Note: This is the final installment of the Thin Man in Singapore. You can read earlier installments here:
You clean yourself to meet/ a man who isn’t me
You’re putting on a shirt/ a shirt I’ll never see
With letters in your coat/ and no one’s in your head
‘Cause you’re too smart to remember/ you’re too smart
Dateline Singapore, Saturday 13:06 PM
The phone rings, jarring the Thin Man out of sleep. “Where the/ what the/ who the…” Images in shards–his grandmother’s house and he is six, sun streaming through a late afternoon window. He rolls over. No by god, a bed, an adult body within. He picks up the phone. “Uh huh?”
“It’s Alejandro. Your passport will be ready tomorrow morning and you’re on an Emirates flight to Rome via Dubai tomorrow at 9 PM. In the meantime Alice is having a birthday party and you’re invited.”
“Miller’s secretary. You might have heard the rumors but she’s a cool cat and it’ll be fun. 17:00 at Chijmes. Be there.”
“Seriously? I don’t know Alice and, I’d rather just rest up you know.”
“Not an option. You’re not invited, more required. From Miller directly. Buck up man and see you at 5.”
Holy Jesus, another evening. The Thin Man rises, splashes cold water on his face and when this doesn’t do the trick, fills the sink with cold water and plunges his face into the water, eyes wide open. He exhales; water goes everywhere. He dabs at it with a hand towel. Breakfast is long over–lunch is a maybe. 20 minutes later he has showered and shaved and limps downstairs.
“Lunch is still open?”
The man’s smile masks a scowl. Rolling into a buffet that closes at 14:00 at 13:46 is no way to endear yourself to staff. He takes a seat by the window, wanders the buffet. Two bowls of mushroom soup, two watermelon juices, a roll with butter, salmon sashimi and an Americano. Vague feelings of humanity follow.
On his phone the Thin Man peruses “The Essentials of Casino Game Design” as he eats. This is more out of habit than interest–he has no desire to re-enter the gambling demi-monde. Reflex is a bitch. The waiter circles, pressing his point from 5 feet away. “I got you babe,” thinks the Thin Man. He makes marginal eye contact, figures he has another 20 minutes give or take. He resolves to relax into the spacetime as fully as possible before the waiter pulls rank. He has no desire to make trouble but at the same time, a customer is a customer and soup is soup. A game for two players. Eventually, he makes his move before the waiter is forced to make his.
“On my room please, 727,” he says, with studied nonchalance. Everything takes all afternoon.
It takes 123 drinks/ and now she’s not so frightened
It takes 4 and 5 and 6/ and then she’s sick
But in the hour in between/ she feels holy and redeemed
Blessed and blissful/ painless and serene
The Thin Man has a lot of flaws but he does clean up well. That’s a skill, a blessing, a bonus. Re-showered, shaved, and an app-assisted breathing exercise later, he shows at Chijmes on time and on point. Miller himself greets him with a slap on the back.
“Mr. Bishop, your work is appreciated. Much appreciated. I heard that you will be staying with the firm. Rome is beautiful this time of year. You are a lucky man.”
“It is my pleasure to be of service.” The Thin Man is not serious, yet not unserious. The work is the work and he has no other. “Anyway, happy birthday to Alice hey?”
“Hehe, haha. Alice, yes,” salivates Miller.
Another day, another passport thinks the Thin Man. Several people he doesn’t know are there. The crew moves to an outdoor restaurant; the usual wrangling over orders ensues and Long Island Ice Teas appear. There is no drink more perfectly positioned to cause trouble than a Long Island Ice Tea. The Thin Man downs two before the Nachos arrive. A waitress circles. “White or red,” she asks. “Both please” replies the Thin Man. It’s early and he has no intention of sticking with this group after dinner. Why not make the most of the moment.
The food is a B- at best. The drinks are loaded. The sun shines in the late evening. The usual Singapore rain squall has not appeared today. 6 PM, the magical hour, and the Thin Man begins to fade into the perfect liminality that only occurs between drinks three and four.
Titters from Alice. Winks from Alejandro. Miller sits straight up, what a spine. The Thin Man is bored. Time passes; the sun sets.
“One more?” asks Miller.
“How about the hotel bar?” says the Thin Man. The sooner near home the better. Miller covers the bill and tracks are made.
The Hotel Bar, Circa 20:10:
The Thin Man and crew enter the bar and the mood is boisterous. The Thin Man feels as thin as paper. He needs an ally. As his party makes its way to a table, he approaches the barmaid. Her tag identifies her as “May.” Always approach service workers with kindness and respect–they get so little of it it goes a long way.
“Good evening May. My friends and I are looking to enjoy the bar tonight. Only, I have been on the road for weeks and I’m a little tired.” He slips her a $50 bill. “I know bars don’t love to serve water, but if you could keep an eye on me and refill my water glass I’d be in your debt.”
May looks him up and down. “No problem,” she says. “Rely on me.” The Thin Man makes it to the booth where Company X holds court. Miller and Alice’s hands dance a protracted duet. Alejandro sits a foot away, just keeping an eye on things.
A round of drinks, another. May keeps her end of things and the Thin Man hydrates, for a while. A woman called Marta had introduced herself at dinner and slides into the booth next to the Thin Man.
“How do you know Alice?” she asks.
“Oh. I have a bet with Jeffrey over there. He thinks you are on his team.”
“On his team?”
“You know,” she drops into a stage whisper, “Jeffrey likes men.”
“I see. I don’t have a team,” replies the Thin Man. “I’m a free agent.”
“Not so fast,” interjects Alejandro, who seems to register everything that is said at the table. “You are on our team. You have a contract.”
“A contract? I haven’t seen anything like that. And besides I don’t see how that would be possible. Text is dead, or that’s what I’ve heard.”
“Don’t mind him,” says Alejandro, “he likes being heavily humorous.”