Toga grinned a little when he gave a goodbye wave to one of his colleagues, Myoga—the one with the hunched back—as he eyed that new char kway teow stall with snaking queues, and yelled to him loudly. “See ya in the office, got to work on that performance appraisal for the year….” Toga rolled his eyes, swinging the plastic cup filled with iced coffee at the distance.
“See ya!” Myoga shouted at him, watching Hosenki sighing that he did not have enough money to pay the ‘uncle’ for their meal. “Do not worry Toga, jia you! Boss will not mind…” For some odd reason, Toga regretted wearing his cotton shirt as it clung to his chest, and of course, it did not help that the other office workers were crowding around the passageway, chatting about the affairs of work, like what to buy for that colleague’s baby or the boss’ overload. Nevertheless, it felt paralysing to watch the world go by, even more with the weight of actually sharing what he did for that year.
Toga sucked in his breath, thinking of Kirinmaru, having to discuss the sales to his bosses, which he sometimes alluded to Jyubei. No wonder he always seems to be frazzled during their kopi meetings…he would be, too…..
For now, Toga was supposed to focus on himself. Well, I got this shit … He managed to walk through the sweltering heat until he saw a young lady, wearing a fuschia pink pleated sleeveless blouse, a simple pencil skirt, and heels, sitting down on the bench, her eyes puffy with tears, trying to steady her breaths as she looked over the phone “Hey…”
That young lady blinked again, trying to control her sniffles before she could say a word. “Sorry…I…”
“Hey…do not worry; it is cool.” Toga nudged the sobbing lady gently, who was trying to avoid his concerned gaze. Well she is very pretty with her wide brown eyes, if not for her slightly smudged eyeliner. “Can I get you a drink? All that crying can make you thirsty…”
Izayoi looked at her watch. Well, oh shit….It seems that me crying over something stupid went faster than usual.
“Bao bao cha? Or Kopi….or maybe juice?”
Izayoi pondered a little. “...Maybe….juice….”
“Which type…” Toga asked. “There are so many leh.”
Oh shit, I cannot think of one.
Toga tried to map out in his head where the nearest juice stall was. The young lady pursed her lips slightly, confused by Toga’s commotion. “.....Scratch that….Bao bao cha sounds good to me…”
“Any in mind…” Toga shrugged his shoulders; the sweating of his shirt made him even more uncomfortable, as he sheepishly reached for his Kopi bing for some sweet relief. “I can think of this one; I heard their coconut shakes are decent…and maybe we can find something you like…” The young lady tried to hold back the tears in her eyes, looking at Toga searching his phone for a good stall.
“Mhmmm, sounds good to me…”
Set, Toga thought. He hoped that the queue would not be so long.
“If you need to know the name of your bubble tea spender, I am Toga…”
Izayoi mumbled quietly. “Izayoi….I am sorry I look like a mess….” She placed her hand onto her face. “Paiseh….should I pay you by paynow?”
The young woman, who tried to ease her sobbing, named Izayoi, well. Toga thought sheepishly. I hope she is better now
Toga shook his head. “No need…think of it as your treat…”
“Are you for real…” Toga watched Izayoi sheepishly sip the cheese mousse from the drink, before stirring it sheepishly. “He broke up with you…”
What a dick move to break up with your girlfriend, on the phone, as well during her lunch break.
Izayoi nodded a little, trying to swallow the foam before sipping it again. “Yeah…and worst of all, I promised Ah ma that she could meet my boyfriend—Takemaru—during lunch on Saturday…for dim sum……but….how…” Toga curled his lip slightly, as he held the coconut shake tightly. That dude sounded like a douche.
Toga grinned a little. “I can accompany you to lunch with Ah ma….just give me the details and I can carve out a space for that in my schedule…”
Izayoi grinned a little. For a man she barely knew, Toga seemed rather nice. “Though I have to warn you that nowadays, she is very forgetful. Sometimes she will even ask if I am working today,” Izayoi told him.
Toga noticed her feet shuffling back and forth, and her demeanour seemed much calmer. “Then…” He forced himself not to laugh at Izayoi’s situation; he heard this too many times about older people being oblivious, and even during his CSR, he got amusing inquires from the senior citizens about his markings and what so ever. After all, what could go wrong on this date?
“And…oh, do dress decently. My parents are here and the last thing they want to see is for you to look like Ah Beng…” Izayoi piped quietly. “They are particular about it. Takemaru knows how to dress well, I do not know about you…”
Toga smiled a little.”I will try.”
