Is That A Banana, Or Are You Happy To See Me?
Banana and Yoghurt
"Do you want a banana?" my date asked.
I heard the question right, but for some reason, my hormonally-charged brain processed it entirely differently. I thought I was being offered his manhood as a healthy snack. You see, I don't do fruits for desserts. I eat cakes. Flans. Eclairs. Not fruits. Well, maybe a fruitcake. But not a banana, served with zero scoops of ice cream.
"Do you mean like a real banana?" I enquired further.
"Yeah. With yoghurt," he clarified.
I tipped my head a little bit. The date was going well. We ordered pizza, chicken wings and watched television. I was not expecting a banana dipped in yoghurt as a finisher.
I wanted sex.
It was Stephen Fry, I believe who said: "A true thing, poorly expressed, is a lie." I begin my essay with such a caveat as a reminder of how important the words I am about to write, for these statements are about the love of my life.
The story of my relationship began six years ago, at the sloping roads of Cairnhill. More accurately it started with the dating app that inspired all other dating apps - Grindr.
Back then, I was a busy creative chugging away at a small agency and had absolute control and discretion over how I spent my time. Creatives are thought to be delicate flowers, and with a little air, alcohol, and emotional manipulation can be made to do anything a company wanted.
Also, I could pop out of the office for a walk or a quick sexual escapade if I wanted to.
Taking advantage of this flexibility, and with the help of Grindr, I planned p a quick tryst with a beautiful torso that was just six hundred meters away. I figured I could walk up to his apartment, spend thirty minutes doing the deed, leave and still hit the gym.
Efficiency was my modus operandi back then.
The walk to his apartment from the office could be described more accurately as an uncertain journey that requires one to climb up a winding, uphill, and narrow road that seems endless. Halfway through that six hundred meters, I convinced myself that all of this was worth it. In between hallucinations, I managed to clock my cardio mileage, satiate my carnal desires, and possibly find the true love of my life.
Eventually, I arrived and discovered that his apartment was a walk-up. And of course, it was on the fourth floor.
"Did you walk here?" he asked, already shirtless, wearing just his work slacks.
"Yeah," I replied sticking to my self-made rule of minimising conversations with hook-ups.
"Did you want something to drink?" he politely offered.
"Sure." I reacted, quite impatiently. I just wanted to get this done, I thought. Let's not drag this on. I risked my life hiking up here.
He went into his kitchen and took slightly longer than one would spend pouring a glass of water. "Here you go." He offered me a glass of water with lemon slices in them. "It's healthy," he added with a huge smirk on his face.
A hookup that would bother with lemon infused water is something more right?
I mean why bother with the citrus indulgence at all? And it's not that much healthier than ordinary water.
Maybe he likes me.
Turns out, he did.
My boyfriend was an expensive date. He expected date nights to start in a restaurant that serves meals in proper, articulated courses with someone waiting on us as opposed to an aunty screaming our drink order to the uncle at the back of a stall at the top of her lungs.
While I do enjoy fancy meals, I knew that for this relationship to be sustainable - both economically and emotionally - I needed to start introducing the idea that hawker centres were also proper and suitable places for a romantic date night. Besides, my boyfriend is not from Singapore. Eating at hawkers could be quite an adventure for him.
So, I decided to bring him to Makansutra.
Before any local hawker connoisseurs berate me for what constitutes a proper hawker centre, please allow me to clarify: I chose Makansutra for its convenient location, food choices and its reputation as a starter hawker for the uninitiated. Fret not. I did not choose Makansutra for its food quality. #shade
The hawker experience is more about the ordering than it is about the eating. It is about the strategising of getting your seats first before dispatching comrades to place their orders at the variety of stalls. Hawker dates, however, are slightly trickier. Who orders? Who will be in charge of finding and guarding the seats? I would imagine that in a heterosexual dating situation; it would be the unfortunate men doing all the hard work.
Things geta little bit more complicated in a gay situation.
I also wanted my boyfriend to experience the full breadth of the hawker adventure. I wanted him to immerse in the whole song and dance of guarding the seats, ordering the food and eating in the heat. It was perhaps over-ambitious, but I did not want anything less than a full-on hawker experience. The future of my fiscal health and relationship hangs on the success of this date.
The strategy was that I would order all the complicated stuff; the seafood fried rice (less spicy), the sugarcane juice with no lemon (please), and the carrot cake (white, extra egg). He would order one thing; the barbequed chicken wings. No one could mess up an order of chicken wings. At least, I didn't think anyone ever could.
Then, a whole mountain of slightly charred, and beautifully aromatic chicken wings arrived at our table.
"How many wings did you order?" I panicked (but slightly excited) for the amount of food at our tiny table for two.
"Twenty," he replied.
"Yeah, I'm not sure how many wings we should order for the two of us."
"So you ordered twenty?" I shot back.
"How many wings will you eat?" he asked accusingly.
"That's not the point," I deflected.
We did finish most of the food that night.
Portion control remained a constant struggle in our relationship.
We all deserve more. We do. Whatever you have right now; your career, your phone, your clothes, your relationships, they all could be better. But sometimes, it is not about trying to find better. It is figuring out what is enough. It is settling. It is compromising.
Love is the most significant series of compromises you will ever make. And you will never know if or when they will all add up. But one thing's for sure, if you stick at it long enough, you will have stories to recount.