Of Chopsticks and Evanescence

My wife invited her friend and fellow student, Frederic Wolfe, to lunch as her guest at Ruby Wang’s. Ruby Wang’s is a Chinese restaurant in a dirty brick building just a block from the decrepitude of Columbus Square in San Francisco. There was an air of great fragility in the Ruby Wang restaurant. The chairs and tables were of a splintering bamboo, and the menu was written on rice paper as thin and dainty as cobwebs. The dishes were nearly weightless in their eggshell-porcelain delicacy. Even the food had a flavor of dejected evanescence.[1] Frederic’s enormous body and low, grumbling voice made the table setting look like trinkets in this brittle almost Lilliputian environment . . .

The waitress brought our lunch, along with some chopsticks[2]. She asked, “Would you like to use the chopsticks, or would you prefer forks?”

“I’ll try chopsticks,” Frederic replied after a sulky hesitation, during which his eyes were fixed on the rice in an expression of some alarm.

The waitress placed the chopsticks on the table and Frederic attacked the rice, which eluded his chopsticks with insect like dexterity. He kept poking at the rice with feverish determination while, small drops of perspiration exuded from pores on his forehead.

Suddenly Frederic turned to my wife and said, “Unparalleled cunning, great honesty of thought and intelligence sharpened to a degree will be required to enable man to escape from his stiff exterior and succeed in better reconciling order with disorder, form with the formless, and maturity with sacred immaturity. In the meantime, tell me which you prefer, red peppers or fresh cucumbers?”

Before my wife could answer I replied, “That everlasting question is a bore: What do you mean by your statement? Come, come, be more sensuous, less cerebral, and start dancing with the book instead of asking for meanings. Why take so much interest in the skeleton if it’s got a body?”

“Rumramruf!” was Frederic’s responsive and analytical (though perhaps a little dour) reply.

[1] Emily Dickinson would have fared quite well here, and tickled the dejection as she toyed with her food. “I would eat evanescence slowly,” Emily might advise.

[2]  箸 Ohashi


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