My wife texted me, Meet At Luongo’s. Tell Me All About It…
In the dusk of the financial district, where its glass and steel cathedrals dispelled its congregates of haughty capitalism into the narrow streets, I stared at the screen of my iPhone.
According to this rectangle of modern technological superiority in my hand, I had arrived at Luongo’s, my body impaled by the map’s red guitar pick indicator. These serpentine streets of historic brick and contemporary glass high-rises, evidently disrupted those all-seeing satellites orbiting our planet…
I texted my wife, I always forget. How do I get to this place?
In our future dystopia of smothering wireless smog, where air molecules transmogrify into GPS sensors to be inhaled and implanted into our brains, locating Luongo’s wouldn’t be such a perplexing ordeal.
It will just activate, override my body and walk me there… I laughed to myself.
My wife responded, I think it’s Meridian. Or Oxley St. Sorry, its all motor memory for me. But, yes it is impossible to find.
Years ago, during one of those late nights of city carousing, my wife and I were stumbling through these streets like they were candlelit catacombs, disoriented explorers searching for the sacred tomb—
My shoe thumped against an irregular sidewalk brick, my balance jarred, my body seemingly floating as I was redirected into the side of a black sedan.
“Shit…sorry…” I raised my hands apologetically.
I stared at the car’s emblem, unfamiliar with its strange, mystical design.
When I followed the reflective black hood up to the windshield, its glass was tinted and impenetrable.
As I moved away from the car to cross the street, it’s headlights blinked.
“Late!” My wife teased as I finally entered Luongo’s, its interior of white marble and dark wood dimly lit with flickering candle scones. “But, you found it.” She kissed my cheek.
“Uh-huh.” I slid onto my bar chair, my eyes investigating the bistro’s interior, attempting to reacquaint my memory. “Has this place changed?”
My wife snorted as she raised her glass of wine, “Really?” She turned away from me, staring down the small, curling bar. “Pep? Pep? Wherever you are. When was the last time this place changed?”
A disembodied laugh answered my wife. “Uh, hundred years?” From behind the bar, a man’s head slowly emerged, comically rising until he was fully standing, attired like some waiter from a 1950s Fellini movie. “I mean, in anothah few months, after some fat cat real estate firm buys this buildin’, jacks up tha’ rent, and eventually runs this family business out, then…then there will be plenty of changes. But, hey, the city needs’ah new Starbucks right?” He nodded at me. “What you havin’, strange human man?”
I laughed, squinting to read the beer list on the chalk board behind the bar. “Uhhh…can I try the—”
“Peroni it is, strange human man.” Pep interrupted me.
“He’s my husband, Pep.” My wife chuckled.
Pep, with a wink of his eye, delivered my beer.
“So, none of what you experienced today, has you worried? Like, some plot from a bad 1990s indie movie?” My wife turned away from me to thank Pep has he laid her plate of calamari onto the bar.
“It’s—“ She halted, munching her squid. “Sorry…Like, are they money laundering?”
“Yes.” Pep interrupted. “Anytime you want to know if a business is a business or an operation…It’s money launderin’.” He winked, walking away.
My wife shrugged. “Seriously. He may be onto something. He’s Italian.”
“My family is Portuguese.” Pep shouted from below the bar, bottles clinking, water rushing.
“So, while I was walking around and waiting for you to get off work, Brighton texted me…” I stopped, smirking, reaching into my jacket for my phone.
“Huh-uh…This sounds good.”
I smiled, unlocking my phone, clearing my throat for dramatic effect. “You will like this. This is Brighton’s very professional text. He sent it something like three hours after the interview: Hey, man, thanks for today. After talking with my partners and calling my uncle, everybody is super excited for you on Monday. Just to let you know, for security purposes, you cannot bring your phone into the building. Our security guard will be there to make sure of that. You will be given a code to make necessary outside calls. Otherwise, just download the app and fill out your information! It’s a strangely articulate text for a kid who seemed incapable of talking…”
“They’re all like that. You should hear how some of my interns talk…But, the real issue, babe: security purposes? What the hell is that?”
“Oh, I didn’t tell you, no idea how I forgot, because this is the coolest thing: I use an old black rotary phone to make calls.”
My wife responded with an arched, incredulous eyebrow.
“Look, Dave called me earlier. He said, these guys just got an influx of investor money. That one of his nephew’s partners is ridiculously paranoid and this little operation I will be doing—”
“You said operation!” Pep ascended from the depths of the bar.
Without turning, my wife extended a dismissive hand, “Shoo, Pep. Shoo.”
“Pep, may ask what you’re doing down there?”
Pep responded with a wink as he slowly descended beneath the bar.
“Anyway, according to Dave, this job I will doing, is like some hyper secure, old school intermediary system that they’ve used before.”
My wife inhaled. “Fucking weird, babe. I’m tellin’ you.”