It started out as fine dining. Then, two hours later, scenes: Mangled car, a body with flesh exposed, shaking. Cops. Two hours can change how we look at the world as the world goes on looking for a moon larger and closer to us.
Yesterday, a professional acquaintance had invited me for lunch. The place was so subtle its name was not even visible. I had passed the Toyota showroom and I don’t even know why I remember it. The restaurant’s décor was minimalistic, almost spare with large spaces between tables. The chairs were squat and a low backrest added to the sense of openness. There seemed to be no clutter; no oversized plates and single-stemmed flower. There wasn’t a huge bread basket; just a wooden platter with four different breads, crispy crust soft inside. The food came in decent-sized portions, one drizzled with olive oil and herbs and the other roasted with the skin smelling of smoke. Dessert was small cups of custard in three flavours. It was good company as the lemon, ginger, and mint drink cooled my throat and me.
Conversation flowed and so did time. I was on to my next destination, next journey, next place, next move, next stasis, next moment. A couple of urchins were fighting over coins, a few coins, coins that would have bought them not even one of those little crusty breads that were complimentary on my plate earlier. Not a spoonful of butter that was served with it. Not half a spoon of the extra virgin olive oil. They were arguing, pulling at each other’s hands, palms fisted. I stood outside the restaurant that did not need to announce its name boldly, my pristine white clothes reflecting and deflecting the sun’s harsh rays as these boys fought with their little hands and did not even look at me. I wish I could have just left some money. But can money buy a life? Could that money replace those coins that they had earned in whatever manner they had been forced to? I gave up. I probably did not even have coins and a currency note, however small, would fly away. I was on my way.
The Sea Link is quick. You can reach a place in 10 minutes that otherwise takes about 40. About two minutes to where the link would end, a car stood smashed. They were bundling someone in. It happened too fast. The police van was there and sped away. I did not know anything except the car and a faint figure that was human. Today’s papers mentioned that a driver of the owner of a car showroom decided to take his boss’s car and went to his neighbourhood to show off his skills and asked a couple of women to join him; a few children also went along. Ten people in that car. Ten people who would never sit in such a car. Ten people who ought not to have done so. One died. Four are critically injured; the rest have fractures and bruises. Today I know that it was a Toyota car. I know the names of those in that vehicle. Names that did not exist in that smashed car. Names that were not looking for subtlety.
Yet, ironically, like the white façade of the fine dining place their names did not matter.