The trip to The Curve for the occasion was rather uneventful: it rained, the roads were slick, and the street-lights reflecting off the wet roads obscured the lines. Adding to the mix were drivers who behaved like the typical Malaysian road demon.
It was my first time at The Curve; even though I had plenty of opportunities to go there, I never found the time or the need. I was unimpressed by the architecture, although the open-air "street" was nice. As I was wondering where she was (there was no sign of her at the rendezvous point), I spotted a Little Penang Kafé across the "street". Then I saw two of the Kafé's waiters gesturing at my direction. I ignored them (because usually, nobody gives me a damn) until someone shouted from behind me, and I realised what was going on.
My poor friend - dining at the Kafé - had seen me and came running after me, huffing and puffing. That was what the waiters were trying to tell me - and I did not have a clue.
Coincidentally, it was at MidValley's Little Penang Kafé that I had dinner with her and her mother, the first time we met after... a few years?
If you're curious: yes, she's a tad chunky, but that's just her. It's an improvement to what she used to look like. Frankly I was more concerned about her health than her silhouette, then and now. She's currently selling RO water (yep, selling water. You gotta have skill for that, you know). She majored in Mass Comm and taught English for a while. She's also an ex-neighbour who looked much hotter in her teens.
Let's call her Sarah.
After her dinner we left for a drink since "it was still early". She led me to a HaLo Café at first. We'd barely taken our seats when her phone rang. Five minutes later she decided that she had to finish her call in private - and because an ah beng in a cap was on stage, strumming a guitar and trying very hard to rupture some eardrums.
I've never been to HaLo Café (and a lot of other places) before. There's even one at OUG's Citrus Park. I don't know if they're all the same everywhere else, but G*d help me if they are. It seemed like HaLo catered to the Cina crowd. Nobody seemed to mind the awful singing on stage; from the prices I suspect some members of the top management were ah longs (RM2 for "skyjuice" is plain extortion); the menus, though well-designed, were riddled with corrections, amendments and language gaffes ("Gas Drink" cracked me up).
Sarah eventually returned, probably because her phone battery was dying. Sensing my discomfort, she suggested we go someplace else. She took me on a "tour" around the half of the mall that was not already closed because it was late (around ten, I think).
"There's a Coffee Bean, and IKEA's just opposite, and over there is a McDonald's..."
"Mm-hmm... yes..." (Mentally, I'm thinking: y'know, I could always come back and look for myself, thank you) Don't get me wrong. I am grateful for her invitation, but I just have this obscure need to have the occasional nasty thought.
We finally settled for a drink at a TGI Friday's (the original rendezvous point). It was last order time, and given Friday's reputation for good food, the urge to snack was hard to resist. "Do you have 'last customer' discounts?" She asked the waiter at one point. Her brazenness alarms me. She even had the audacity to ask a waiter at a mamak stall about the prices for a dish (we know they follow "market prices"). We ended up having just drinks.
We had the longest conversation ever since we both left Penang. Friday's was quieter (no live band, but the one in the Slippery Senoritas opposite was trying hard), and despite the absence of alcohol, the words flowed freely. We both certainly aged a lot. Got sadder too, but a bit wiser (though I do have frequent lapses in judgement fuelled by fury).
There was a funny moment when she was describing a blind date incident (hers).
"My friend introduced this guy to me," she began. "He likes music, and musicals - things I also liked. But when I saw the guy, it was like, oh my God! He was so fat, and his moustache was all over his face, he was like... like..."
"Lu - Lucianno Pavarotti?!" I stage-gasped as she groped for a description. "You - dated - Lucianno Pavarotti?!"
I couldn’t recall exactly what else we talked about. It was a simple meeting, hardly even a date. No fancy food. No alcohol. Most of the shops had closed. Yet I felt great. It’s been an hour and two dozen MP3s, and I’m just wrapping up this post.
Maybe that's the state of mind everybody should be in when schmoozing with buddies. Because it is special. We only go round once.
So do our friends, by the way.