As the orange moon rises and slowly turns to silver, a light breeze comes in from the West, blowing smoke and warm humid air across the rooftop patio.
Several of us are playing pool, Chinese rules, involving a free-ball scratch that speeds up the game for those of us who rarely play. Later, a group of Chinese guys will come. They come almost every night to play pool, and it shows. If not always in their skill, then in their quick confident ease with the cue and their snappy shots that ring out loud under the warm blanket of southern skies.
There is the angry guy. He curses profusely in broken English whenever he misses a shot. He walks like a jumpy gangster, all in quick chicken-like thrusts of the hip and feet, his head never stops moving until he lines up for a shot.
There is the cool guy, Kevin. He moves about like liquid. Lining up shots and easing them in all in one graceful movement.
There is Ray, who is tall for a Chinese guy. He has a friendly, open face and is quick to break into a conversation with any foreigner who looks willing.
There are others, and they come with their girls. They walk up from the stairs, look around, buy a grip of beers, and take their usual seat along the outer wall.
Scattered amongst the usual crowd of locals and students are the foreigners. Some are here for climbing, others are just backpacking and the rest are teachers.
Far below on crowded West Street the bars are starting to make their presence known through live bands and large rowdy groups of Chinese tourists. Street vendors are shouting their wares and the smell of spicy tofu and grilled meats are piqueing my interest.
Hours pass. Only drinkers left.
I meet a girl named Linda. She, too, is half-Chinese on her father’s side. Mind-blow.
We play some drinking games, trade riddles, and everyone that’s left decides to go out.
It’s past two and everything’s already closed except for the small glass-windowed carts that have all sorts of meats and little else. I get a duck head.
It tastes like duck, a bit stringier — kind of like gnawing on a turkey neck at Thanksgiving — but not bad.
The moon is now above us and we make our winding way up the alley and through the doors and up the stairs and back to bed as the slowly sinking moon changes phases in its endless cycle.