The usher is a young man, maybe no more than 22 years old, clean-shaven,
spiky hair, dressed in a silk shirt that approximates a tuxedo. The
usher is shaking his head. Dammit, what did I do wrong now?
The usher says: Sir, you can't bring in your bag. His tone
is that of a friendly department store clerk, but his face remains
expressionless. A neat trick. One must learn that one.
Oh. Okay, he replies. The searchlight is turning his way. No
good, too bright and all will be revealed. He swivels, just in time.
Annie's car is closer than his scooter. Is the usher watching him?
No, he has more customers to attend to. C.J. will not even steal a
glance back over at the front door. The usher will not have the satisfaction.
He stares at the interior of Annie's car for a moment -- it is completely
bare, without a single trinket, folded-up
magazine or crumpled cup to mark a human presence. He reaches out
and steadies himself against the left passenger window. Inside the
disco, house music has taken hold -- bump, bump, bump-bump-bump.
He can feel the thud again in his chest; that is a good thing, it
means some amount of sensation, a smidgen of discernment, has returned.
Overtaken by nausea, he leans over, but only a hacking
cough erupts from his mouth, which only constricts his throat and
inspires further coughs. Pneumonia, he thinks, this is what comes
of living in a sub-tropical climate. Too harried to conjure a more
elegant solution, he pulls his notepad, Lau's files, the VCDs from
his knapsack, divesting the latter from their jewel cases, and shoves
them down inside the baggy folds of his shirt. For a few moments they
feel cool, dry, almost like a massage, and then they are as sweaty
as the rest of him as he boogies in place, shifting the items to his
back, stuffing the shirt hard into his pants there to keep everything