Todd had always wanted to eat at a Chinese restaurant on Christmas. Ever since the first saw A Christmas Story when he was kid.
He just never thought that when the time came, he would be doing so alone.
But not by choice, but rather by court mandate.
He had his kids for Thanksgiving, at least. And he would have them for Christmas next year. Alternating holidays was the best solution for all involved.
The new normal.
Yet, he never felt further from normal. His precious time with the kids was forever cut in half. No amount of therapy could never help him reconcile with this fact. Perhaps if he wanted the divorce to begin with, things would have been different. Perhaps if she gave marriage a counseling a try, they could have reconciled. And found their way back to one another.
Sure, their marriage had serious flaws.
But he was willing to work through it. And she wasn’t.
She admittedly cashed out years ago. Playing make believe ever since.
And then came along her “soul mate”.
Despite this, he was still willing to do whatever it took to keep the family together, even if they essentially had separate lives. He still loved her, after all. And if she didn’t love him, then he just wished she would stay together for the kids at the very least.
And if she needed to keep her new lover on the side, then so be it. He could look past that. He just couldn’t bear the fact that his time with the kids would be cut in half.
But her mind was made up. There was no turning back.
Now that the initial storm had passed, his singular goal to appreciate every moment he had with his kids, rather than dwelling on the time he didn’t have.
At the onset of his divorce, it was the time away from his children that hurt the most. When he was alone with his thoughts. And memories. And the memories that would now never get made. Like a family trip to Disney World that would never happen, which he had imagined before his daughter was born seven years prior.
The silver lining was that things were finally getting better, following months of therapy. And finding more happiness than not. However, with their the one-year anniversary of their divorce coming up and the holiday season upon them, he was beginning to slide back into the pit of despair. He wanted nothing more than for the holidays to be over. For the first time in his life, he had absolutely no holiday cheer. Usually, he was the one who brought an abundance of holiday cheer, where his wife generally had none.
As though the divorce wasn’t enough, he recently lost his automotive marketing job – a position he held for over a decade. Though he saw the writing on the wall, it was still a tough pill to swallow – especially in the context of everything else he went through this past year.
Perhaps if he lost his job before the divorced, he would have had a moderately stable home life to come home to each night. But instead, he had…nothing.
This week was particularly tough because of Christmas. Even if he had his kids, not having his wife would have been a tough pill to swallow. But as it was, he never felt more lonely.
At least he would have them on New Year’s Eve. But of course, they would be in bed before midnight, which meant he would be lonely. Then again, his wife as always in bed well before midnight anyway.
But first, he had to get through Christmas. And the light at the end of the tunnel was Chinese food.
Before heading out, he debated what would be more depressing – staying home alone. Or, going out alone. He was realized he was never more depressed than he was when he was inside his dingy, still unfurnished apartment, staring at his two-foot tall fake Christmas tree he bought on clearance at Michael’s with a 40% off coupon.
After watching one and half viewings of the A Christmas Story marathon on TBS, he headed out into a light snowfall to Chin’s.
Holidays and divorced aside, he had been craving Chinese food for quite a while now. A gift to himself. Though he gave his ex a gift, she did not return the favor to him. Nor, was he expecting her to. In hindsight, he shouldn’t have, either. Because it pissed her off.
He should have known better.
“What makes you think I would want a gift from you?” was her response.
He wanted to say “because I still care about you very much and you’re the mother of my children.” But knew that would piss her off anymore.
He wanted his kids to see that there was mutual love and respect between their parents, even though they were no longer living together. But instead, they got more of the same they were getting during the last couple years of their marriage. In fact, it was their constant bickering that finally made him realize that staying together for the kids was perhaps not in their best interest. It broke his heart to hear his kids begging – sometimes crying – for them to stop arguing.
“Mommy, please don’t get into an awwwgument with daddy,” their son would often say. Though hearing this broke his heart, it pissed her off. They both knew something had to be done. His solution was marriage counseling. She went straight for the kill.
As much as he wanted to stop living in the past, he knew it was impossible when
it sent its demons to live in the present. So, he was stuck in a no man’s land, were going forward was proving to be just as difficult as living the past.
As he pulled into the parking lot, dusted with freshly fallen snow, he noticed that there were only two other cars. Probably not a good sign, but aside from the shitty weather, it was past prime business hours. He wondered if it were even open.
Magic China’s was a classic hole in the wall that somehow stayed in business, despite an always empty parking lot beneath the faux-Chinese architecture, which certainly had a certain charm, as did the flashing “COCKTAILS” light beneath the name.
As he approached, he noticed a handwritten sign in the window that simply read:
“WE OPEN FOR HOLIDAYS.”
Despite the obvious grammatical error, he was impressed with the unintended, edgy bravado the sign exuded.
