Double Macchiato & Iced Latte
Teh Peng Extra Sweet
She likes some other guy. But instead of being apprehensive about her incessant mention of that matter, I still acquiesce when she SMSs a curt "wake up" in the afternoon for our daily jaunt to the 6th Avenue Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, where the café guy is as familiar with our routine as we are. A double macchiato and an iced latte to have here please thank you very much. Ditto at the Newton Hawker Centre, where a tousled blonde nod gets us two teh peng extra sweet. It has become an enjoyable habit, and as I said to her, much like watching sunsets. There's a certain comfort in the routine.
We talk about her problems, which, I suppose when you find someone likeable, you think mirror yours when you were young (or presently, if you're not as 'old and wizened' as I). So for every hiccup she's had with her life, I have two from the last century. She vacillates between being sullen and silent to being the worst case of verbal diarrhoea known to mankind. I become the sounding board for every little neurosis that she thinks she possesses when she gushes, and I grasp desperately for a quick witticism when she's quiet. Most days it seems I can neither comfort her nor make her laugh, and you know how useless I feel when that happens. But it was great when the other day, she muttered a very brief "thanks for the company". That's as far as she'll get. She's got a real problem doling out apologies or thanks. But heck, I'll take it anyway. I know she cares enough.
She sings with manic gusto to the radio in the car, and switches stations obsessively, hunting for that favourite three minute song with which to belt out at the top of her tonsils. Stress relief, she says. I should try it, she says. We fight over how loud or how soft the music is, while I am driving Miss Daisy all over the island, mostly through leafy, misty avenues. We've clocked up a few hundred hours and a couple of thousand kilometres in the last month in my car at night. I now know every nook and cranny on the island, but still don't know most of the lyrics to most of the songs to which she sings in the most charmingly tone deaf yowls, except when Billy Joel or U2 or Frankie Valli come on. At least I now know who Samantha Mumba or Standfast are. I can look for songs on Napster or Audiogalaxy other than John Hiatt, Nick Lowe, Ry Cooder or the Buena Vista Social Club, all of whom she doesn't know from Adam, and doesn't care the faintest to know. So yes, she's a decade younger, and yes I feel my age.
I don't know why but I have a penchant for women who are already spoken for. Someone said to me that this is a neurosis of sorts, that I am conscious of it. I admit the notion that I knowingly pursue someone else's quarry bears some truth. Maybe I am cowardly enough to think this twisted way: that if there's rejection, its ultimately because of the situation, and not me. There 'tis. Guilty on this count and others.
When its my turn to be down in the mouth, she's kind enough to offer a palliative cliché or twenty, the likes of "just don't think about it, don't dwell on it, go to sleep and it will go away eventually", which, while ineffectual in themselves, are somehow comforting in the sincerity of their delivery. Or some shit like that. I told her she had a soothing effect on me, knowing full well that was what I wanted to feel. Well at least we communicate on some level, and might I add, I was impressed when she lent me Milan Kundera's Identite a month ago. (It's a short read, but I haven't finished it yet because there's something claustrophobic about Kundera's writing. Sure its beautiful prose, but I get cabin fever and "image burn-in", much like if you stare at a television screen or computer monitor for too long and when you turn off the lights there's a lingering green purple glow on the wall. One of the images that stick is that of his describing how an eyelid brushes over the eye like a windscreen wiper with a randomness and suddenness that startles and repulses at the same time. I have had that image in my head for weeks).
What else is it that keeps me enthralled by her company? Am I that bored? Am I that shallow that I like her only for her looks? Did I already tell you about her eyes? How the black of her eyes take up most of her eyes, making them inexplicably intoxicating to look at? Did I already tell you how she gets a thought nod from me just because she walks unlike most girls her age who irritate me with their round shouldered stumble, and instead walks assuredly, albeit with a slight shuffle of her flip flops, her footwear of choice?
Perhaps there's something to be said about her lackadaisical manner of speech. She mumbles through her teeth, as if straining tea leaves of her thoughts as they're spoken. Somehow still, despite being laconic there's no lack of conviction in what she says, even when she's agonising over the many complicated situations she gets herself into. Attractive, no?
After smacking myself on the head with my cricket bat, I decide, nah, that's not it either.
I will mull over it later. I've just received an SMS and it reads, "Coffee?"
A double macchiato and an iced latte to have here please, thank you very much.