LOVE FOR BEGINNERS

Letters by Kenny Mah

• • •

Eating out

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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
May 26, 2008


Hey you,


We eat out all the time.

With my friends and just the two of us, also, naturally. That part is easy. My friends enjoy you; how could they not when you make fun of me like the best of them? And me? Well, I enjoy you too. Yes, that part is easy.

Then comes my turn to meet your friends. They’re all down south. JB and the Lion City. We travel down during weekends. Time for them to meet the Boyfriend: me. And I have to admit; I’m more than a little petrified. What if they don’t like me?

Mahjong is played, bowling also. My first time. I’m on your team; you’re the best player, I’m the worst. I am a beginner, after all. Over a hundred points in the first game, your friends think I’m bluffing about never playing. Two strikes, not bad. Then came the longkangs in the second game and the third. I barely scrape some points together. We lose; you friends nod, he’s not joking, he has never played before. We giggle at their obvious delight.

All is good. After the games, after the endless rounds of mahjong where I play devoted manservant pouring the tea and offering tidbits, we go for coffee, for small meals in small cafés, Malaysian-style.

Kopitiams down south aren’t that different from the rest of the country. Everything has been franchised these days, even these remnants of our heritage. The prices may be higher, the portions smaller, but we recognize this. As we laugh and banter, and me humouring them with my Beijing-accented Mandarin, we know. Your friends, they like me okay.

I can breathe now. Your fingers curled around mine, under the wooden table, I can breathe now.


Yours always and always,
Me.




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