The canteen is a place of moderated chaos – students walking, moving, laughing, munching, chomping, grabbing, laughing, shouting.
The bell rings. The buzz dies down gradually, crowds, heading like sharks to blood to the end of the hall.
Students push, pull, squeeze, walk, shuffle. A bottleneck towards their destination. There is a presence, tension rising as it awaits in anticipation.
Plates are thrown, unfinished food is dumped, forks and spoons clang against yolk yellow plastic trays. There is a blur spot in the background.
Spaghetti sauce splatters, drops of curry ooze into bins, bones with bits of meat slide down from plate to tray, an oily surface acting like a slime ski. The entity is now actively reaching in, turning the messy into the orderly.
Cities begin to form – metal foundations of clanging cutlery, towers of plates, built on the soil of meat and rice, interspersed with rivers of tom yam. The architect, the builder, and demolisher are at work.
A rogue plate is thrown instead of placed. The character shouts an undignified ‘Oi!’. The perpetrator walks away, hands stained with the curry of his crime, continues laughing, chatting, talking, sparing one thought for the presence: Bitch.
The city has crumbled. And the pieces have to be picked up.
I walk toward the ruins. And I pick up the plates. I look up, and hand them to her. She smiles for the first time that day.
‘Terima kasih, adik.’
Walking away, I half whisper, ‘No, thank you mak cik.’
Author’s note: This is the second in an ongoing series about facets of the Malaysian Life. More to come!