Eve was slipping away from work; slipping away a little early to escape the soul deadening atmosphere of the office. Her desk had a view of the rail yards that only came to life around 4:30 p.m. when the trains started converging on the station to carry commuters home. This rush hour pow wow inevitably ended in a protracted traffic jam. Would be travellers were not in fact speedily conveyed to their waiting family and friends, but were forced ignore the presence of strangers on blustery train platforms. This is why Eve preferred the bike.
In the office toilet she donned her black cycling pants, worn out runners and a black t-shirt. She hoped that no one had seen her carry a bike bag with her to the toilet as this would be a dead giveaway of her intention to leave. She opened the heavy green door that led to the piss smelling stairs that were the fire escape. Holding her breath to avoid the stench she exited through the door that led directly to the underground car park where she stabled her bike.
She started to feel freer as she pedalled up the steep hill that led away from the office.
After a few blocks she felt woozy, the familiar sensation of muscular weakness and light-headedness indicating that she must eat something soon or risk low blood sugar and the associated shakiness. She’d tried to ride out the sensation once or twice before hoping it would go away but it never did. It just got worse. So it she must.
Eve scanned the upcoming city block for a suitable food outlet. Curry Palace screamed a large sign next to a 7/11.
‘That’s the place for me,’ she thought and pulled over. A curry would be just the thing. She entered the small restaurant and walked up to the counter.
‘Could you make me a small serve of curry with rice?’ she asked the girl behind the counter.
The girl held up an enormous white plate and pointed at a sign that read ‘3 curries with rice $12’.
‘That’s more than I want,’ Eve replied grumpily, not willing to spend that much on a meal she needed rather than wanted.
‘We only have this,’ the serving girl gestured at the offerings in the Bain Marie, still holding the plate in her other hand.
Eve was beginning to lose a temper.
‘But I only want a small serve.’
‘We have 3 curries with rice. Eat in or takeaway,’ countered the serving girl unphased.
A queue was forming behind Eve and customers were watching the exchange curiously.
‘Fine,’ Eve spat. She spun on her heels and pushed past the other customers out of the door.
Eve marched into the 7/11 next door and purchased a lukewarm pie for $4.20 and two miniscule packets of sauce for 20 cents each.
Back outside she plopped onto the bench on the sidewalk that was facing the glass wall that was the entrance to the Curry Palace. She shared this space with a young Japanese man who was furiously typing into his smartphone while drawing deeply on a cigarette. The smoke drifted over to Eve and the man apologetically waved his hand trying to disperse it. ‘Sorry,’ he said.
Eve began to eat the pie in a determined act of duty. It was at this moment that she felt something heavy and warm drop into her lap – a white plastic bag.
‘There you go,’ she heard a male voice. She looked up and saw a suited male figure walking away from her. Puzzled she inspected the bag. Inside was a takeaway container of rice and 3 curries.
She was not sure whether to feel ashamed of herself or be pleased. The kind stranger must have witnessed her tantrum at the Curry Palace and felt sorry for her. Perhaps he had thought she couldn’t afford the meal and wanted to do her a kindness. Or maybe, she thought, he was a sub at heart and could not stand to see a superior female be denied her wish.
She packed the meal into her bike bag and rode home with a smile on her face.