It’s been a long while since I’ve had a decent bowl of fishball noodles — and for only just $2.50, this was quite a delight. There was a time, some years ago, when I’d have a bowl of fishball noodles for lunch or dinner almost thrice a week from the same stall at Excelsior Shopping Centre. That probably went on for a good couple years. Heck, I didn’t even have to place an order. The elderly lady running the stall would spot me in line and have my usual fix prepared and waiting for me on a tray once my turn came; she’d even sneak an extra wonton or two inside if she was certain her other customers weren’t looking.
It was funny though, despite remembering my preferences down to the exact proportions of vinegar, ketchup, and chili I’d have in the mix, she never failed to ask the same questions about my life no matter how many times I answered them.
“Do you have a girlfriend?”
“Planning to get married anytime soon?” Even if my answer to the first question was no.
“What time do you get off work?”
For some reason, I never got tired of answering those questions, neither did I ever get bored of her fishball noodles. I find routine and familiarity comforting — kinda like that old, beaten pullover you slip on for warmth on a wet and dreary day.
Anyhow, life happened, and a new job took me away from the area, as well as my beloved fishball noodles. It wasn’t until earlier this year that I made the effort to visit her stall again. And just like before, I stood in line waiting for my turn to be served. Only this time, my usual fix wasn’t prepared and ready as it was before. “Sorry, it’s been so long. I’m getting older and my memory’s getting bad. What was it you used to have?” she said, with that same old cheery smile that never once eluded our conversations. Then, before I could place my order, her smile broke into an even wider grin as she asked — “Do you have a girlfriend?”