Chinese people are everywhere: on the sidewalk outside, at the tables in front of me, and standing in line at the tabac counter while someone with a Chinese accent verifies their cigarette brand of choice. The waiter is Chinese, a little man who somehow realized I was here, even though I am hidden from the bar by the tabac display cases filled with candy, Zippo lighters and collectors' edition model cars.
People coming into the place are greeted by an automatic lottery ticket dispenser. Of the eight types of tickets the machine distributes, only five seem to be available, the large selector buttons flashing under their individual windows. The floor is dirty with Rapido tickets and cigarette trash.
I am seated in a corner next to the front windows. My tabletop is square, marbled, with wooden edges that have rounded corners. The black plastic ashtray says "Special" three times in gold lettering. My empty sugar cube wrapper has blown onto the floor to integrate itself amiably with the other refuse. A nearby large, dark and dirty rectangular mat lies crookedly on the floor, exposing part of the trap door it was meant to hide -- one corner of the mat seems to have been chewed on by a wild animal. Large two-dimensional Corona beer bottles are glued to the opposite wall, leaning towards each other across the half-bowl wall light. Farther away, an old electric fan sits above the maroon couches and waits quietly to be used on a warmer day.
Sugar: packet of sugar cubes
Copyright © 2002 David Sadegh.
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