episode 09: fugu, what doen’t kill you
“japanese bollocks,” darby reiterated in between slugs on the carlsberg. it was high time in soho, such that folks paid no mind to a brown-bag swilling caricature of puck, but not late enough for the man himself to be railing in the streets against the minimalism of muji. “ooh wants a house of cardboard, knickers of re’propriated rubbish? i sure’d like to…glug…meet the man who’s sporting a coat like that,” giving tamar a long look in the ass. dent & ifa waved-off a radio cop, suspicious of their driver, who’d held the same persian conversation, in between parking, negotiating rates, and being harassed by the blue. ifa knew the driver from queens, when he’d helped her company move offices from astoria to greenpoint. he was a refugee from tajikistan, back when it had a brand name under the soviets. the astro van filled with bags and bodies, each member of the crew checking the receipt for purchase, nervous that they’d lifted the items under dent’s guise of “treating them.” the quomodo group wasn’t low enough for thievery. they were coalescing, looking over shoulders at each other, olen even breaking his whiskey haze to smile at ifa as she strapped in. what a difference a little shopping can make in new york. “blue ribbon sushi. nobody goes home hungry,” dent said over his left shoulder from shotgun. “tuna is cruel, and you’re dropping me off on park & 20,” quip’d ms. du lac, bitter enough that she was being given orders, even more acerbic because she was truly famished. the astro pulled ahead of a blue, navigated away from the horns, and the seven fell silent under the jib-jab of the driver’s continuing diatribe.
dent had tokyo gut, digging into his asian fetish for understated textiles, simple, sparse labels. a trip to kyoto & tokyo three years back had cemented the unstable portions of mike dent into a place, that place being the consumerist environs of japanese home design. unbeknownst to even close cloris, dent had a thing for rice paper calligraphy, cherry tree lineages, and sweet wine. japan evoked the odd, deliberate side of mike dent, which seems to be a cheap plug at minimalist zen bento culture, but this was a genuine affectation for mr. dent. his journey to muji with his newly formed cabal had been in essence an understated gesture in and of itself. rarely did the peanut gallery see mike dent extending anything but a glass of ice towards others in kind. cloris never saw the bottom of a shopping bag, maybe a dime bag, a ziplock, but never retail. she’d picked up dent on a night when he’d bought an entire bach-ette posse a round of padron silver, about two years to the month. his affable, inebriated patter was something to be admired in the oughts, when most men had given into paranoid excuses for losing their tie after five. “after nine one one i stopped wearing ties, you know, the stress,” they’d say over esquire rec’d sazeracs, some zinc bar with a painted barmaid. prigs, dirigibles of inflated manhood, found in the aisles of borders near penn browsing the taschen collections, or criterion dvds. “enough of these punks,” thought cloris often before meeting dent, who himself was a paragon of rhett butlers strung out on glib women and pills. like rauschenberg had instead taken his eraser to glengarry, and all that remained was the furrow’d brows. dent was decent.
sushi & sake brought out the good girl in ifa, calmed her the fuck down. the small portions, swift service, offered perspective. tonight’s japanese theme painted over her rye and chinese, a nice fill to a very, salaciously empty glass. her mid-noon drinks had drifted out the lungs and through her brown pallor. it was time for some fish and dry, gentle liquor. “this joint’s high on my list of places to visit after fucking,” ifa remarked, tossing her ice ball maker like an apple. “i’d come here with girls, stuff ourselves, and then we’d hook dudes at balthazar, oysters, nicking pockets.” ifa wasn’t anecdotally gifted, and this little dirge on her past life was enough for the ride. the rest remained quiet, obedient students on an off-key field trip with a toothless creative d and his plastique ego. “give us a couple hours, ring the joint when it hits nine. we’ll come out,” dent threw the driver a jackson, and broke a smile. the grin made his face hurt on one side, he felt a laceration inside a cheek where teeth met flesh, ifa being the cause. the raw pain and discomfort was a strong antidote to his usual demeanor.
magnificent things were being done with knives behind the sushi bar. cloris had already seen her share of fugu for the night. “shit, we left poor andy at the office. the cleaners are going to find him asleep. mike, call them off for the night.” cloris was still at work. in fact, she never really stopped taking or making calls. her mother raised her on the phone, working away from home at night, calling in between tables, as she’d left her kid alone. a natural exec assistant, and we mean that as a compliment, cloris archangeli stuck with dick mike dent because he too, was raised at a distance, by proxy, through various caretakers, and abject guardians. the two of them made terrible lovers, but in the office, when dent wasn’t sporting a week’s worth of drinking damage, they dealt hands which favored the house every time. quomodo wasn’t in the business of turning profit. it was a work of dismissal, an art-house attempt at bringing cassavetes close ups to design altruism, operated always at a loss to the hosts. cloris was a recovering punk herself, holes in her right ear where once were safety pins. at home she still had a box of cordovan docs, red suspenders, taped shut marked “for the kids.” as she pondered over a box of house sake, cloris looked around at her silent, indulging company. “two point oh,” she said under her breath, “we’ve got an upgrade.”
lock in phasers, geeks, quomodo returns after the traffic settles. dent stands on the table, gets removed mid-speech. ifa applauds this. darby does the miso shuffle with renee in the john. olen and tamar check each other’s knees under the table. cloris wonders if this is a sign, or will tomorrow bring another topless run from behind a desk. quomodo, you’re neck deep.