He watched Izayoi heave happily at last, though her weeping face turned into a shock, as she looked at the watch again. “Hey, can I get your number?” he asked. “So you can text me about the date…”
Quickly, Toga passed his phone, into which Izayoi quickly entered her number, and then ran off, giving a small goodbye wave. “Hey, chat you later…”
“Yeah…” Toga smiled a little. “See ya…”
Toga looked at the buildings, thinking about poor Izayoi and that dim sum date. Maybe for once, I did something nice. Much better than that performance review, Toga thought pensively as he continuously sipped his coffee; he now had another in hand, this time a coconut shake. Now to focus on me…this should be fun.
Toga stared at the concrete floor, looking at his phone; he had just texted Hosenki about the meetup. Of course he took Izayoi’s advice, not dressing for a long night of partying, but instead to impress Izayoi’s grandma, and her conservative parents, with a simple white tee, cuffed up chinos and white sneakers, waiting for her outside the restaurant.
Wish me well…Hosenki
Is it about that girl who happens to be your date…the one you said was upset until bubble tea 🧋
No lah, just accompanying her so her grandma would not ask LOL 😂
Fine…all the best Toga…
Before he could reply with another message, Toga glanced at Izayoi again; she looked so much younger with her choice of clothes: a ribbed collar tee and dark washed jeans. She was gripping an older lady, who was wearing a navy blue mandarin collar blouse and looking curiously at the taller man.
“Oh…Is this Takemaru…your boyfriend ah”
Toga forced himself not to roll his eyes, thinking to himself, She cannot recall people well.
“Ah ma….” Izayoi coaxed gently, trying to force herself to play along with her inquisitive grandma. “I…Yes…that is Takemaru…”
Toga grinned a little. “Hi auntie….” he said, quickly catching Izayoi’s grandma by the arm. Within her cloudy eyes, Toga hoped that he seemed like a good boy. “One step at the time…” However, he was looking over at her parents, an older man with a pot belly wearing a maroon polo t-shirt, and an older woman wearing a leaves print tank top and denim skirt, and he grinned at the lady.
“Wait…I thought it was Takemaru…” Izayoi’s mother said.
“No mum, this is my friend Toga…Takemaru….is…never mind.” Izayoi chipped a little. “Toga is here, as Takemaru texted me earlier to accompany Ah ma….Oh, I forget Mum…my bad…”
Toga gave a sheepish smile waving at the couple, and he tried to hold in his good graces. “Hi Uncle and Auntie, I am Toga….”
It seemed to go okay so far, Toga thought calmly, as he pushed the glass door, letting ‘Ah Ma’ walk in first, followed by Izayoi and the parents, though he felt Izayoi’s mum staring at him disapprovingly, with his silver hair and markings around his face.
“Ah ma…” Izayoi chipped a little. “You can sit here…” Toga quickly helped Izayoi to push her grandmother to the lacquerware chair, letting her grandmother gripped his arm.
“Takemaru…what a good boy…how are you….”
Toga held his breath a little. “I am fine, Auntie…work has been busy… I did my performance appraisal.”
Izayoi noticed his calmness in answering that question. He seemed to have patience, unlike Izayoi, who did have a quick temper on her.
“Anything you want to eat…” Toga asked Izayoi’s grandmother.
She gave a smile, then in her best broken English, said to Toga, “Just anything….Takemaru…”
Toga watched Izayoi chew her lip out of nervousness. This is going to be fun , Toga thought calmly, as he took out a white slip of paper and pencil. “Auntie…” He added, turning to Izyoi’s mother, who nodded calmly. “I am not sure what you like…but you can get anything…I am flexible…”
Well , he thought, Izayoi must have gotten her fashion sense from her mum, as she dressed elegantly, even for a casual dim sum lunch.
“Toga….Sorry lah….well, mum tends to be forgetful these days….I mean Izayoi’s ah ma….” she replied, writing down the number of dishes she wanted to order. Toga noticed that she had written the usual: Siu mai, Har Gau, Char Siu Bao….that should be a winner. Izayoi’s mum whispered to his ear “You just have to repeat your name again….Toga”
Izayoi’s mother looked at the older woman. “It is sad that she is left alone with the maid, just watching TV. I think it is good to get her out once in a while…”
Toga nodded sheepishly. “Understood…auntie.”
