We used to feed each other mango pudding off a red lacquer spoon.
His words, an electric jolt.
I was sitting in a cha chaan teng café in Hong Kong. My husband, always gone before I woke up in the morning, was rarely home for dinner. Tired of eating alone, tired of being alone, I started frequenting this café in Wanchai.
Sliding into a faded Formica booth, the strong air-con and harsh fluorescent lights felt like an American diner from the 1950s. Like in the movies.
And I loved pretending I could read the Cantonese menu.
That’s how I met Larry.
“You know, they have English menus, right? You just have to ask.”
I glared at him.
“Why not try the macaroni soup?” he said.
“I am not really a fan of macaroni soup.”
“Well, what are you a fan of?”
I was about to tell him, I love the black truffle eggs on toast, when he said, “I bet you like the eggs. The eggs at this place are famous.”
And that’s how it started.
We ate our eggs and promised to meet again in a few days.
I didn’t know anything about him, he didn’t know anything about me. There wasn’t time to learn much, since moments move like light in a cha chaan teng café
We often ate off the set menu. For him, doll noodles and Ovaltine, or maybe scrambled eggs and piggy buns. And for me, Hong Kong-style French toast with cheese and peanut butter, or maybe curry spaghetti and coffee-with-tea.
That day, we were sitting across the booth from each other waiting for our breakfast: plain congee for him and scrambled eggs on charcoal toast for me.
“You know it’s just burnt toast, right?” he said when the food arrived. We were laughing by then.
“It was not all that long ago, that I fell in love,” he said, out of the blue.
I didn’t say a word.
“It happened not far from this café,” he was looking longingly toward the window facing the street.
He must have been twice my age. No, not that old. But he was old enough to be my father. And yet, his dark eyes lit up like a kid as he told me how he’d wait every day till they could steal away. They’d make love in the afternoons after swimming. Or read novels in bed together whenever it rained.
“God, I loved it when it rained,” he said.
“That’s when we’d feed each other mango pudding off a red lacquer spoon.”
You know how it is. You live your life. Go to work, raise your kids. You think you are living, but you’re not. You’re hibernating. And then one day you meet someone. It’s like an electric shot. You open your eyes—and if you are lucky, you fall in love with life again.
I sighed. I could taste the mango pudding on my tongue.
Leanne Ogasawara has worked as a translator from the Japanese for over twenty years. Her translation work has included academic translation, literary, and subtitles for documentary films. Her creative writing has appeared in the Kyoto Journal, River Teeth/Beautiful Things, Hedgehog Review, Entropy, the Dublin Review of Books, and forthcoming in Pleiades Magazine and Gulf Coast Journal. She also has a monthly column at the science and arts blog 3 Quarks Daily.