I was going to meet up with a friend for lunch and to visit an exhibition. As soon as we met, she already looked pale, saying that she felt a little bit sick and probably would get better after sitting down at the restaurant. Ice cream was the culprit. Someone had insisted on giving her a huge bowl of ice cream. Her gentle refusal was in vain. She ended up eating the ice cream she didn’t want and shouldn’t have eaten, for not wanting to waste the food. Now, a few minutes’ walk was simply too much for her. I suggested seeing a doctor, but she refused. I offered to send her home then. She waved me off. I helped her to the restaurant we had a reservation with, got her settled and asked the staff where the closest pharmacy was. In a neighbourhood I wasn’t familiar with, I walked a few blocks away and got the medicine. I couldn’t help but feel a bit mad; why couldn’t she just say no once and for all, and why couldn’t she take better care of herself?
Back in the restaurant, she was still lying on the table, covered in cold sweat. I poured her a glass of warm water and gave her the medicine. A server came over and asked if there was anything they could help. I asked if they had hot ginger tea. It was right in lunch hour; the small restaurant was already full and there was a line outside. The server mumbled to his colleague behind the bar counter, the young lady shook her head while her hands were still busy making a cup of latte. Seconds later, she seemed to remember something and asked the young man to head to the kitchen to ask someone to get him something. “Hey”, the young lady called me over in a low voice and reached out from behind the bar counter to hand me a cup of hot ginger honey tea.
I gave the sweet tea a stir and felt the temperature on the cup. Cool enough. I gave it to my friend to drink. Despite the medicine, she didn’t seem to be getting any better, so, I suggested again to send her home. She nodded. “So sorry for ruining your weekend. So sorry.” She whispered. We have known each other for years, and all these years, it’s been frustrating to see her compromising for the sake of not disappointing others. But with someone so soft-hearted, it’s not possible for me to stay angry. She has things to reflect on and lessons to learn. We all do.
“Take my coat if you don’t mind.” Another young man who seemed to be the manager handed me a men’s coat. I thanked him and put it over my friend’s shoulders. He was busy with his work when I turned around to look for him. Feeling uneasy being a disturbance to the modest eatery, I called for a cab through the app as soon as I could before checking out the bill at the cashier. The cab arrived in just a few minutes. Dragging almost, I held my friends in my arms and helped her get onto the car. The driver asked if she’s unwell, and if he should drive slower or turn down the air-conditioning. Ah, how come the people I met today were all so kind. The cab started moving, she in my arms, and I finally let out a sigh of relief.
Arriving at her home safe and having her settled, I headed home. It was way past lunchtime, and I didn’t have the energy to cook anything, so I cut up a few ripe figs, scored the top of a small wheel of Brillat-Sarvarin cheese, threw in some chopped walnuts, drizzled some honey and snipped a few sprigs of fresh thyme from the balcony and put everything into an hot oven for 10 minutes.I threw in two slices of sourdough bread I couldn’t finish in breakfast into the oven in the last minute. A sweet aroma filled the kitchen when I took the tray out from the oven. I tore off a corner of the toast and dipped deep into the cheese and had a bite, and I had another bite with the fig wedges baked soft. It was soft and warm. I drizzled more honey, and the savoury taste of the cheese became more pronounced.
After the simple meal, I washed the dishes, spaced out. All of a sudden, I realised that I hadn’t actually been angry for a long, long time. Even when on the verge of getting angry, I was aware of the emotion and able to transcend it – the emotion then passed. Anger often needs a target to manifest on, be it someone else, yourself or even the development of an incidence. Whatever it is, it is beyond our control, and being angry won’t change whatever has already happened. We, ourselves, will be the only one suffering from the emotion. In life, things that may upset us happen all the time. For instance, the extra work a restaurant staff had to deal with because of a sick customer disrupting their workflow, the restaurant could have a better turnover if the customers had been someone else, the cab driver could have taken on more passengers if he had driven at a normal speed and gotten us to the destination sooner. But they were full of patience and compassion instead of showing any sign of annoyance. Feeling grateful of course, when I meet any kind soul, I also hope that my heart will be as warm and tender as theirs one day.
Brillat-Sarvarin cheese 1 wheel, about 250g (can be replaced with other kinds of soft cheese like brie or camembert)
Fresh fig 2-3 pieces
Walnut 5 pieces
Honey 2 tablespoons
Fresh thyme 2 sprigs
Bread of your choice 2 slices
Preheat the oven to 200°C
Place the cheese in a small baking dish, line it with parchment paper if you prefer, and score the top of the cheese.
Cut each fig into 6 wedges and place them on the cheese.
Roughly chop up the walnuts and sprinkle them on the figs.
Top off with honey and thyme. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the cheese softens.
Toast the bread and dip it into the cheese.
It’s raining outside, crisp and bleak. Three chubby sparrows took shelter on my balcony and I gave them the baguette bits left on my breakfast plate but they flew away. I stayed in, played Damien Rice on vinyl and made apple crumble. Repeat.