Izayoi’s father looked at Toga grumpily, taking the preserved green chilli from the mini tweezers, and putting it on the plastic plate. “At least…you are better than your friend Takemaru…Toga…what do you work for…”
“...Well…I am in the finance area…tough job having to catch up with the regional companies, but it is ok, Uncle…”
“Good,” the father simpered quietly, as he quickly passed the waiter the slip of paper. “Hey, any drinks…”
“Cold Barley…” Toga smiled a little. “That would do…” Izayoi nodded the same, as she was constantly snacking on the stewed peanuts in her mouth. Toga nudged the grandmother gently. “Auntie, what do you want to drink…”
The grandmother replied little. “Anything…”
Izayoi’s mother sighed. “Mummy…never mind, let’s get mum chrysanthemum tea…” while she lathered the plate of preserved chilies with the soya sauce.
Toga could not help but to look at Izayoi pitifully. She has yet to tell the truth that she and Takemaru have broken up recently. She must have put a lot of pressure on herself. Toga shrugged his shoulders a little. At least her parents are nice, though her dad slightly disapproved of his hair colour.
Thankfully, the food and drink came just in time, as the waiter clanged the 4 beer glasses with plastic straws filled with cool barley, and set down steamers filled with teeming dumplings and buns that made their mouths water, was well as a porcelain bowl with markings of auspicious Chinese words filled with century egg congee for Ah Ma.
“Jiak…” the father simpered quietly, as he took his share of the tantalising char siew bao. “Otherwise, the food will go cold…”
Toga observed the grandmother happily eating her congee, noticing the huge gaps in her gums, as Izayoi’s mother told him that she recently went through an extraction, so she could eat much, until she dropped the spoon on the bowl.
“Ah girl…you and Takemaru, when are you going to get married?” Izayoi’s grandmother asked.
Izayoi raised her eyebrows a little, as she nearly plopped the har gau on the plate, almost messing up her t-shirt. “Ah ma…not now…” Izayoi stuttered a little. “I just got to know…Toga…I mean Takemaru…at the office…” Shit, I have said the wrong name, Izayoi thought bitterly; that name still stung her heart.
The mother raised an eyebrow; it seemed that Izayoi was more sullen by that accidental name-calling. “Izayoi…something…wrong….”
“It is nothing…Mum…”
Izayoi quickly gobbled her har gao, the filling nearly burning her tongue. “Nothing…” Toga noticed Izayoi’s distress in her, as he smoothly talked over her mum. “Maybe it is best not to say it…auntie…don't worry…we are just friends…”
Toga gave a smile to Izayoi, taking that chee chong fun, and putting that wrapper into his mouth. Grandma asked Toga again sheepishly. “...Takemaru, you are a good boy….how are you…”
“I am fine, Ah ma….” Toga grinned joyfully at her. “Busy at work, but so glad to meet you…” He watched as Izayoi gave a soft smile and she helped herself to the salted egg yolk bun, allowing the golden liquid to dribble in her plate. “I think Izayoi is a great person…there is a light about her…like Ah ma…” Calmly, Toga clasped the grandmother’s hand gently. “Anyone would be lucky to be her boyfriend…''
Izayoi swore that she nearly wanted to cry from that sight. How did Toga turn such an awkward moment into something…well, wholesome? She gave a soft smile. “Yes…I would be damn lucky to have someone like…”
The grandmother gave a cheesy smile to both of them, and Toga watched the parents’ mouths go aghast on Toga’s patience. “Should we pay for lunch now…” the father spoke calmly. “Ah ma looks tired…”
Toga and Izayoi subconsciously said the same thing. “Well, yes….” Although Izayoi sounded rushed in order to get away from the situation, and as for Toga, perhaps it was just time to go. “Izayoi, help me carry Ah ma to the sheltered area around the restaurant while your dad drives the car…” Izayoi’s mother piqued quietly as she passed a fresh dollar bill to the waiter, while checking again the number of orders.
Izayoi’s mother quickly took the cash and walked out of the restaurant, leaving Toga and Izayoi alone with Izayoi’s grandmother who seemed to be pleased about that lunch.
“Ah ma…are you happy over today’s lunch…” Izayoi breathed in and took the time to lift her grandmother out of her chair. “Ah ma…just hold onto me…” Meanwhile, Toga took her grandmother’s bag and slung it to her arm.
