With a dry cloth, I gently wiped the bubble milk teas, smiled and politely passed them in thin, transparent plastic bags to the customer. Every time I looked up from my white, flat table to give the product, there would always be a different person with a different facial expression. This time, it was a little girl, whose skin was of similar shade as mine. Grinning, the child—probably a kindergartener—eagerly reached out for her orders of green milk tea, as her long black hair bounced. As she turned to leave, the child said,
“Thank you very much.”
Those four words pierced my heart, relieving my daylong exhaustion. Only rarely would I hear the words of gratitude in such jubilant and sweet manner in Singapore. As the gentle kindness lingered around my ears, my lethargic spirit revived. My eyes followed the girl as she skipped outside the store. Through the translucent glass door behind the line of busy customers, I could see the darkness gradually replacing the golden sunlight. Nevertheless, the number of people on the busy street would not even diminish; in fact, it gradually increased as the afternoon dragged on. The crowd consisted of punkish boys, gaudy girls, couples (to my unreasonable but instinctive annoyance), happy families, frail elders, worn-out migrant workers, dull middle-aged men and women in plain clothes. Whenever some of them ambled into the shop, the hot air from outside would abruptly invade the cool comfort of the cafe.
There was one instance, when I barely felt the change in temperature as someone walked in. The day was no different from any other working day. The busy customers would quickly place their orders; then, my manager, whom I assumed to be local university student, would speedily bark out orders at me. It was around 8:30 pm, when a girl entered the shop. The monstrous line was long gone by then, and I was flapping my sweaty shirt, when I noticed her presence. Something about her instantaneously captivated me, even though I had seen countless Asian girls; I uncomfortably continued to clean my station. Her look was charming, but it was nothing extraordinary: she had long velvet black hair and average build. As she glided over to my area, I tried to shift my attention away from her, slowly wiping her sweating glass of black milk tea. When she reached my station, I handed it to her in the plastic bag. Smiling, the girl looked at me and thanked me. Her voice pitch was so high that she sounded like a timid bat. There was no trace of any makeup, which I always spotted on my gaudy customers; her beauty was abnormally natural. As she left, I could not do anything but to remain still at my sanitized station, naively wishing that we would encounter once again the future.
“Thank you very much.”