"Is office attire ok?"
Ayah's email message was as short & straight to the point as his verbal conversation.
I had to match - coz I was in a hurry :), so I replied,
"Dress code: lounge suit, so office attire's ok. Grab your blazer".
That was last Thursday, when he relented to accompany me to the british musical commedy playing in town. He said he's not much into this kind of thing, opposite moi - who just love stage shows, both performing and watching others perform. Especially if the tickets are complimentary. hehehh...
Besides, we missed to catch one when we had abundance of such opportunities just last month. I left the 'city' drooling over the posters, adverts & pamphlets of all sorts. Sigh....
So indeed that evening, we finally went to watch the Blonde Bombshells of 1943, the musical play by Alan Plater.
It was scheduled to start at 7pm. But a 'higher calling' tasked me to text the host as a sign of courtesy, who graciously indulged my excuse to join the party slightly later. I was least worried about joining the pre-dinner cocktail late actually. I don't fancy lingering around people sipping reds or whites (with me sipping coke or orange juice) for the sake of small talks. It's not the reds or whites that bothers me really - I'm just not genuinely interested to put up fake smiles while engaging in skin deep small talks with people I barely know. I would lose terribly if I were to stand for any political election I know. hehehhh....
Anyway... I met Ayah at the lobby after Maghrib. With his blazer on and his unmistakable silver highlights , I thought he was quite a sight for sore eyes. I hope only my eyes lah kan? We marched up to the ballroom foyer and was saved by the bell (they were really ringing the bell as a signal for guests to make their entrance & be seated), which means we skipped the entire lingering around, much to my relief... hehehe.... (I am soooo not suitable for a PR job, I could read your mind!)
I requested to be directed to our designated table which happened to be right in front of the stage. Wahhh!! Above expectation. And thankfully, the other fellow guests around the table were a bunch of easy going & friendly lot too - which made us settled in pretty fast actually, exchanging topics ranging from serious but still skin deep corporate updates to what we did last summer.
And what we shared about what we did last summer prompted me to write this entry.
When I said 'summer' - it was not about last week's hot scorching sun on our local soil, rather really about the hot & sunny season, except that the 'last' was referring to the good old college days.
It turned out one of the guests also went to the same college in the godforsaken midwest redneck county GMT minus 5 away from here (had it not been for the college town itself, we Asians would've probably succumbed to the bullies and ended up as their shooting practice targets!) The mere mentioning of the "home away from home" was enough to stir an instant bond amongst us.
We were relating those crazy things we did during summer breaks. My definition of crazy things to do during summer was about taking additional credit hours for 300 & 400 level Psychology courses (so that I could secure a minor in Psychology) and at the same time working my butts out waiting tables to pay for the additional text books for the courses. Fun & crazy indeed, no? But hey... I had my fair share of some adventurous trips made using whatever left overs saved from the same job of waiting tables.
Ayah shared his experience of the minimum wage dish washing job he secured on campus.
Waitress at fine dining restaurant on campus VS dish washer at the college cafetaria. So NOT the same class, I tell you! hahaha.....
The host and another couple also started to join & chip in their college days working experiences too. From as manual as waiting tables, washing dishes and delivering newspaper, to the more decent ones like book keeping assistance and researching books & articles for PhD students.
One of them asked if we met on campus. I said yes, but Ayah said not quite. He said we sort of knew one another before. I rebutted that technically we never met before, so it has to be 'on campus'.
By this time dinner has arrived. Our companies happily carved their steaks away while continuing to enjoy the acts of the two of us trying to defend each others' stand. I thought it was more of my verbal sparring against Ayah's merely raising of his eyebrow and shaking his head in disagreement.
Then suddenly Ayah blurted, "I even had to survive just on washing dishes, waiting for her!"
I could instantly hear the "Ahhhh....", "Ohhhhh...." & "How sweeeeeeeet...." in response to that.
Oh wow myself! That was quite a statement my darling! One hell of a curve ball I must say. And one bomb in its own form.
In a nano of a second, all those memories came flashing back to me in fragments. Him washing dishes on minimum wage at the college cafetaria, and me waiting tables at the on-campus Marriot Hotel's Tudor Room fine dining restaurant (read: lots of tips!)
That was when it suddenly hit me hard like a ricochet of a bomb shell. After 20 years of knowing him, it suddenly dawned upon me that I may have inadvertently taken Ayah's perseverance of me a bit too lightly - I think.
You see, Ayah is a feeler and a natural introvert. Put those two personalities together, you get one silent lover.
So how do you suppose I could read his mind why he stayed on surviving on minimum wage washing dishes while I happily scurried away to Washington DC as the first (ever) international college intern, rubbing shoulders with other interns at the White House two decades ago?
A mild extrovert thinker - I could not bring myself to 'feeeeeeeel' it was JUST to wait for a girl. I had to rationalise and it was around him buying time - waiting for arising opportunity as IT Lab consultant, to start building his fresh grad experience. After all, he made quite some earnings doing part time IT work before - finishing Masters & PhD students' project at very reasonable fees. hehehhhh... enterprising indeed.
People said (then) either I was in denial or simply a heart breaker. Some were diplomatic enough, acknowledging the possibility of not ready to commit and that I have the rights to still browse through the options on the menu. I must have just laughed & brushed them all off. That was a not a problem of the world that was worth me putting on my serious thinking cap. That was 20 years ago.
Now? With 3 kids, we are more than attached to our hips, I think.
The images of him "waiting for me" started to swirl in my mind though. Him washing dishes on campus waiting for me to return from my internship. Then when we were back in Msia? Him dozing off in his Proton Saga in front of my office waiting for me to finish my never ending work so that he could send me home safely right to my aunt's front door (thus marking his territory and cordoned off others away from me). After we got engaged? Him waiting for me to conclude the definite period of engagement. After we got married? Him waiting for me to be ready to start a family. After we got our first child? Him patiently reminding me to consider wearing the hijab and be willing to don it on my own accord. After the hijab? Him patiently inspiring me to perform our hajj early while we were still able bodied.
Today? He still have to wait for me to come home from my never ending work almost every night, so that we can have our dinner at the kitchen or dining table together with our kids (okay lah... sometimes he ate first). He still have to wait for me to choose at least 2 or 3 pair of blouses and pants, and then decide on matching scarve before we leave the house to go anywhere (used to be for fashion & color coordination, now more of which ones I can fit into comfortably...aiyaaaa!!). He still have to wait for me at a bench or game shop somewhere while I go berserk over the items on sales. Pendek cerita, he's still waiting for me on a lot of things lah.
I thought I was the one who was the "waitress". Looks like he's the real "waiter" after all. Except that when lovingly voiced out, it sounds like this, "Abaaaaang.....WAIT ARRR! Sikit lagi nak siap... tunggu ......"
Yes. He had to wait for me then. He still have to wait for me now. And a bit more waiting still in the foreseable future. He's doing it ever so patiently too, I must say. Sesuai dengan nama dia.
So what do I know really?
An evening to watch the blondies, but it's the silver haired that dropped the bomb on me - after almost 20 years!
Still loving him though.
And oh! The musical? Quite a swing indeed.