The thunderclap sends me leaping from my bed, six feet under the surface of sleep. Disoriented, heart pounding...clock? SHIT, SHIT, SHIT. Her plane lands in 15 minutes. So much for my grand plans of meeting her at the gate with a bouquet of flowers and clean teeth. Groggy from my incessant insomnia (of which I suffer as I write this now), stumble for keys and pants, reach the car, panting, confused, distressed. I hope she brought warm clothes, the morning is shit bitter cold, dark and stormy.
She is in better shape than I am when I collect her at the kerb, she and her pile of pretty purple luggage. The usual flight chit-chat as we breeze across the city. She had a whole row, slept. Probably far more than me. She settles into her room, unpacks, showering me with peanuts and Taco Bell Taco Mix. I think she brought one pair of jeans for every day she will be here. "We have a washing machine, y'know."
I'm already feeling quite queasy as we head off to the Asian Food Court at the Central Markets for lunch. I am on the verge of vomiting, even before we see the dead guy being vigorously pumped by paramedics next to the ATM across from the Yiro stand. They put him on a stretcher and cross his arms peacefully, as if he is just having a shirtless nap in the middle of a crowded mall. A woman is wiping the tears off her cheeks as she stares out at the crowd that has gathered. Another woman has an arm around her shoulder in solace. We try to look away out of kindness and respect, but how can you not want to witness such a raw moment of humanity? I project myself into a possible future, first as the woman, then as the deceased.
"Let's go get some noodles."