A sushi restaurant on St. Mark’s, Lower East Side, Manhattan,
“Wait, you’re going to San Francisco with $100?” says Quang.
“Yeah,” I say.
“When I knocked on the door I heard heaving,” Haruki said about stopping by Colin’s dorm room.
She left, guessing that someone was having sex. Colin, like Haruki and Quang, was an exchange student. That night, Quang knocked on Colin’s door and heard the same sound. He had a Resident Assistant open the door. They found Colin and his roommate with white eyes. Their heads were hanging off the edge of their beds. Quang and the RA carried them outside. It was discovered that Carbon Monoxide had been leaking into their room. The school president invited them to his cottage. He bought them fried chicken and gave them $100. It was suspected that Colin suffered brain damage. His parents unsuccessfully tried suing the school.
Quang lives in a studio apartment on Broadway and 26th street. He’s from Macau . His parents operate an import export business. His favorite director is Won Kar Wai. Majoring in business, he has aspirations of becoming a filmmaker. He drinks whiskey, eats sushi, reads Leonard Cohen, and fucks white girls. To make money, he said I should sell my ass. He tried to transfer to Harvard. He said he wanted to go to school with smart people because “they are the most interesting.” His admissions essay was about having an epiphany inspired by a McDonald’s happy meal toy. The day he got his Harvard rejection letter he packed a duffle bag and took the Chinatown bus to Boston. With his duffel bag over his back, through heavy rain, he went to the admissions office at Harvard and demanded to know why he didn’t get accepted. He was also in love with a half white half Chinese girl with orange hair. He went to her room with flowers and sung her a love song. Quang can’t sing.
“No,” she said.
“You’re going to San Francisco with $100?”
“Didn’t I just answer that?”
“Yeah, but your answer might change.”
With his chop sticks, he slowly picks up a piece of salmon and puts it down.
“Well, I don’t know what to say, $100? That’ll last you a couple days…food, transportation, you have to eat. You know that right? Ok, let’s say $5 a meal, just two meals a day, let’s say cigarettes are $5 a pack and you buy a pack every 48 hours. You’ll run out of money in four days. I see you on Tuesday. Want me to pick you up from the airport?”
“Tomorrow isn’t contractually obligated to show up. I got to go man.”
“What is today?””Friday.”
“Will that shit my nigga,” Riko said sitting at the bar minutes before his show.
He was a battle rapper from Harlem. In his rhymes he bragged about speaking fluent Cherokee with a Brooklyn accent.
“I went out to San Fran in like ’98. I had no place to stay. I was out there by myself for an MC battle. I barely had loot to get grub. I used my bag for a pillow on a bench near Haight Street. I just laid there and meditated and tried to push molecules to hit the G spot.”
He shakes his head at me. Nigga, this ain’t The Alchemist.
“This kid recognized me from the battle and we started talking. I stayed on dude’s couch for a month before I got my shit in order. Son, will that shit. There’s a lot of good peoples out there.”
I put garbage bags of everything I owned in front of a Goodwill. My family bought me a round trip plane ticket and a cell phone. They gave me $100 and hoped that I had a plan.
“And where are you staying?” says Quang.
“I don’t know yet.”
“And you’re leaving tomorrow?”
“What is today?”
“This is not good. You seriously don’t have a plan?”
“You’re fucking with me?”
“I pick you up from the airport Tuesday. I think it’s too cold over there to sleep on the street. You know I don’t know anyone in San Francisco.”
“I don’t know what you want me to say?”
He buys me a pack of Drums rolling tobacco.
“Good luck, call me when you get back.”
“I’m not coming back.”
“What’s today?” he says.
He crosses Broadway and waves goodbye.