[From Part 1]
From the quiet park, I walk into a slumbering HDB estate. I am in a carpark, larger than most. Instead of the usual family-sized cars and SUVs, I’m towered by buses and trucks. Hundreds of residents were still asleep on this Sunday morning. There is/ was no clattering of pans and plates. No blares of Sunday morning cartoon channels.
My stomach signaled for food. I am at a coffee shop under a HDB block. I’m in an unfamilar part of my neighbourhood but in a familar setting. Only a handful of customers having breakfast of prata and coffee, or tea. My breakfast was noodles and Teh-c.
Like most hawkers and proprietors nowadays, they were cordial and prompt. But this coffee shop seemed to be a bit friendlier than most. Not exactly bright chirpy faces but there were no dour expressions despite the early hour. The stern looking, short skinny mustachioed man took my order and served me my tea. I asked, in Hokkien, if it was 90 cents. He said yes accepted my payment with a thank you, in Singaporean-accented Mandarin.
In between mouthfuls, i glanced at the customers. At the far corner, the proprietess of the drink stall was having a quiet joke with some customers. An elderly woman sat directly ahead of me, five tables away. She had a pao and coffee, reading her morning news.
The short and skinny mustachioed drink stall assistant was clearing the tables of empty cups, serving the desired beverages, taking more orders. He shouting the orders out loud as he walked back to the stall. The desired beverages appeared like magic on the drink stall counter.
A table of four were on my left, probably a family — with a two aged men a woman, and a teenage boy. They were soon joined by a young mother carrying her infant. The mother cooed her baby with a tibit, who gurgled but ignored the treat.
The prata man was busy with his flipping and frying. The man who sold me my breakfast was now sitting down to eat his own. He bought his from the prata man. I wondered what the prata man would eat.
My plate and cup was empty. My watch told me it was a quarter past 7. It’d been under an hour from my short jaunt at the park to my finishing breakfast. The sky had brightened without my notice. The ground was wet but the rain has since stopped. The neighbourhood has awoken. There are more customers buying their breakfast. Some still in pajamas. Some in their Sunday finery.
On a whim, I decided to write all this down. Maybe it was the still quiet morning and warm food in my belly. As I come to the end of this note, an hour and half has passed — longer than my walk. The coffee shop is filled with customers but not quite full. I’m undisturbed and largely ignored. The coffee shop lady comes over. She clears my table. She doesn’t look at me or speak. But she has a friendly smile. I’m not surprised why there’s a neighbourly charm to this place.
I stand up and walked home, contented.