tables scattered about, low to the ground and surrounded by kneeling, well dressed band-wagoners. There is not a chair in the whole damned room, just people bowing over their plates, praying to small portions.
"... And the entire restaurant is, um, Fay-ing Sway? It, like, totally keeps your energy positive," Carol finishes as we are seated.
"What are you doing?"
"You can't sit cross-legged! It's, like, disrespectful to their culture."
"What culture?" Not that it matters. A quick look around and a cursory glance at the "chick" menu shows that this place is disrespectful to every culture.
I tell her we should order all of our food at once. I'm hungry, I lie. She agrees.
I order a soup and a salad and what I hope is a teriyaki plate. She orders fried onion rings with a chocolate drizzle on top and some sort of fish monstrosity. When our food arrives, the fish is placed down first. It is served whole with the head still attached. It looks at me, laughing. At least I'm escaping my hell. You're still stuck in yours.
There are no chopsticks. Since all the meat is served whole, a stick of a waitress gives us steak knives and forks. I'm told to drink the soup. "It's customary," Carol assures me.
Carol finally shuts up, using her mouth to shovel food in instead of vomiting words out. Fat ass.
I take a few bites out of my entree. I must have an odd look on my face because Carol puts her hand on mine and looks me in the eye.
"Are you ok? Do you not like the food? Does it need something extra?"
Stupid bitch. It's always about food. This stupid restaurant. Modern art. It's too much. My face grows hot and my blood boils.
Then a knife, my knife, is in my hand. She is no longer resting her hand on mine because I've pinned it down with my own. I raise the knife and bring it down as hard as I can, like I practiced out behind my home with those stray cats that keep wandering in. Unlike their heads, Carol's hand does not detach right away. It takes three solid strikes to sever it.
Carol is silent, eyes wide. Shock. I am calm. The calmest I have been all night. No one can see -- it's too dark. No one can hear -- the collective murmurs of the other patrons cover up the sound of the knife hitting bone over and over. I look her in the eyes. Her mouth remains agape and finally, finally, she has no words.
"You know what, Carol? It is missing something."
I take her hand, dripping blood and who knows what else. I begin to shave the skin off onto my dish like cheese. Now I'm ripping at the flesh with my nails and teeth and eating it. It tastes better than anything this pathetic excuse for a restaurant could offer, not that I'm surprised.
Carol finally manages to get words out, "Sam?"
I squeeze blood from the mangled body part and drench my salad in the superior dressing.
Carol is shaking violently. I wonder whether or not I'd pop one of those fake tits if I stabbed her in the chest.
I shake my head. My thoughts clear. Carol is looking at me and I can't comprehend the look on her face. Worry? I jerk my hand away. She probably just thinks I'm dissatisfied with her precious restaurant.
"Salt," I say, reaching for the shaker in the center of the table, "It needs salt."