“I would like you to take back what you just said about me,” she said after protracted for a while.
It is raining cats and dogs, and they are stuck in a café together. Hot coffee had simmered down to a warmth undeniably cold, yet her hands still clasp around the bowl as if it was warm. Here she is, sitting in front of a friend she had long known but had last seen a couple of years ago. They were never close to each other, but they were friends in the least of the meaning of the word. Acquaintances didn’t cut it, because they were more than that, but they weren’t also really friends. So, in order to simplify the relationship they had between them, they just stick to the term ‘friend’. As if the terminology matters, she once thought.
“Nope. I won’t take it back. It’s the truth, and I mean it,” he said after scoffing off her long-thought words of reaction to his earlier remark.
His plastic cup is half empty, but it doesn’t matter anyway. He had a cup of ice-blended mocha, which irks her a lot since it is already cold outside. The ice doesn’t melt as fast as it used to when he took out an order on a sunny day, but he cared the least about the weather for it is his favourite beverage from this line of franchise coffee joint. So he decided to order his usual, albeit the cold circumstances. He was on his way out when he bumped into her a few moments back. Then the rain started to fall like it hadn’t fall for ages, and here he is, sitting in front of her, conversing ever so friendly like never before.
“I don’t like how you word it, even if it’s the truth. Although if it is the truth, it’s like you are denying my mother’s beauty,” she scurried with a reply this time.
The café is not packed with people, nor is it devoid of it. There are a few people in the premise besides them. A couple by the window, a trio of presumably good friends with wide smiles and boastful laughter contained to their best in the middle, and a lone person at the corner by the bookshelf, reading a paperback. It is Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki. She’s sure about it even though she can’t read the little letters from afar. She’s read that book before, and she knows the pattern on the front cover of the book. That alone suffices. The air is filled with an aroma of roasted coffee beans made fresh from the coffee machine, its characteristic deep bitter-yet-fragrant smell filling his and her nostrils, while piped-in bossa nova music linger between the aroma and chatter and wooden finished floor and their conversation.
“I didn’t say a word about your mother, nor do I have the intention of belittling her beauty,” he said with his back laid firmly on the wooden seat. A smirk appears at the corner of his mouth unintentionally.
“Oh, sir, puh-lease! You’re not fooling anyone here. Do not take me for a cheap woman. I can see what you’re trying to do here. Besides, if those words are sincere, why the smirk on your face?” she replied, again, as quickly as possible. Her tone is starting to show a hint of annoyance.
“Smirk? What smirk?”
“That one, the one on your face a few seconds ago.”
“Wha- I wasn’t smirking. I’m sorry if I seem so to you. I mean no disrespect. It’s just that I find this funny,” he said, on the verge of breaking into a laughter.
“What do you find funny? Care to enlighten me?” she imperated.
“This is funny! All this, everything that you and me are saying right now is funny,” he answered half chuckling.
She looks him in confuse. What does he mean by all this? She then queried further.
“What do you mean by all this?” she ask honestly.
“Can’t you see? All of a sudden, we are talking like the best of buddies, as if we are. But truth is, we’re not. I think we spoke more than the sum of wordly exchanges we had in the past ten years. And why is that?” he answered earnestly, with a question at the end.
Again, she paused for a second. Never had it crossed her mind that the day would come where she’ll sit opposite to this friend of hers and have a conversation like this. Where did this started? Ah yes, it started when the rain started to fall like mad. And then what? He didn’t bring an umbrella, so did she. He asked if they could share a table and maybe chat for a while, more or less catching up on each other as if they were meant to. She allowed him to sit in front of her, albeit the numerous open tables in the café. He took a seat, but didn’t start to converse, as what she expected.
So she broke the first ice. Asked “how’s life”. Same old, said he, then asked in return. Said that she had it hard this past few weeks. The boss is too much of a nagger, and the place is filled with bitches. He laughed it off and said “stay strong. Things will be fine”. Then she started to talk about her mother. He didn’t ask for details, but she insisted to go on. She admired her mother. Her mother is a symbol of hope and strength in a world so cruel and cold. Her mother had the strength that she dreamed of having, the courage that inspires her, and the beauty that she could never attain. Her mother was that sort of a figure, and she told in detail of her awe for her own mother. Then they had a short and upbeat back and forth:
“So you’re envious of her?”
“No, I’m not! I do realize who I am.”
“So you think you’re in her shadow?”
“No, not even that. I’m just awed by her. Nothing more. Envy is useless.”
“It’s not. Besides, you’re beautiful too.”
And that was the start of their tensed replies. At least, she’s tensed up starting at that point. Realizing that, her face turns red and her eyes widen in disbelief. Did she just got mad at someone calling her beautiful? Yes, she did. She averts her eyes from him. Taking note of the facial expression change, he bursts into laughter.
“So, do you see why I said all of this is funny?”
“So tell me, how does complimenting your beauty equates to denying your mother’s beauty?”
“I.. think I’ve lost it somewhere in my head.”
“And that makes us look like what- a married couple bickering about the value of your beauty compared to your mother’s? Haha! Can you see what’s so funny now?”
“Yes.. But I still think you should not have said that. Again, do you think flattery can make me go down on my knees? Do you take me lightly as a woman?”
“Haha! Again with your logic. Okay, I guess there’s no use to extending this farce of ours. Yes, I was trying to flatter you. You happy?” he said with a smile still on his face.
Hearing him saying those words, she suddenly felt dumb and funny at the same time. Oh, the fallacy of it all, she said in her head. She shakes her head while smiling as wide and bright as the sun. Why him? Why now? Those questions don’t really matter anymore. She finally felt good after weeks of feeling dismay from work. Truly, God has planned the best for her, and certainly for him as well.
“But I can see now why you really adore your mother. You think you’re not like your mother? Think again. I think you’re as strong as her too, given that you can laugh this off while keeping your guard up high,” he said after his laughter subsided.
“No, I still don’t think that I am. And don’t think flattery can make me lower my guard. It won’t work,” she replied with an earnest smile.
“No, no, you really are strong. After all, you are your mother’s daughter,” he insisted.
Hearing those words, she shook her head. Me, strong? That is so not me. But maybe he does have a point. Maybe she is strong and beautiful, only for sure a few degrees lower than her mother. Or so she thought.
“Okay, okay, you have your case. You won. You have your presumable facts right, Mr Lawyer,” she said jokingly.
“Mr Lawyer? Oh no, that’s not me. That’s my dad. I’m too much of a madman to be a lawyer,” he replied in serious.
“Oh you. Please, I was joking,” she said again, followed by a giggle.
He laughed along before back to being serious.
“No, seriously. My old man’s a lawyer.”
Then they laugh again for no particular reason. At this moment, the rain decided to stop as abruptly as it started. The clouds subsided as if it was all just for show, and the sun came out again. They decided to part ways after another few shots of laughter. And that was it. The convergence that may or may not change their lives forever started with the coming of the rain and ended with the subsidence of it.
6th December 2015