The OPEN sign on the window flashes, and the wind chimes jingle softly as I push the door open. There's no one at the counter, no one at the booths. I am the only one daring to approach the threshold of a restaurant so close to closing time. I'm going home from work; this is the only place yet open on the street, and after hours of pouring energy into my lessons, the solitude is welcome company.
The gold trimmed curtains and the vivid carpet are lush, and my eyes are engaged by gorgeous colors each weaving into the other, blending, connected by their earthly tones—subtle shades of green, gold, brown, and red forming intricate and not so subtle patterns. It couldn't have suited my moods more perfectly.
A woman emerges from the kitchen.
"May I help you?"
"Yes, I'm just wondering, what would your vegetarian options be?"
"To go or dine in?"
"To go, please."
She hands me a paper menu and opens it to a rather full page.
"These are all of our vegetarian options."
She is middle aged, shorter than I am by quite a few inches. Her black curly hair frizzy likely due to the heat from the kitchen. She wears no apron, though. She is front of house. As I browse the menu she goes behind the booth.
"I'll take number 48—the okra."
"Do you want naan?"
"Um, sure. How much is the naan?"
"Garlic naan or regular naan? Regular naan $1.50, garlic naan $1.99."
"I'll take the garlic naan."
I pay, and she comes out of the booth.
"Ten, fifteen minutes. You come back or wait here?"
"I'll wait here if that's ok?"
She nods and disappears into the kitchen.
"One okra and garlic naan."
The distant music with its calm distinct piano beats and smooth recorder whistles, makes my body involuntarily swing in response to its rhythm. The plaster of Paris façades of the counter were worn, as I imagine many are. Plaster of Paris is not a sensible material for building, yet it is irresistible for ornamentation. Statues of gods and goddesses glance at me from every corner in their unseeing and placid looks, as if caught between expressions so that their looks are void of messages. They just are—a pause. Elephants are lined up on different shelves, and a Buddha displays his wide grin. Cherubs have been frozen in time as they string their harps and gape at me.
The salad bar has been emptied, only the derelict ice cubes remain melting, swishing to the corners of the tubs. The bar has closed, yet the bottles taunt me. I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and look away.
A soft roar and flash catches my eye. The kitchen door provides a glimpse of the preparations beyond the "Employees Only" sign. A man is flipping something over open flames. "He's frying my food," I realize. Newspapers and yellow pages are shuffled on a nearby shelf, and a Zeppelin poster graces the wall behind me. Plastic flowers dangle from the ceiling. Tungsten lights increase the ambience—their soft glows reaching the necessary parts of the restaurant, while giving plenty of nooks and crannies their shadowed privacy. The counters and tables are clean, void of greasy smudges that make me nauseated. I like it here. I want to come here again.
Soon she scurries from the kitchen carrying my order, and hands the paper bag within a plastic bag to me with a smile.
"Thank you. Bye!"
The wind chimes jingle as I let the door close itself and walk out into the clear night. The moon is bright, the silhouette of the mountains and pine trees stamped in the horizon, and the smell of garlic naan intoxicating and dizzying by my side. It couldn't have suited my moods more perfectly—New Passage to India.