“Sorry for taking you for a ride. I didn’t know you will put that much effort in it,” tears start to form from her eyes again.
He offers her a piece of tissue paper. “That’s okay. It was fun. And you did treat me a big meal.”
They sat down across each other on big sturdy straight-backed chairs in the restaurant. Hidden behind pillars and plants, the discreet lightings exuded warmth, bathing the whole environment in a soft yellowish glow. A slow velvety song crooned by an unknown Korean singer gave the place a soothing, comfortable feel.
She put the pint sized kimmie-doll he had just given to her for scoring a distinction in the middle of the table.
“Do you mind if I do the ordering?” she asked across the table.
He gave a shake of his head. He entertained himself by examining the long thin silver spoon and chopsticks on the table as she babbled away with the waitress in Korean.
Before long, the waitress dressed in traditional Korean hanbok placed an earthen bowl of steam rice with vegetables of various kinds such as bean sprouts, spinach and shitake mushroom arrange neatly in piles on top on the table. There was a beautiful egg with yolk intact right in the centre too.
“This is Bimbibap”, she said, as she poured a hot pepper soybean paste on top of the egg. He looked on as she proceeded to mix them all together before spooning a couple of mouthfuls onto his bowl.
He took a tentative bite while she looked on.
She beamed at him.
A sizzling plate of wafer thin beef marinated with soy sauce and sesame oil served generous helpings of onions and ginger followed, as well as a plate of fried chicken bathed in a sweet chilli sauce. The tantalizing aroma of both made his mouth water.
An array of six side dishes, flamboyant in colour and taste, accompanied the food.
“This should be Kimchi,” he said, pointing to a plate that contained cabbage fermented with red pepper.
“Yes. It is the most famous Korean food. Here, eat as much as you want,” she said while pushing the dishes nearer to him. “I will order more later if this is not enough.”
They discovered a lot more about each other during the meal, with both sharing information about their parents and siblings as well as anecdotal childhood experiences.
“Let’s go for a walk.” She said after both of them were too bloated to eat anymore.
They passed through a narrow alley where boldly coloured cafes spilled into the stone-paved pathway. The midday crowd added vibrant texture to the place. Coffee aficionados sipped their midday cuppa with their eyes closed, letting the beautiful aroma of the black bean momentarily take their stress away. Male executives with ties loosen at the next sit on crates serving as ersatz stools, attacking their paninis and barguettes with zest. Their smartly dressed female counterparts tucked in bowls of hearty soup and nibbled at fresh green lettuces. A lively beat of jazz and soul drowned out the unsynchronized chatter, greatly contrasting the mellow mood of the restaurant.
They travelled through the brightly lit and heavily scented Myers departmental store, where she seemed intent to introduce him to every perfume on the floor.
“Had you smelt a pink rose before?” she asked.
She picked up a bottle shaped like a curvaceous lady and sprayed a bit of the perfume on a stick of paper.
“This is what it smelt like,” she said, pushing the paper to his nose.
He took a whiff.
“Hmm, this fragrance is quite familiar.”
She hit him playfully on the shoulder.
“Babo! Idiot! This is how I smell like every day. It’s my signature perfume. Didn’t you realize?”
They were on the second floor walkway linking the two wings of the sprawling shopping complex when she spotted the aggregated crowd below through the floor length glass windows.
“Look, there’s a street demonstration below! Let’s go!”
“Wait! It might be dangerous!”
“I don’t care!” she retorted, happily rushing down the stairs and into the streets, freely mixing with the people holding placards and shouting rhetoric. He followed her behind, keeping a wary eye on the demonstrators, expecting them to start rioting and destroying the cars parked on the streets anytime. His other eye was focused on the cops, anticipating them to let loose their stinging tear gases soon.
He can’t comprehend why she was so excited about a street demonstration until he heard a delighted squeal from her. He followed the direction her finger was pointing. Two television crews were attentively filming the whole event. She snaked her way through and started to jump and wave in front of the camera.
“Come on, do this together with me,” she said when he finally managed to make his way through the crowd. She pulled his hand up and forced him to wave. It felt soft and delicate and warm.