It is a hot day. I was buying lunch at the kopitiam. It usually takes 20 minutes. Today it is looking more like 30 minutes because two construction guys looking hot, I mean fit, were buying 300 packets of rice, presumably for the whole construction crew. But I cannot fault them. These guys work hard building our HDB flats and a man’s gotta eat when a man’s gotta eat. Usually on a 20-minute walk, I do not sweat, I mean glow. But 30 minutes is really pushing it.
My deep thoughts on personal hygiene were suddenly interrupted by an explosive cackle. I looked up. The lady manning the stall was laughing coquettishly at the Fit Man. Their eyes were locked across the trays of sambal kang kong and soya sauce chicken. He smiled, a little shyly, probably unused to being hit on by unabashed stall vendors. She continued her advance, vivaciously scooping extra curry into his rice till he held up his hand authoritatively – enough. It was fascinating. A Kopitiam Love Story. It made a lot of sense. There were only so many places you can meet someone. And there were only so many places you can eat at so you end up eating regularly at many of these. You meet the same vendors, you meet the same customers. It was awfully convenient.
He moved to the cashier to pay. She nudged the cashier gently out of her territory. No one was getting in the way of True Love. Within the cacophony of life around them, she whispered the total amount. He dug around in his wallet for notes, coins and moved to hand over his money. For a brief infinite moment, their hands touched. Then it was over. He gave her one last smile. She reminded him to come back tomorrow, and watched, a little wistfully as he hurried off after his friend. Then the magic was over. Brusquely, Stall Lady turned to the next customer.
Still waiting, I returned to my musings about personal hygiene. I sniffed delicately. Okay, I smell like prata and char kway tiao. It could have been worse. I checked out the tall, smartly-dressed man at the next table devouring his fishball noodles with vigour. He’s sort of cute, in the you-have-to-lower-your-standards-when-you’re-men-shopping-in-a-kopitiam way. But he’s always eating fishball noodles. Hmm. Boring. Still, I had better use deodorant the next time I go out to buy lunch. You never know whom you’ll meet. “Next!” Stall Lady glared at me and I humbly but quickly ordered my food.
~ Li Ching (Who Loves Love Stories)