He entered. There was not another customer in sight. A Chinese woman in her late 60’s greeted him with sad eyes.
“Hello. Merry Christmas!” she said with a thick accent right out of A Christmas Story.
“Merry Christmas,” Todd replied back.
He had no idea what the fuck she was saying.
“Sit down or carry out,” she said, giving her enunciation every effort.
“Sit down, please.”
“Just one?” she said with what he imagined to be empathy.
“Just one,” he said, bowing his head in shame, as a mournful Muzak version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” played through a tinny speaker.
She grabbed a tattered, food-stained menu and led him to a table in a back corner – the loneliest table for the loneliest man in the loneliest Chinese restaurant on the planet.
“This okay?” she asked.
“Sure,” he said.
He took a look around at his surroundings. Paintings of ancient Chinese life were scattered about, along with several kitschy knick-knacks made in China. But only to be sold in America.
Other than the hostess, nobody else was in sight. As alone as he was, he felt an oddly unexpected peace. Moments later, a waitress with the body of a 20-year-old, but the face of someone well over twice that age, appeared through a door opposite the kitchen. She appeared unkempt, as though she had just woken up from a long nap. The red marks on one side of her face backed this theory.
“Hello! Merry Christmas! Something to drink?”
“Merry Christmas! Can I have a Mai-Tai? And a water?”
“Mai-Tai? Yes. You want two?”
“At the same time?”
“Yes. I make you two if you want.”
“Why not?” he said after a brief hesitation. He had no memory of ever being asked if he wanted to drinks at once. In fact, he was surprised this wasn’t asked more often. I mean, it’s common practice to ask if you want to start a tab. So why not just start out with two drinks?
“Okay. I get drinks. Then I take order, okay?”
“Actually, I already know what I want.”
He always knew what he wanted when he got Chinese. Ever since he a little boy. In fact, it was one of the more consistent things in his life.
“Okay, fine, then you order now,” the waitress said, slightly irked.
“I’ll have Sweet and Sour Chicken. Does that come with an egg roll?”
“No egg rolls. Spring rolls.”
“It comes with a spring roll?”
“No. Must order separate. You want spring roll?”
“Would you like two?”
PAY THIS OFF LATER WITH TWO MASSAGESRS
“One is fine.”
“Okay, one. Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure,” he said.
“White rice? Or brown?”
“Both types of rice?”
“No, I mean are you offering me to types of rice at the same time?”
“No. Just white. Just white rice.”
“Okay, I get for you.”
“Where’s the restroom, by the way?” he asked the waitress, who had begun folding silverware into napkins.
“Down hall. To left. You need help?”
“In the bathroom?”
“To bathroom. You need help I show you.”
“Thanks, but I think I can find it.”
“Okay, okay. You go.”
He got up and headed toward the bathroom, decorated with the worst art he had seen in his life. All cats and dogs, but as though three-year old Picasso decided to enter his most experimental phase at the age of three. He wasn’t sure if he should laugh, or be frightened.
As he proceeded to piss, he heard what sounded like light, successive slaps coming through a vent and what he thought were moans.
What the fuck?
He found another odd thing that he tried to talk his brain out of misinterpreting: a hole in the wall at waist level, about three inches wide. A perfect circle in all its glory. And if it wasn’t what he thought it was, then what else could it have been? Nothing came to mind.
When he came back to his seat, his spring roll and two Mai Tais were waiting. Though the drink looked perfect, it was the smallest, most shriveled up spring roll he had ever seen. And he had seen his share.
He got to work on his first Mai Tai, sucking it down more quickly than he was accustomed to. He felt an instant buzz – or, was it just a sugar high? – then took a few bites of his spring roll. Despite its outward appearance, it wasn’t half bad. But there was no sauce, but his waitress was nowhere to be found. So he got to work on the second drink.
Three minutes passed, so he decided to take matters into his own hands and peek his head into the kitchen. But nobody was in there.
“Help you?” a voice said behind him, causing him to leap in fear.
“Oh, so sorry. I scare you?”
“Oh, it’s okay. Can I get some plum sauce please?” he asked.
“Soy sauce,” the waitress asked.
“No. Plum sauce. Plum,” he said with added emphasis.
“Okay. Two plum sauce.”
“Two?” he asked.
“Yes, two,” she said, eagerly nodding.
“Okay, two’s good.”
The waitress headed toward the kitchen, where what sounded an argument ensued with an unspecified male that he did not notice when he poked his head in there a minute ago. It was entirely in Chinese, but one thing was clear: the waitress was winning. And winning by a mile. And that was before she started wailing on him with his fists.
Todd imagined the poor man cowering in a ball in a corner, stirring spatula still in hand. Though he couldn’t understand a word that was being said, he could hear the man begging for mercy.
Moments later, she returned, carrying a small tray featuring two plum sauces.
