The first time I met Viki was at her son’s birthday party. In between offering my daughter a bottle of apple juice and a paper plate of chicken nuggets and chips, she was organising the next game for the kids to play. We were at this lakeside park. I watched her ease in delivering instructions and calling the children over to gather around so they could play pass the parcel. I remember how I admired her for that in relation to my own shyness when it comes to directing neither kids nor adults.
We didn’t get to talk much on that day although we managed to take a picture together with our families. She seemed really nice and I liked her instantly.
I don’t know how we got closer as friends, to be honest. I guess it would have to be on that lunch date we had at Sugar Buns Bakery Cafe in Hampton Park. She was going through something. I sat with her for almost two hours just listening and simply being there. The calamari I ordered was delicious.
We then met up every once in a while. Those catch-ups were few and far between. But each time we did, it was never awkward. It was as if we just carried on with a previous conversation that was interrupted by the busyness of everyday life. One time, after parting, we met up again not even thirty minutes later at Kmart and we laughed at how small the world — and Dandenong Plaza — was. She randomly saw her other friend there too.
“As-salamu Alaykum,” she greeted them. I stood on her side smiling to her friend in that sheepish way you do when you’re the friend of the friend who don’t know the other friend; secretly amazed that she was as well-versed in Muslim greetings as Filipinos are in Korean ones from watching too much Kdramas. Turned out she actually is Muslim. Not that it matters. I thought she was just Indonesian or something.
She invited me last month for her son’s birthday party when the lovely state of Victoria allowed parties again after all the lockdowns we had had. He turned 6 years old. We were two hours late because Jeff had a customer to attend to at the car yard. Viki’s mum was so nice as to microwave food for me and Jeff, a serving good for a family of four piled high on a plate we told her we would share. The jackfruit in coconut curry sauce tasted like summer lunch in the Philippines. It was beautiful!
It was a simple party. The kind I like where the guests get to gather around in the lounge room and talk about their kids and what they do for work or whatever. And then you sneak out the door to go sit on the swing in the backyard while your husband is playing some music with the portable DJ sound system he built at the height of COVID while smoke bubbles are released every minute or so. And before you know it all the ladies are dancing barefoot and had come to move the party to the backyard.
And then there’s your kid with your phone in her hand, pretending to be a journalist and recording a video of your response. She’s just like her dad. She loves making videos.
And as always, I’m that awkward person in front of the camera playing along.
*Raven at 4 years old