9PM: He finished his last slice in the booth at the pizzeria, picking at the crumbs on the plate. It being Saturday, his thoughts drifted to which of Taichung’s assorted talent pools he would grace that night.
She was shopping near Yi Zhong night market with two of her old high-school friends who both looked vaguely like Joey Ramone, and the three girls wound up at a confectionery store next to a police station. Nary a chuckle as they passed the candy bras and jockstraps, but upon seeing the shop’s marshmallow facsimiles of disposable panty-liners the crew succumbed to a fit of nervous giggles. They decided to buy some condom-shaped chocolates, a compromise with decency.
10PM: The pink hundred-dollar bill carried the serial number NV749416AK, a code signifying nothing and everything. It changed hands for a plump bird at a fresh-roasted chicken market, proceeded to a betel-nut stand three kilometers away, and then eased into yet another 7-Eleven like a key into a familiar lock. The stoic cashier gave it to him as change for a thousand as he copped a tall can of liquid nitrogen. He stepped outside to fuel up.
She said zai jian to her friends and bundled into a cab in front of Chung Yo department store building C. The taxi still smelled like the cologne worn by the last passenger, a smooth metrosexual bank employee taking his girlfriend out to sip blue-colored cocktails at a reasonable pace.
11PM: He navigated sans wingman into a lounge bar named for a popular island getaway. He liked this place because it was a Taiwanese anomaly, a theme bar that didn’t seem pretentious. Two or three beers later he paid with a handful of cash including NV7, and walked out to his scooter in the cool air.
She got two texts from her Canadian friend asking if she wanted to go out. She didn’t really, but an insistent ennui answered for her, and she replied they would rendezvous at midnight at a trendy dance bar on Hua Mei. She liked foreign friends but if you asked her why she probably couldn’t tell you, her confession draped in reticence.
12AM: Our fateful bill had once gotten stuck in an existential echo-chamber near Feng-Jia night market. For more than three months, every person who spent it did so within the same ten block radius. So many times it almost escaped, but the infinite spectrum of goods and services had created a hermetically sealed economy. The bartender at the lounge ordered beef noodle soup, and gave NV7 to the delivery driver. His fourth stop after that was the Hua Mei nightspot, and the bill went from hand to till.
She met her friend and they jealously compared each other’s outfits, her arsenal included fake eyelashes and glasses with no lenses. Angular rainbow spears bounced from a CD hanging behind an old woman’s wheelchair. She was selling lottery tickets two blocks away.
1AM: He visited a karaoke bar with rustic wooden benches, primarily to flirt with the spicy staff. The music was the same quaalude-sprinkled pudding that he heard warbled from speakers all over the goddamn island.
Her wai guo ren friend had drunk too many whiskey-cokes and was catching a rabbit in the girls’ room. Such abandon contrasted with the girl’s cautious sobriety. In an intense moment of self-loathing she realized that she never did anything even the slightest bit out of control. Her English teacher had once required the class to each translate an famous poem, she had chosen Frost. She dialed the number for a cab as the bartender provided her change: NV7 and a few shiny coins.
2AM: He parked outside his favorite after-hours bar, and the pull of the disco-house beat was as real as any gravity. This opium den for electronic music addicts welcomed him warmly, and he sat at the bar suspended in a trance bubble.
At the last minute, she decided against going home and walked two blocks down Hua Mei. She saw him when she went in, he was the only foreigner there. Despite her nervousness, she channeled every drop of her desire to do something spontaneous. Reaching into her purse she stroked the hundred. It shivered, remembering how it had once gone from being tucked into exposed cleavage at a sexy KTV to being used for a kindergarten tuition payment in less than six hours. Ironically the name of the kindergarten was the English word for immorality. She put the bill on the counter to pay for a pack of smokes. His eyes fixed on NV7 before looking up at her. They clicked immediately.
3AM: A crescent moon hung in the dark sky above his roof, but he didn’t see it. He had company. She didn’t see it either, and that made all the difference.