Sam was lost on the way to his apartment. He left work early today, half an hour early. But he let Tyrone know exactly what to say if Joanne, his boss, came to ask where he went. He even wrote the script on a notepad, a square yellow notepad: “hey Joanne, how are you. Oh you know what, Sam’s doctor just called, asking him to have his prostate reexamined immediately. Yeah so…” Sam stuffed the notepad into Tyrone’s pocket, and then left. Tyrone watched him walk into the 25th floor elevator, in a slightly oversized navy blue suit, a pink rose in his hands. Four hours earlier at the florist, while chewing his Chicago-style hot dog sandwich, Tyrone asked Sam why he didn’t get a red rose. Sam glanced at him, “Tyrone, I give gentle love.”
Tyrone waved goodbye to Sam as the elevator door closed slowly, thinking “Is this guy ready or not?” He watched Sam walk out the building, into the rain for his rendez-vous. The guard tried to hand him an umbrella, how kind, but Sam shook his head and marched into the street. The rain, was gentle. It took twenty five minutes everyday from his apartment to the office, and twenty three minutes on the way back. The two-minute time difference has been precise and consistent for nine months. But Sam could never confirm the exact reason for this odd coincidence. He had been developing a theory, which Tyrone mostly supported. Sam believed that there were a few seventy-year-olds men who would get on every single train that stop at 50 St, between 7:30 to 7:50 in the morning.
“Why does that explain the extra two minutes?” Tyrone once questioned Sam.
“They walk slow, so the train slows down for them, you fool.” Tyrone did frustrate Sam from time to time.
Sam would have loved the first date to be at a nice restaurant with some mediocre live music and French style grilled octopus, instead of his own apartment, equipped only with his frozen lasagna. But the spokeswoman on the phone wouldn’t let him have it. She told Sam that the one-on-one service couldn’t be offered in a public space unless it was a stripping performance for a gathering, and if that, the entire restaurant would need to be reserved for such a performance
.“Let’s say if I do order a stripping performance, what will she wear when she arrives at the restaurant?”
“Do you have any preferences? We can do a variety of things—nurse, catwoman, oh some customers requested Princess Leia before, so we’ve got that covered too.”
“Oh, interesting. Can I just do normal? ”
“Normal. Do you mean office lady type?”
“Yeah, perhaps, office lady sounds normal.”
“Any preferences for the performance? Sir…”
“Oh yeah, just call me…Tyrone… Actually, can she just sit and eat with me?”
“Well… Tyrone, you know what, that service is actually only available to our VIP members. I can see in our records here Tyrone, you became a member of our club two days ago. If you’d like to upgrade to our VIP service, we might be able to offer a ten percent discount.”
“I’m sorry, what’re you saying?”
“Sir, I am talking about the Nyotaimori”
“Oh. Okay.” Sam hang up the phone, and “ding—”, his frozen lasagna was ready.
So Sam settled with the home address and a girl called Norah. He had prepared some non-frozen dishes in the morning, and kept them in the fridge to keep them fresh. He needed to be there thirty minutes before the appointment so he could get everything ready, the candles, the music, and of course, the single pink rose which would be placed at the center of the table. While riding the line 1 train downtown, he was debating on which song to use as the entrance music. He liked Dinah Washington’s A Sunday Kind of Love, but he was worried if Dinah’s voice would override Norah’s. Or maybe he could play The Greatest, a theme song from My Blueberry Nights. Norah Jones was the actress in that movie, and maybe this Norah could just be like that, just like her.
Sam smiled, satisfied with the plan so far. The train was getting close, but now it had stopped at 50 St. A number of people got off, and then an old man got on the train, around seventy or something, followed by another one, another one, and then another one. Sam looked down the direction of the line, and there were at least a dozen more men of similar age, holding the same black handle-silver body walking sticks.
He waited for another five minutes, but there were more coming. This would slow down the train indefinitely and delay his dinner for at least half an hour. The situation was not looking good. Sam dialed on his phone and went through the confirmation process. Finally he got someone online.
“Excuse me, can I pass a message to Norah? Can you let her come an hour later?”
“Sir, you would like to pass a message for one of the girls?”
“Yes, her name is Norah.”
“Norah, right. What’s her last name?”
“I never got her last name.”
“Well, I’m sorry Tyrone, you must have been given the full name. That’s the standard process.”
“But I really don’t know.”
“Mr. Tyrone, I have about seventeen Norahs here and I cannot message every single one of them.”
Sam stayed quiet, not responding for at least five seconds.
“Sir, are you still there?”
“Do you recall the full name of the girl?”
“Hmm… Norah Jones?” Sam swallowed.
Ten seconds of silence from the other side of the call.
“Great sir, I just messaged Norah Jones, and told her to come to your apartment one hour later. Is there anything else I can do for you?”
Sam didn’t know what to say or think. So he tried not to think at all.
“Oh, you know what, Miss Jones just messaged me back, and she confirmed your request sir.”
“Oh, okay. great.”
Sam hang up the phone. He looked at the old men sitting next to him, in front of him, and behind him. They looked similar but not the same if he looked at them closely. The train was half full of them, but there were more coming, step by step, slowly and slowly. Sam put on his ear-plugs, holding the fresh pink rose with both hands placed between his legs, trying not to squash it. And then he started to play Norah Jones’s new song, released only a week ago: Turn Me On. He sniffed the pink rose, and then closed his eyes, succumbing to the tune—
“Like a flower waiting to bloom
Like a lightbulb in a dark room
I’m just sitting here waiting for you
To come on home and turn me on”
Image from Norah Jones’ album cover, “Little Broken Hearts: Deluxe Edition”