November 18, 2018
At 11 a.m., awake but still lazing in bed, J and I decided via text that we should go out and do something today. It was Sunday and we loathed battling Sunday crowds, but the coming Wednesday was my birthday and that warranted a special date.
I said we should try the new bubble tea shop at Millenia Walk he’d told me about, even though I really wanted to have a picnic and not hang out in a mall. I’m no fan of bubble tea but the design of their cups was alluring. Also, I knew that outdoor excursions were risky: we would either be sweating bullets in the heat and humidity, or slapping at mosquitos, or taking cover from sudden thunderstorms.
“Sounds good,” J texted back.
He met me at the apartment where I lived with my mother, and someone emerged from the unit next door just as we were leaving. We didn’t exchange smiles or pleasantries.
“Is he the owner?” J asked when we’d descended to the ground floor. The void deck—a feature of Singapore’s public housing that served as communal space for morning tai chi, funerals, and games of hide-and-seek before the advent of the Internet—was empty.
“I don’t know. Property agent, maybe. People have been viewing the place after the last bunch of tenants left.”
We took an air-conditioned bus to the air-conditioned Suntec City mall, walked through one of the many air-conditioned underpasses that connected the buildings in the area, and arrived at the air-conditioned Millenia Walk. The bubble tea shop turned out to be a fancy café with a menu that boasted, among other concoctions, a “brown sugar boba milk with cheese brûlée.” J ordered that and we watched in fascination as the staff torched the surface of the drink before serving it to us.
We lounged in the bubble tea shop for a bit. As usual, we scrolled through our respective Facebook feeds and took turns doling out news bites and puns.
It took a good while before we finished our bubble tea, which we agreed was better than a Starbucks frappe for the same price. We walked through the mall and out into the heat, debating where to go next. It looked like a storm was brewing. The ArtScience museum’s ongoing exhibitions didn’t interest me. I couldn’t justify paying the Sunday rate for a movie either, given that both J and I were self-employed and could watch movies on weekdays if we wanted. I checked Facebook again and I saw there was a new café, opened by a friend of a friend, at nearby Raffles City mall.
We navigated yet another air-conditioned underpass that was lined with stores. It was as if the malls were all merging into one massive indoor retail park. I spotted the café just before we passed it. We deliberated about the menu, even though it only had variants of coffee and toast on it, for about five minutes. Our order took ten. Sipping our coffee, nibbling our toast, and scrolling through our Facebook feeds again took twenty.
“This space is quite nicely done up. Small, but classy,” J said.
“I think they used up too much space here. They could afford to put in one more table.”
We got bored soon, which meant it was time to leave. I wanted to steal a rose from the vaseful on our table but I didn’t. I wished J would give me flowers but he’s too practical. I knew that much after six years of dating him.
We drifted around the malls as if we had something to buy, but didn’t know what. Our go-to is the electronics store: we went through the refrigerator maze, play-argued about whether we would get a dryer, reaffirmed our mutual disdain for oversized flat-screen TVs. It’s nice to daydream while we scrimp and save to make the down payment for our own apartment.
I didn’t want to spend too much on food again, so we circled the basement twice and settled on a Japanese donburi (rice bowl) takeaway kiosk that had a tiny seating area, with only three tables for two. We paid less than $10 each, which is cheap for a mall downtown. This time J and I deliberately set our phones aside. He talked about new color rendition method that he was encouraging lighting designers to adopt. I told him how I’d learned about the multiple ways “kanji” is read in Japanese.
It was past 9 p.m. by the time we finished. J tried to tempt me into trying this cheese-flavored softs erve at the kiosk next door, but I was too full and felt we’d already indulged plenty. Re-emerging from the air-conditioned world we found it had rained, and stopped. We took a bus that would get to his home as well as mine, and I gave him a quick peck on the cheek when I got off first.
I spotted the neighborhood stray cat in his usual corner at the block next to mine, but there was someone else fussing over him so I went straight home. I reminded myself that one day, when I can get my own home, I’ll have cats.