“Here you go. Plum sauce, yum,” she said with a smile, with no indication whether or not she realized that the shouting match that had just ensued was perhaps overheard by her one and only customer.
“Anything else? More Mai-Tai?,” the waitress asked, despite the fact that he still had an almost full glass remaining.
“No thanks. I’m fine for now.”
“Okay, very good. I be back with your food soon.”
Todd proceeded to eat his spring roll. With each bite, felt pangs of loneliness in his heart. There was nothing he wanted more in this moment than to be with his family again. He would take her back in a heartbeat and it pained him to know it would never happen. If there was one thing he learned repeatedly throughout life, wanting and getting rarely work in tandem. He learned this at an early age when he was pursuing his now abandoned Hollywood dream.
Halfway through his second Mai-Tai, the waitress brought his entrée.
“Thank you,” Todd said.
“Everything look okay?” she asked.
“You eat. I be back.”
And then she disappeared, leaving Todd alone in the absolute silence of his deafening solitude.
But seconds later, he heard the unrecognizable melody of sexual moaning (though, he couldn’t completely rule out somebody working out).
He couldn’t detect where it was coming from. Through the wall? Like in the kitchen maybe? Was there perhaps an adjacent apartment or something? Or was it coming through the flooring? From the basement?
He continued eating his meal in unison with the moans, which intensified, then finally came to a satisfying conclusion.
When he finished his meal, the waitress brought him two fortune cookies along with his check.
“You like something else,” the waitress asked.
“Nope, I’m fine. Thank you.”
“You like message before you go bye?”
“I’m sorry,” he asked.
“Massage,” she clarified, using hand motions that erased all doubt and confusion.
“Massage?” he asked just to be clear.
“Yes, yes. Massage. You like massage, yes?”
“Christmas special. In basement. I show you.”
“Umm, I think I’m good. But thank you.”
“You think more about it. I be right back, okay.”
What the fuck!
He had a friend who frequented these kind of places and told him all about it. And all the “amazing specials” that a few extra bucks could get you. “A good ol’ fashioned rub and tug on the ol’ eggroll!” as his friend put it.
He would be lying if he didn’t say he was intrigued. After all, it had been awhile since he felt the touch of another human being on his body. But would he settle for this?
He stared at his fortune cookies, both of which were partially smashed. He opened the first one. Removed the fortune. And found himself staring at a blank slip.
He turned it around. Also, blank.
A fucking empty fortune.
He opened the second cookie. There wasn’t even a fortune slip in it.
He considered asking for another one.
Had to be a sign, right? To start anew on a blank canvas.
He gently tucked the blank strip into his pocket and realized exactly what he had to do. But then more racket from the kitchen, as another argument broke out. This time, there was a third participant. Seconds later, the sound of various pots and kitchen utensils were tossed around the kitchen, followed by the sound of broken glass. That seemed to end the argument – at least temporarily and the only sound that remained was the meditation music, fused with the thumping techno coming from what sounded presumably from a basement.
Seconds later, his waitress re-appeared – once again with a smile as though nothing happened at all. He waved her over.
He noticed a splash of blood on her arm. With no sign of visible injury on her, was it even her blood? And if that were the case, then whose blood was it? Did he even want to find out?
“How I help you?” she asked.
“So, regarding that massage…I think I’m interested. How does it work?”
“Oh, you want? $15 for 15 minutes. $30 for 30. $55 for hour.”
“I’ll do the half hour.”
“Okay, you pay for dinner and massage after. I take you down. Come with me.”
Todd followed her toward the kitchen until they reached a dark hallway, which revealed a door that lead to downstairs to a great unknown.
Next thing he knew, he was being led to the basement, which consisted of a hallway, where half a dozen small rooms were blocked off with red, tattered plastic curtains
She led him into one of them, which consisted of a massage table draped with a white towel. In a corner stood a small table filled with several bottles of generic lotions. And one bottle of Mr. Bubbles.
“You get undressed. I be right back.”
She disappeared. And his first thought was to get the fuck out of there
He still could not believe this was happening. In his defense, it was by accident. But he still had the choice to stay or go. Yet, here he was.
Wat did he have to lose? Well, for starters, he couldn’t help but imagine the police busting in at any moment. This had to be illegal, right?
He began getting undressed.
He then stood there, naked, staring at the ample supply of lotion.
She entered, startling him once again. “Oh, sorry. I scare you two times. Lie down here,” she said, tapping the table. “On tummy.”
He awkwardly moved toward the table, with his hand still covering his shriveled junk, then climbed on top and lay down, struggling to find a comfortable position for his head.
“You relax. And watch.”
And just like, she began to undress, revealing tattered granny panties and bra that looked as though it somehow traveled from 1955.
“You like what you see?” she asked.
