It looked like the shade of sepia in your film photography. Brownish, with a hue of rust, the room filled with the late afternoon light and that of the lamp post made a perfect setting of doing nothing.
The light peeked through shadow of the venetian blind, casting on your skin; from your right pelvis down to the side of your thigh. There were three stripes.
“It looks so beautiful. It’s like a painting. You look like a painting.” in a tone of admiring a piece of work by Rodin, I uttered.
“No, you look like a painting, an impressionist painting.”
“Can you draw me?”
“I’m not a good painter.”
“I can’t even doodle.”
And we lay still. The background was playing songs Spotify picked with reference to our history. You were in my arms, head rested on my chest. I like caressing you like a bambino. From your brows, tip of your nose, ears, lips, chin and down to your chest, I stroked down so lightly with my finger tip. I could do it all day.
The clock struck seven. Neither of us wanted to move. Everything in the room was so still; your body, our breaths, the air and time, the world out of this space seemed so far away; pedestrians hailing, sirens wailing, and the rest of the world we hoped to leave behind.
Ten past seven, you heard my stomach rumbling. You got in your grey pullover. While me, slowly, lazily getting in my dress, you had already put the rice in the rice cooker, and oil being heated up in a dutch oven. You were swiftly cutting up a cabbage so thinly that I was impressed by your chefy knife skills. You told me beforehand not to comment while you cook. Okay, I wouldn’t say a word. You started dipping the diced chicken fillets into egg wash and then coating them with a mix of flour. You know, honey, you shouldn’t have used the egg wash when making karaage chicken. Tapping off the excess flour, you dipped the chicken into the oil. Judging from the sound of the bubbling oil, I could tell that the liquid was not hot enough for deep frying. And the chicken, straight out from the fridge, was way too cold that the temperature of the oil dropped drastically once you put the meat in. Oh, honey. Despite how much I wanted to take over the kitchen, I just leaned by the wall and watched your preparing my supper, and watched the steam from the rice cooking wetting the wall and leaving a mark there, I turned the cooker exhaust away from the wall. You said thank you and I left the kitchen, quietly.
The night had enveloped the room. Trying to stay awake, for I would have all the time to sleep later, I stretched on your armchair and scrolled on Instagram even it had nothing I wanted to see. My phone rang. It was you calling, calling from the kitchen to be precise.
“Where are you?”
“In the room.”
I met you again in the kitchen. “What’s up?”
“I just want you by my side.”
I buried my sleepy face in your back, and my arms around your waist. You held my left hand with the hand not occupied.
Dinner was served. “Can you serve my rice please?” Of course. I fluffed the steamy rice and, though you said half a bowl would be enough, handed you a big bowl of it. You turned on the floor lamp. Not bothered to lay out a dinner spread, we hustled everything on table – a plateful of karaage chicken, cabbage, mayo, our rice and a cup of tea. A piece of chicken rolled in mayo to the chef, a piece to my bowl with less dipping. It’s a tad undercooked, underseasoned, and a tad soggy to be honest. I savoured every bite still. I loved that you cooked for me when ordering takeout was just a few taps away. Time was running out. We finished the meal in haste.
“Come, let’s hug for a little while”
You liked having me around, didn’t you?
I’m always mesmerised by little things that I would stop and watch – peeking through that hole on the fence at the pier, following that peculiar bird flying by when we were walking down footbridge, you would come over and grabbed me. When I didn’t let you hold my hand, you would just wrap your arm around me, making sure I was by your side. Whenever I was away, you would ask, repeatedly, when will I be back, and if I would actually be back. You feared I would disappear or vanish from you sight, so I felt.
Now, in your arms, rubbing my cheek against yours, you held me tight.
“Can we stay like this forever?”
“Silly.” That was the only answer I could say.
I felt your lashes moistened and I kissed on your eyelids.
“You are going to miss that plane.”
Chicken thigh fillets (skin-on) 2pieces
Shoyu Koji* 2 heaps of tablespoon
Ginger, grated 1 teaspoon
All-purpose flour ¼ cup
Tapioca starch ¼ cup
Soy sauce 1 tablespoon
Sea salt ½ teaspoon
Sugar 1 teaspoon
Mirin 1 tablespoon
Sake 1 teaspoon
- Dice the chicken thigh fillets into bite size. Mix them with shoyu koji and ginger. Store in the fridge, marinate overnight. 1 hour before frying, take the chicken out from the fridge.
- Pour oil into a dutch oven (or any pot good at retaining heat). The oil should be 2-inch deep. Heat it up over medium-high heat. Add the chicken to the flour and mix. Make sure they are well coated.
- Add the all-purpose flour and tapioca starch into a big bowl, mix well.
- Test the oil temperature with a pair of bamboo/wooden chopsticks; if it bubbles up steadily, the oil is hot enough for frying; if too vigorously, it is too hot.
- Tap off excess flour, dip the chicken into the oil. 4 to 5 pieces at a time.
- Observe the bubbling and adjust the oil temperature accordingly.
- Deep fry for about 80 to 90 seconds, depending on the size. Take the chicken out once it turns golden and crispy. Rest it on a wire rack. Serve with mayo and lemon wedges.