My name is Kit Tucker and I exist in sound

Fiction by Justine Chan

I know this because I ran into a blind saxophone player standing on a patch of blue salt on the side of the snowy street, near the Picasso, playing “Girl from Ipanema,” and he stopped and said, “I think I know you from somewhere. I know that voice.” He was old and parched, in a patched-up suit, with sunglasses over his eyes and a fedora on his head, and I think he was God. Only God has that sort of taste in fashion, so humble and bare bones, and that raspy, delicious gospel voice. I don’t believe in God or Jesus, really, but I don’t believe either of them would wear sandals. This is Chicago, I would tell Him. But I don’t think I was even talking with Him to begin with. I think I was talking to myself, the way I always do when I’m walking back to the train by myself, and I might have gone quiet, the way I do when I approach people. Not that I care what they think, but I care that they might hear my thoughts and try to psychoanalyze me because everyone tries to and I’m flattered, but guys, I’m only one person. And I try not to be lonely. That is why I talk to myself. I don’t know if God knows that, but I would like to take God out to dinner at a really expensive and fancy restaurant, like Katsu. He would have to tuck away His saxophone in a green velvet-lined case, and I would be very happy thinking of that metal staying warm in the velvet. I would buy him a CTA card if He didn’t have one already, and we would ride the bus or the subway. At least the true L stations in the open air have little standing pockets with a heat lamp blazing where God and I could huddle and stay warm, but the more exciting thing would be actually sitting next to God or standing next to him while we rock and lean in these rattling metal boxes leaking steam and clanging through tunnels. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bus or a subway, I think. I am not so partial. But when we get to a low, nondescript brick strip of small restaurants, I will know we’re close, and I’ll let God pull the yellow cord for our stop or whatever makes him feel happy, and we will sit right at the sushi bar, where I ordinarily would not sit, but that is the only place to sit at Katsu. Even if God is not really God but just a blind, homeless old man who plays the saxophone, He will like sitting at the bar because Katsu, the man himself, will be there making the sushi just beyond reach and sight. At the right angle, you can watch the sharp knives slice through spreads of fish, the white and red meats, like butter. Everything is a sleek black, from the wood of the bar to the plates and the cups, all faintly lit right behind Katsu. There is something secret and sweet about sitting so close to the fish. I will order the combo plate—one for each of us—and Katsu will nod approvingly, and God will nod approvingly, but I will wonder if either of them is real, if I am sitting by myself again in Katsu because I do not want to go home to my wife. But that moment will pass, and Katsu will work steadily, muttering in Japanese to his assistant, and his wife will pour green tea and sake for the both of us all the while. Katsu’s wife is beautiful, but I will not tell her that because God is there, not saying much. I will want to hear his voice, every cadence and tin can shoestring sound, but I will not know the right questions. There are too many questions, and God is hungry. And Katsu will reach over the counter with small rectangular plates for each of us, six pieces of sushi in a neat row. They will glisten, soft and bright and colorful, with gold flakes sprinkled on each one. The waiter will breeze by to explain each of the pieces, how the soft-shell shrimp is to be eaten—watch me first pinch off the head and legs, but all of it can be eaten—how the raw oyster came from Seattle, how the cod came from Maine, and whatever and whatever, and I will be happy thinking about God thinking about sushi with gold flakes. God and I will set aside the unwieldy chopsticks, pinch up the sushi in our fingers, and let each piece sit in our mouths. All of it will be exquisite, sliding down our throats splendidly. Katsu will ask how the sushi is, and God will smile, patting His stomach. And that is all this world needs. I will pretend to barter with God, trying not to let Him pay when He does not offer to, and it will be a grand fortune, but I will not mind. I will tip generously. I will order another round of sake. God will take small sips. I will tell Katsu his wife is beautiful, and I will never go home again, and God will forgive me. God will forgive me for everything. God will forgive me for not shaking His hand, or even lifting my head and saying, “All is well!”

Chicago-native Justine Chan holds an MFA in Prose from the University of Washington in Seattle. She earned her BA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in English and Creative Writing. Her work has appeared in Beecher’s, Poetry on Buses, the Breadline Anthology, and Midwestern Gothic among others. Her nonfiction was nominated for the 2016 Pushcart. She is also a singer-songwriter and busker and currently lives in Seattle.