Eat, Drink, and Be Merry…

by Chua Han Au

“Here’s your Linguine Vongole, Sir. Enjoy your meal,” the waiter in a taupe-coloured blazer uttered most charmingly.

I smiled convivially, in response to his well-deserved service etiquette.

The linguine looked absolutely perfect the dash of pepper was added most adequately, the sauce looked aperitive, the dish was not too greasy. Just well done.

Beyond the boundaries of the restaurant, there was a child.

The child stared at the dish in a most intrigued manner. It was a sight I had never seen nor envisioned.

In his tiny hands, he clasped a doll made entirely out of calico, his impoverished frame was sending a signal beam to me telling me that he has a hankering for that heavenly dish of pasta.

I gesticulated him to come over into the restaurant. And mouthed the words, “Come in. Don’t worry.” (not entirely sure if he speaks English but still giving it a try)

“Can I help you little kid?” the waiter asked in a most nonchalant manner.

The kid tried to articulate but it proved futile. His eyes besought assistance and pointed to my table innocently.

I walked over immediately, held the kid’s hand. Scrawny. Osseous.

In an attempt to direct the kid over to my table, he somehow was reluctant. He opposed and attempted to release my grasp. I did so. To be honest, I was perplexed. Don’t kids like to be held by their hands? Don’t they want a sense of security from a grown-up? Maybe that what I thought.

So, I directed him over to my table but this time, I led the way while he followed.

“Well, sit down.” I enunciated.

Footprints. Mud. Soil and a few leaves. He had left a track.

I bothered a waiter and apologised most sincerely before requesting him to clean the area.

There was a stench that filled the air, a blinding mixture of fortitude and sweat that enveloped him like a cloud. His clothes were moth-eaten. In his face you could see his background, both full and overwhelming. He looked completely anemic, it made me feel pity and sorrow all at once, how a child could amount to this.

I pushed the plate of pasta under his nose and gesticulated him to start eating.

He looked straight into my eyes, “Why did you help me?” the kid questioned most inquisitively.

I was initially shocked that the kid could talk. “Why? I don’t know. You seemed like you needed food and I couldn’t possibly let you starve there out in the streets, could I?” I replied.

“They… no one cared. Some even kicked me, mocked me and I was even pushed into the grass patch when it was raining that night. It was… so cold. So painful…” the kid narrated his life story in a most sympathetic manner.

He left me speechless. You know those situations whereby you see your friends sobbing and all you can do is just say, “Don’t worry. It’ll be okay,” Yet deep down, you know it’ll never be. Your mind transitions itself into nihility. Nothing. You just don’t know how to comfort them. And you turn speechless. That kind of speechless.

I couldn’t say that I could understand the kid but I can admit that I was able to empathise with him.

Then there was a moment of silence. A silence so loud that it muffled the voices of other who kept on blabbering on and on. A moment of silence that evoked my inner feelings.

He was just a child! A child perhaps not older than 7 years old and yet, the adversity that he had face had surpassed mine. What has this innocent child done to deserve such misfortune?

He clasped his doll once again and stroked its head most affectionately, as if to seek for courage. That doll certainly held an utmost importance to him. Otherwise, why would such a soiled doll be any child’s favourite possession?

“Be strong kid,” I responded.

He looked at me yet again. Eyes of a hazel-brown colour. Innocence. Purity. Naïve. His eyes reminded me of Isabelle Allen who acted in the famous movie-hit “Les Misérables”. His undernourished and dehydrated skin with haunting hazel-brown eyes. Both were children who had gone though adversities that a child must never experience. And I thought that the stories of Cosette should have ceased and not perpetuate. I was wrong.

Tears began to surge in his eyes. An emotional cleanser, they say.

“Thank you Sir, for your kindness,” the kid expressed his gratitude.

I smiled and uttered, “Go ahead my friend”.

Forks, spoons and knives were probably not of his favourite. He just preferred eating like a little beast.

They say — to be able to eat is a blessing. They were right. In that moment, this aphorism is most apt.

To be able to witness a kid eating with joy is gratifying. To be able to offer help to the less fortunate is benevolent. Saint.

“Eat slowly kid lest you choke on your food!” I chuckled.

“Waiter! An additional plate of Linguine Vongole please!” I said.