“White wine goes well with seafood,” I said, giving some rationale for the boozing I planned to partake in. In truth, I didn’t much care if the wine and the food went together at all. Or if there even was food.
This was our second night in Cape Town, South Africa. We had spent our entire day at the V & A Waterfront and had settled down at the Cape Town Fish Market for dinner. The Waterfront truly is spectacular; the wharf and the harbor is beautiful and clean and the place is hip and trendy and we just loved it. It’s got a swell presentation going on. Case in point: look at the cool ice bag the fish market put our bottle of wine in.
Anyways, we ordered a big platter of seafood and started drinking the wine, a really cheap Chardonnay that was surprisingly good. I’ve paid more in the past for box wine that was borderline undrinkable. Everything was going swimmingly well. The food was great, the wine was kicking in, and there was this lovely rectangular potted plant next to our table that ran about four feet in length and served as a barrier between the restaurant and the outside world. Things were all fine and dandy, until I glanced over and saw a long tail sliding down the wooden bridge of that rectangular potted plant sitting next to us.
It was a rat. A huge, giant rat. Walking around in chill mode only a foot or two from our table.
I tried to block it out. The thing had disappeared and was gone. I told myself not to say anything to Fang Deng, because she might freak out. The bastard had left and all was safe.
We finished our bottle of wine and then, feeling free with my thoughts, I said, “Hey, did you see anything scurrying around next to us while we were eating?”
“Yeah,” she said. “I thought I saw a rat.”
“Me too! I didn’t want to say anything.”
“Where was it?”
“Right there, next to you. It was enormous!”
We laughed, and then we went quiet. There was a sound coming from the plant, a slight ruffling noise. Then, like a nightmare brought to life, the face of the rat lifted from the foliage. It revealed itself only for an instant, just enough to terrify us, and then was gone. Kind of like how there are images of Satan spliced into The Exorcist for subliminal effect.
Both of us were petrified.
What is it about a rat? It’s not necessarily the ugliest animal in the world; in fact, I find rats quite cute. But put a rat in my vicinity, and I immediately lose my shit. Especially when I’m trying to eat. There could’ve been a severed human hand in those bushes next to our table, and I would’ve waited until I’d finished eating dinner to report it without worry. But a rat? Cause for panic. And panic we did.
Both of us jumped up and moved our chairs to the far side of the table and then stared at the bushes in horror, like Shelly Duvall looking at the bathroom door in The Shining. We quickly summoned the waiter and got the check. Then after, we told him that there was a big ass rat hanging out next to our table. Not to complain. Just to let it be known.
“Well, it is a wharf,” he said, smiling. “We try to keep the rats away, but it’s impossible.”
Later, drinking beer at one of the breweries, Fang Deng would be attacked by a cockroach in the bathroom. From what I understand, she ran out of there with her bladder only half emptied.
Which is fine. Cool. Because no matter how clean and well-presented a place can be, it kind of is what it is. A wharf is a wharf. There are rats and roaches and birds that might take a shit on you. These are things one just has to deal with.
We both staggered home drunk and laughing. The rat had, in essence, spiced up our night, and we were thankful for that.