“Thank you. You so handsome.”
As attractive as her body was – especially when taking into account her age – all she could about was the fact that just minutes before, she was his waitress. Which made him feel a little bit sick to his stomach for sanitary reasons.
“Okay, I massage now. You like soft, medium, or hard?”
“Medium, I guess?”
“Okay. Good. I can’t do hard. Hurt shoulder.”
She began to massage his back and shoulders, before working her way up and down his legs. At first, nothing seemed out of the ordinary, aside from the fact that she was in her lingerie.
As she massaged his arms, she pulled on his fingers, making a loud snap. It hurt.
“Oh, sorry. I hurt you?”
She then began to rub his scalp. It felt good. At first. But she kept on rubbing incessantly to the point where it felt like it was never going to stop. And then it began to burn. Just when he was going to ask her stop, she worked her way down his neck, his back, and then totally out of the blue, she began playing his butt cheeks like a set of bongos. Much like his head, this went on longer than it should have and his ass was getting sore from repetitive tapping, which finally eased into light taps, and then soothing tickles. Beneath him was the makings of a raging boner.
She then moved her finger lightly around the circumference of both ass cheeks in a figure eight, skirting the edge of his crack, before working toward the interior of his cheeks and eventually passing through his crack, resting for a moment over his butt hole, before stopping just short of his balls.
He tried with all his might not to thrust himself into the table, thinking it would be too weird. There was no way she couldn’t tell he was turned on.
Though he knew it was a matter of time before he had a sexual encounter with another woman post-divorce, he had no idea it would be anything like this. She continued lightly caressing his ass, spiraling toward his asshole, which she began to massage. It felt so fucking good. He never experienced any sort of ass play before. Nor, had he really ever desired it. Now he realized he was missing out!
And then like a knife through butter, a well-lotioned finger was suddenly thrust up his ass, practically making him cum right that very instant.
“Peek-a-boo!” she said, giggling.
This time, he couldn’t help but thrust himself into the table. In fact, she seemed to be encouraging it by applying downward force.
“You like, yes?”
He nodded in ecstasy.
“Flip ova,” she said.
He did, sheepishly covering his full erection.
She forcibly removed his hands.
“Oh, you got nice one.”
She lightly tickled it, causing it to convulse. This was by far the most erotic experience of his life. He still couldn’t believe it was happening to him. He had seen porn like this, but he never thought it would escape from the realm of fantasy.
“You want two?”
“I’m sorry? Two?”
“Two for price of one?”
She screamed out something in Chinese – presumably a name. Seconds later, another woman entered. She as at least 60. And at least 200 pounds. But there was nothing he could do about it now.
He watched as she undressed – underwear and all. Both women began to massage his entire body, stopping short of his throbbing penis. He was certain he would cum without contact.
“You want me make penis go boom?” his waitress asked.
“Yes, please,” assuming she meant jerking him off.
She squired some lotion into her hand, then got to work on stroking his cock, while the other woman continue massing his body. He came in less than 30 seconds.
“Ohhhh! So fast!”
“Sorry,” he said, embarrassed at the mess he made.
“It okay. I make you feel good?”
“Yes. Real good.”
The second woman began to clean him off with a towel.
“Come with me…” the waitress said.
She lead him by the hand to another room that had a shallow tub.
“Lie down. I give you bath.”
Though content, he was curious.
She drew the water and waited for it to get warm.
He entered, wondering how many other naked men had lay in this same spot and further wondering how often it was bleached. Some things are better not to think about.
She proceeded to go give him a sponge bath. And it felt so fucking good, though he also felt oddly like a little child.
When she was done, she screamed out for the other woman again.
She entered as though right on cue with a towel, then proceeded to dry him off like a toddler fresh out of a bath.
The waitress lead him back into the first room.
“Okay, get dressed.”
She let him be and he got dressed, feeling totally refreshed and rejuenvenated. In fact, he couldn’t remember the last time he felt this calm and relaxed. Yet, he couldn’t believe it was real. It felt more like a wet dream.
When he was dressed, he headed out, where the waitress greets him.
“If you like, please tip.”
He had no idea how much he should tip, so he handed her a $20. She appeared please, but he hoped he wasn’t lowballing her.
“You pay bill at register upstairs, okay?”
She gave him a hug, which honestly felt better than anything else she had already done to him. He then headed upstairs, paid his bill, and headed back out into the snowy night.
Though far from the best Christmas of his life, it was certainly one of the most memorable. And at least in a season surrounded by sadness, he would have a happy ending for once.
In fact, he had a feeling he would be back again soon.
But there would never be a next time. A few weeks later, Magic Chin’s was closed for good. A sign in the window read:
“Closed. Thank you for business.”
As he knew all too well, not everything had a happy ending. But he was getting better at accepting this as fact.