*WARNING: Do not read if you are vegetarian, or have a particularly sensitive stomach :)
Y was smiling, telling me about how she planned to cook the chicken, what she had put into the marinade and it hit me that we were almost what we used to be – good friends.
We had met in Primary 1 – I think we were seated next to each other on the first day of class (I forget exactly…)
Then that day, almost two decades later, we stood in the same common kitchen; Y pushing the chicken aside and reaching for the basin with prawns in them, and I at the sink, gutting the awful fish that would be dinner.
“Yeah, I miss our markets, where the Aunty will de-scale, gut and cut up the fish into beautiful pieces,” I said over my shoulder at her, wincing inwardly at the slippery feel of the fish stomach lining that I was trying to remove.
“I know! And here, the marketing is a lot more expensive. It’s, what, more than double of the price we pay at home, plus the products aren’t exactly fresh, are they?” From the corner of my eye I saw her yanking off the head of an orange prawn which came off with a squishy sound, making us giggle.
I rinsed off the pieces of fish and took the twenty steps it takes me to get into my unit door where I unceremoniously stuffed the now clean and cut fish into my tiny refrigerator.
“Where’s N?” Y asked me when I walked back into the kitchen.
“Sleeping, we finished at 4 this morning.” My roommate and I had been at another friend’s room, celebrating a birthday Malaysian style with a midnight rojak party after a major exam.
I half filled my pot with water and plopped the whole chicken in, waiting for it to defrost.
“Move over, Y.” I made my way to the other end of the kitchen and grabbed my cute little knife and started deveining the pile of headless prawns on her chopping board.
“You’re gonna die…!” Y said in a gruesome voice and snapped the head off the beady-eyed crustacean in her hand.
I concealed a smile. It felt good to have her friendship again. The last four years of awkwardness was fading away from my memory, that time when we had only said hi and exchanged formal pleasantries with each other.
Today, we aren’t exactly soul confidants to each other, but we can still depend on each other.
We have different groups of friends, but that is ay-oh-kay. We have become such different people, but we have somehow rediscovered how to click. That bond that had sprung between us during our school days apparently never really broke, it just got a bit frayed, and I have the kitchen and the time we spend in it to thank for realising that piece of truth.
Note: I discovered sometime ago that my Pakistani friends do not eat sea produce as they are not considered ‘halal’, which means that they’ve never tasted prawn/crab/shellfish before. They can eat fish though. I find that fascinating for some odd reason… Maybe it’s like a no pork, no beef thing in Muslims and Hindus and some Buddhists?