Wednesday, July 23, 2014
A Rainy Night in Norcross (Blogophilia 22.7)
Set on a side street off I-85, Graves Apartments were a remnant from an earlier time. Scattered along either side of sun faded broken parking lot, the brick buildings were a legacy of a better time. The ghosts of professional singles past echoed amongst the remnants of the pool. And the tennis courts belied the history of future Yuppies having one night stands and exchanging Quaaludes and other tokens of love.
A past replaced by absentee owners and undocumented residents. The peeling paint and leaking gutters spoke to the reality of quick weed deals and foreign gangs. All the tags were in black paint, with no artistry whatsoever. Just groups of cats marking their territories. Two dark women in the Laundromat quietly sorted through their clothes, while the chubby Jamaican kid practiced his skateboard tricks outside.
Neon light reflected in perverse rainbows from the puddles as the small man made his way down the hill. The rain had let up, but Ma Ngyuen didn’t care. This place was better than anything he had in Hanoi or New York and it was cheap enough he could afford to live by himself. Paradise was not having to share it with anyone. No arguments to mediate over gambling debts or loose women.
Ever since he left Vietnam, his goal was having his own restaurant and being able to be his own boss. At home, there were always soldiers and gangster telling you what to do. Here, it could be different. He started as a dishwasher at one Uncle Thao’s restaurants in the Bronx. Doing anything that was needed, Ma was tireless. And he had the advantage of speaking English fairly well. This allowed become a server where he made tips. It was cleaner and cooler, but no less demanding than the back. There were regular customers that would ask for him to be their server, which fed his confidence.
He had already talked to Thao about a loan. He was impressed with his abilities. He told Ma he needed to leave New York. Bronx had too many restaurants and the rest of the city was too expensive to finance. He knew people there who could set him up with a place to live and a job until he could find the right spot.
There was a catch. He would have to take his cousin Thanh with him. The lừa had become cold November shame to the family by getting caught fucking the teenage daughter of a neighbor. Thao wasn’t sure if she’d got knocked up or not. Even the great detective Holmes would know that if that fool stayed, he’d likely be killed. They boarded a bus going south the next night.
They crashed with a cousin of Thanh’s in Doraville and he started working at dry cleaners owned by an acquaintance of Uncle Thao. This man reminded Ma of a rat, someone always looking for an escape. Ma spent all of his time in the back of the shop doing the hot dirty work. Only the owner handled the customers and he thought everyone else was less than a slave. Pay never came on time and when confronted, the owner would threaten Ma with Immigration. He lasted two weeks before calling New York. Thao spoke to the rat and Ma got his money
He moved on to an American style Asian buffet closer to the city. The owner was a prosperous Mandarin and he got that way by treating others well. “It always comes back” he would say when asked about his benevolence. Ma took this advice to heart. Most of the other workers were like him, undocumented and scared. But the owner never took advantage. They were paid in cash and always on time. Ma even was paid extra when he repaired some leaking plumbing without being asked. The customers weren’t quite as nice as the place in New York, but Ma didn’t let this bother him. Soon, he had enough to get his apartment in Norcross. Life was going fine until the Immigration raid and the place closed.
But his reputation was such he was hired sight unseen for a Pho hut a little closer to home. The owners were a Hmong family that had been in the states about as long as he had. To Ma, they were a bit rough and crude, but like the Mandarin, they were honorable. It helped they spoke each others’ languages. Ma would open the place at 6:00AM and work until they closed at 8. With no wife and not that many friends, the busyness kept his nightmares away. More praise came about his promptness and skill with the wok. He was getting closer.
Ma glanced up and saw a garbage bag sitting next to an old car. Nothing new. People here don’t care about their surroundings. Ugliness doesn’t matter and neither does beauty. It is the same. As he got closer to the bag, he saw liquid coming out from underneath. He knew what it was.
He had seen many corpses in his life and this one had not been here long. He hesitated a moment. This could get him noticed the wrong way. But slowly he reached on his belt and snapped off his phone and pressed the numbers.
A voice crackled on the other end. "Gwinnett 911. What is your emergency?”
"Body nex' to car. Na' moving."
“Ya. Lots blood under body. Na’ moving”
“Is there anyone else there?”
“Nah. Jus’ me. Name is Ma Ngyuen.”
“Mr. Ngyuen, where are you located?”
“Graves Apartments. Jus’ down from entrance.”
"Police and ambulance are on their way."
He clicked off and sat down to wait for the Authorities. Fishing in his pocket, he found his last cigarette and lit it. Thoughts of Hanoi rose in his mind for the first time in a while. Bodies laid out on the streets like this. They were rác. Garbage. People didn’t care who you were. They just grabbed what they wanted and if you were in the way, they got rid of you. Nothing personal, it was just how it was done.
The sirens began to swell in the distance. Ma stubbed out the smoke and put the butt in his pocket for later. He knew he was in for a long night.
Pic Guesses: Perverse rainbow (in the blog), Candy drop, Crown,