The meat-packing district is trendy now. It didn’t used to be. It used to be full of fat Italian guys smoking stubby cigarettes inside the cabs of loud, exhaust-belching, graffiti-stained trucks delivering meat. Now, every night of the week, networking parties rage inside spaces formerly used for the production of meat products. Socialites like Allie are often found, as she was now, standing with a crystal flute full of pink champagne in her dainty hand, greeting trust-funded hipsters before they enter the by-invite-only hot spot. The fat Italians are not invited. They’re all in Hunts Point now, anyway—or, that’s how it seems. The sad reality is that Then and Now, Here and There, it’s all a hazy, white-noise blur.
Allie (by birth: “Aywalasha Rai”) stood like the proper, finishing-school girl she was—obelisk-straight, her hair like black silk flowing over her dome-slope shoulders. Reconning the scene, Allie’s perfect posture reminded me of 7th Street, that row of nearly identical Indian restaurants, where we tried to get Allie to give up the goods on three major players in a global money-laundering operation. She was standing that way all through the interrogation, never wavering under the pressure. We failed to get the information we needed out of her, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be nostalgic about it all. “What drives you, Peter?” Allie had whispered to me over tandoori chicken before the interrogation, in the kind of romantic, airy voice that can make even the rumbling New York City delivery trucks sound like Aeolian harps. Her perfect posture wind-swept into her sweet voice in my ear. That’s one of those tricks of the mind that can seem cruel or kind, depending.