Friday prayers had just finished and the day is scorching hot. It is like these times when you wish there are some cendol stalls around to quench the parching thirst deep in your throat. Blurry mirages seem to be visible on the road due to the heat and I have to walk a great deal of distance to get to my destination. Wiping the sweat off my forehead for what seemed to me for a hundredth time, I could see far ahead along the way a café called “Ipoh Kopitiam”.
“Since you are not deciding let’s eat there!” she said with a hint of glee.
“Why on earth do you want to eat at Ipoh Kopitiam? I thought by now we both should be tired of Ipoh”
“I don’t know. I just feel like it. You always admit that when I follow my instinct, good things turn out”
“But I hate kopitiams! They serve awful food and I don’t drink coffee!”
She pouted and I conceded, as usual.
We both studied in a local university in Perak back around 2004-2008 and Ipoh seemed to be the nearest city. Of course, we did not know each other back then. I was pretty much a recluse rotting in my own dormitory playing computer games only occasionally going out because of two things; classes and food (most of the time because of the latter). Besides, she was my junior and our activities and interests seemed to be totally opposite we never crossed path.
She joined the same accounting firm as mine after graduating. We worked together reporting to the same superior for a couple of months before we had our first conversations. I was never good with strangers so it is obvious that she made the first move to talk and introduced herself.
“Hey, are you always like this?” she asked, casually, like it is the most natural thing to do.
“Like that! You are always so quiet and not sociable. No one will approach you if you stay on like that.”
“I don’t really care. I am fine with how I am right now.”
“Well it’s a shame.” and then she walked away. “It’s Hana by the way.” glancing back for a short moment and then continue walking towards her cubicle.
Those were the first few words that we exchanged. We started dating a few months after. I couldn’t exactly recall when was it the first time we started the dating spree and for what reason. We went out for dinners and movies several times. Unlike other normal couples, we do not have any labels for our relationship. I was technically not her boyfriend and she wasn’t my girlfriend either, and we both were comfortable that way.
“Hey are you going to order something?” she asked, breaking my train of thoughts.
“Ah yes I’m having whatever she’s having” I responded subconsciously to the waiter.
The waiter scowled as he walked away for I had wasted his time. It is not that it is my intention to do that. It is just my thoughts easily derail and before I knew it, people get angry because I was staring into nothingness or being unresponsive.
“You are boring.” she said without feeling at least bit guilt.
I raised my face, confused.
“You always played safe and you are not adventurous at all. For instance, you ordered the same dish as I did. Don’t you ever want to try something else or at least have your own choice?”
“I treat any food as sources of energy to the body. I barely care about the taste of food, as long as it is edible and all the nutrients are sufficient.”
She seemed to be not satisfied with my explanation but conceded the argument almost immediately. She took out a magazine which she just bought just now from a plastic bag and started unwrapping it. It is still an exciting mystery to me how women likes to read those crappy magazines filled with celebrity news and updates. I think it is the exact same perception from women towards men’s hobbies and interests. I guess we do come from two different planets.
The food arrived and we had our peaceful meal together. The humidity of the air and the swirling waves of wind coming from the ceiling fan were pleasant. The radio was playing a very familiar tune I could barely recognize. The room was cozy and I did feel at home; and she was in place; she feels like home.
She raised her head and my heart skipped a beat. Only seconds later I realized that she was staring right through me. She wore this heartbreaking facial expression I’ve never seen before my whole life. I turned and try to catch what she was looking at but I saw nothing.
I turned back facing her as she continue her read. I need to ask her what she saw that changed her disposition so suddenly. The sadness in her eyes made my heart break. I need to ask her the reason so badly but I am afraid that it’ll worsen the situation. I carefully arrange the words in my head, opened my mouth but nothing came out but a short sigh. It continued to be what seemed to me the longest silent meal I have ever been to.
“Hey dood are you ok?” Asyraf asked.
I blinked a few times, just like those who react after being under a strong hypnosis. As a matter of fact, I do feel like I just woke up from a very long dream. I did not realize how long have I been staring into nothingness up until Asyraf noticed that something is wrong with me. I looked around and realized that I have walked a fair amount of distance from the last place that I was conscious of my whereabouts.
I frantically look around for the Ipoh Kopitiam and when I found it, I saw Farhana sitting across someone who appears to be…me. She was there looking straight at me with that exact same sadness on her white porcelain face. As I was trying to change my direction towards her and was about to start running, she smiled. It was the most beautiful smile I have ever seen, those of one might mistaken would come from an angel.
Seeing her smile halted my movements. I stayed still where I was standing for a few seconds and turned back to the original direction I was facing. I knew I had to move on. I tried to take a step forward but my right foot seemed so heavy. I tried to move my foot but it doesn’t seem to budge an inch.
It took every ounce of effort I had when I finally managed to move my foot. The second my right foot sets back on the hot steamy road is when I realized that I return to hearing moving cars and pedestrians chatting, those you normally could hear on a busy Friday. I felt that the world came back to its original course after a long halt.
The few steps onwards seemed easier to take and I felt like a huge conscious burden had been lifted off my back.
“Yeah… I’m fine”