Toga grinned a little. “No problem at all; I feel as if I am accepted by your family…do not take that so seriously…In fact, I think Ah ma is one of the happiest aunties I have ever seen. I have met worse during my CSR…”
Izayoi could not help but to laugh, as her grandmother took a small step out of the restaurant, happy as a lark for good company. Toga observed Izayoi purse her lips a little, as she looked over her Ah ma wistfully. Maybe her parents would never know the truth about the breakup, but at least, Toga did something to make her sometimes absent-minded grandmother happy.
Izayoi quipped quickly, “Really?” Toga observed her hands trembling a little on that question. “I find it difficult to tell mum and dad, and now Ah ma, that I broke up with Takemaru….I thought he would be a perfect fit for me…but I am just lonely….”
Toga looked up at the bright blue sky, watching the laundry flutter by the poles. “You will someday, Izayoi, I mean….you will, someday find your space and time to tell them…” There was this calmness about Toga that drew Izayoi in, as if he could read her anxiety so easily. “For now, just centre yourself to that nice moment. You had some damn good dim sum…”
The grandmother grinned at Toga again. “How are you…Takemaru…are you working today…”
Toga smiled sweetly at the grandmother. “Ah ma…I am off today…and were you happy with today’s lunch?”
Before they could start a sweet conversation, the car just came in front of Izayoi, the grandmother, and Toga.
“Ah ma…” Izayoi spoke patiently. “Take your time…” which, thankfully, Toga helped to open the car door to let her come in, and sit on it.
“Oh, I must go now; thank you uncle and auntie, and…” Toga simpered calmly, only giving a wink to the grandmother. “Ah ma… for lunch today…”
Toga gave a goodbye wave to the small family, only to look at Izayoi wistfully in the car, as she had to watch her grandmother. He hoped that she would come out stronger from her breakup. Meanwhile he quicked texted Izayoi.
Cheer up Izayoi….if you want some makan time away from the parents and your cute ah ma text me 😉
He looked at the dots moving back and forth.
…Hey….thanks….BRB need to decompress….
Toga grinned a little and slipped his phone in his jeans pocket.
Yeah you do you…
Many days later
Hey Izayoi….poke date sounds good 😘
Toga smiled a little as he looked over at the names of the train stations, waiting for the stop to align. Well I will see you soon, anything in mind….
Before long a text came in, and he could recognise that name instantly and the picture. It was his pet cat Samara. Oh, shit; that is my bro Kirinmaru. And the message seemed unpleasant.
Bro…..there is no poke near my office.
Toga saw that reaction sticker that accompanied it. It was a black and white cat with wide eyes, giving a polite expression.
And oh I am not Izayoi 😐
Toga’s eyes widened with confusion on that text.
Oh shit…bro….sorry 😓
Ignore my text….
My bad bro.
Quickly Toga texted that same message to Izayoi, but again with a small smile.
Hey Izayoi…sorry, sent wrong message to Kirinmaru….🤦
What is it?
Blur, not good with mornings
🤦 We agreed on that poke date… promise.
Oh I promise…
And indeed a promise must be kept. Now that is something to look forward to.
A/N: So hello there! Thank you for reading this short and sweet drabble for Inuparents day! I really hope you enjoyed the humour as I do 😄 Originally I wanted to do a Chungking Express inspired drabble for Inuparents day, however my brain has been fried from Christmas retail sales and me being a distracted chipmunk, doing my other bigger projects like ‘The God with Many Names” (which I am working on doing the childhood of Zero and Kirinmaru which is mega fun) and editing up “You go Whenever you go” over the New Year weekend. I change my idea to something manageable which I can relate too, which I am working on“With Bookshops and Friends” , which is my new little project, and reeling the success of “It is beginning to look like, f*** that”.
This story is more grounded which are based on the woes of a young Singaporean (and those who grew up in Asian households) adults which you have parental pressures of success like having a partner and getting married (Thankfully my parents and grandparents are very chill as they do not ask me these questions), and having dim sum lunch is a way to bring the tension LOL. So Izayoi on the bench crying and walking out for fresh air is an anecdote my mum shared with me when we are walking around Tanjong Pagar for my annual medical checkup, hence the birth of this story. And the grandma is actually based on my own maternal grandmother, which she is so easygoing, and that question is too real hahaha, though I translated the language gap, as it is a challenge for me and my por por….
It is slightly autobiographical with elements of comedy which I really enjoyed as a whole, which I hope you guys enjoyed it too 😃
As always comments and feedback are so welcome!