May 25, 2003

There's definitely a feeling of being old when friends your age start getting married. Feeling old aside, congratulations to Ken and Ann.

It's been another one of those days. It's becoming somewhat of a tradition on weekends, to come to the realization that the clock says 12:00. A minute later it rolls over to 12:01 and I realize I'm not imagining anything, the clock is still working. It really is midnight, and almost everything is closed. And that hunger? That's not a figment of my imagination either. I call up Top Cafe in Milpitas, a rather crummy little place with little claim to fame except that they're open past midnight. I order fried rice with chicken and salted fish, and the guy on the other end of the line says ten minutes.

I dawdle a few more minutes, mostly because there's no place to wait at the restaurant, since the tables are almost always full at this time. It's not a long drive; I normally swing by the ATM on the way there. Without fail, the manager, the guy that took my order, is behind the counter which holds the neatly tied plastic bag. He always says something that translates roughly to "What can I help you with, brother?", I point mutely to the bag and pass him a twenty. He grabs $13.25 from the cash register. He always double checks it before handing it over, which is great, since I just cram it into my pocket, reminding myself that if I hadn't thought of being hungry, I probably wouldn't have noticed the gnawing emptiness.

When I get home, I pour myself a tall glass of orange juice. The soy sauce, mustard, Tabasco and the jug of Tropicana are the few items in the fridge that don't belong to my roomate. I always used to see a glass of orange juice as a part of a complete breakfast on cereal commercials, but throughout my childhood, I only had milk. It wasn't until recently that I realized that orange juice goes well with almost everything except for dessert, fried rice included.

I get back to my desk and plop down the large styrofoam box beside my notebook and pop it open. The top of the glistening pile has been flattened by the lid. I look at it thinking that it's got to be the size of two meals and dig into immediately. It's reached that perfect temperature where it's hot but doesn't scorch your tongue. The chicken adds some bounce to the texture, while somehow the lettuce in there adds crispness despite being cooked. The fish is balanced by the plentiful ginger, essential to the dish. Admittedly, there's the occasional bite that's overwhelmingly salty, but that's a minor price to pay for a dining experience that can hardly be expressed in words. Despite the size of the box, I've never been able to stop myself before cleaning it out, leaving the bottom of the box empty except for that grease lining.

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