(continued from part three, which you may want to read first)
Repeated variety is the spice of life. I’m a big fan of exploring different things, ideas, places, concepts, foods, hairstyles, beard styles and everything in between. I think it keeps your mind and body active and avoids being stuck in a sort of rut to the extent at which it becomes detrimental. However, I personally don’t like to flit around from one thing to another without taking the time to try and take it seriously. Telling an effective story requires understanding perspectives very well, and so I am diving deeply into the pool of empathy and seeing how long I can stay down there.
As part of that process, I have decided to explore writing as a way to tell stories. Below is the fourth and final in a set of four short stories that cover a morning in Singapore from different perspectives.
BBBBRRRRRPPPTTTTPPTTT. SSSSSSSSSSSSSSTTTSSSSSS. KKKKRRRRCHUNK. BUPBUPBUPBUPBUPBUP. WRRRRRRSSSSHHHSSSSSSSST.
Tommy laughed to himself as his eyes opened. This is how he would describe the sound of the bus to Krit, he decided. The buses in Bangkok were similar in many ways, but the noises they made certainly quite different. They were older and noisier, and definitely without as many warning beeps for stopping, opening doors and starting.
Rolling on his left side, he reached for his phone and activated the screen to check the time. Twelve minutes after six. He was awake a few minutes before his alarm, always a more pleasant way to start his morning. He quickly slid out of bed and headed towards the shower. It was the beginning of the week, but he knew this week would go by quickly. He would see Krit and Kannika on Friday and was as excited as he always was when he knew he was going to spend time with his family. Perhaps even more so, because there was a real possibility of moving back to Bangkok in the next year if everything continued to go well.
He’d been working in Singapore for nearly three years now, and the distance from his family was a constant frustration. It was all for a good reason, though. Kannika and he had discussed it at great length prior to having Krit, because they had been trying to move to Singapore for a few years and knew it would be more difficult to immigrate with a child.
A child. His child. His beautiful son. He was so happy he was a healthy and happy boy, and thinking of this caused him to recall the fever his wife had mentioned to him last night. He hoped Krit was feeling better this morning. He texted his wife to find out how he was doing.
Less than a minute later his phone buzzed, WhatsApp notifying him of an incoming voice call from Kannika. He put his feet on the cool wooden floor and answered the call. “Hello, my lover. How are you? What about Krit?”
He heard the sound of vehicle traffic in the background, which was strange since his wife was living with her parents in a quiet neighborhood near the Chao Phraya River. Before he could ask why, his wife’s concerned voice answered. “I’m in a taxi on the way to the hospital. Krit’s fever became worse last night and I’m worried.”
“How is he acting?” Queried Tommy, numerous fears raising their irritating voices in his head. This was the worst part about being away from his family, not being able to do anything when there was something wrong. Especially with Krit, he often felt he was leaving his wife alone to do all the hard work and missing out of irreplaceable time with his only child.
“Tired but he seems to be in a good mood. He’s happy.” These words from his wife helped to quiet some of his concerns, though the fatigue in his wife’s voice also made him worried. She was not one to sugar-coat bad news, though, so he trusted her judgement on Krit’s condition.
“I’ll let you know as soon as the doctors see him. We are just now arriving at the hospital.” Hearing the taxi driver ask for his fare, Tommy asked to say goodbye to Krit as well and hung up the call to continue with the beginning of his day. Not the best way to start, but he wasn’t too worried about Tommy. His wife was always doing everything she could to make sure Krit was doing well, and if he was happy it was a good sign the fever wasn’t that serious.
He wondered how the rest of his day would go. He quite enjoyed being a manager at the Tortula Green café. His team was a good one and they worked together quite well; he got along with all of them and spent a lot of time ensuring the team was happy and meshed well. One of the best parts of his job was the customers, though. He met all sorts of very interesting people, and was able to get to know some of them.
He made friends from all over the world. He wondered which of the regulars would show up today, and if anyone new and interesting would decide to stop in for the first time. About half of the people who showed up were usually happy to have a short conversation, and a smaller percentage of those were the ones where he could become friends and get to know personal details about them, their jobs and their lives.
As he showered, he wondered if Kannika or Krit would ever be able to meet some of the friends he had made through his work. So far they had not flown to Singapore, for a variety of reasons. It was cheaper to fly one person instead of two, their home was much larger in Bangkok, and Krit was still small and they wanted to wait a little bit longer until he flew for the first time. Tommy smiled. He was growing so fast! Every time he saw him, he was larger and had a bigger vocabulary.
Carefully studying his hair in the mirror, he tousled it to the correct shape as he pondered the costs of visiting Singapore. If he did end up moving back to Bangkok, perhaps he should plan for Kannika and Krit to visit him at least once in Singapore. He would like to show them around this amazing city and share his favorite places with them. He was sure his roommate wouldn’t mind them visiting for a few days, as he was a single guy and didn’t spend much time at the apartment anyway. He was a young Malaysian and usually took the bus to Kuala Lumpur every time he had more than one day off to spend time with his own family.
Satisfied with how he looked, he grabbed a banana and his backpack on the way out the door. He would buy a bowl of khao tom closer to work, as there was a very authentic hawker center in the basement of the office complex opposite to where he worked. It was nice to have a taste of home on a regular basis. He wondered if Kannika would like it if she visited, since their favorite dishes were very similar.
Humming to himself as he watched traffic through the shaded window of his bus, he smiled as he read the WhatsApp message from his wife. “Leaving hspital, dr says fever almost gone.” That was a fast visit! It was definitely a good sign for the rest of the week. He responded quickly with a few happy emoticons and wished his wife a good rest of her day. He knew she would be relieved as well, and would probably be motivated and relaxed enough to paint later in the day. That was an advantage of living with her parents; babysitters were always available and nearby.
After picking up his breakfast, he arrived at the café and said hello to the two members of his team were opening with him that morning. John and Mori were both in their early 20’s and though neither of them thought of this job as their career, both were enthusiastic and took the job seriously. Tommy knew this was a rarity in Singapore, where many of the service jobs were looked at as dead ends and people did not give anywhere close to 100% to their work. He liked to think a part of this was the way he treated his team and helped them to improve their skills.
Determining things were progressing smoothly for a 7:30am opening, he took a seat outside and opened his takeaway container of khao tom. The steam wafted up and he sniffed it appreciatively. Singapore really was a great place to work, where he could find dishes that were very close to the quality of those he would find at home. Especially when he could find them so close to where he worked.
Slurping the last bit of rice from his bowl, he got up and headed into the café. Monday was usually a very busy day, but it was generally after 8:30am or a bit later and not immediately after they opened. Most of the people who worked in the office buildings nearby and frequented his café were not people who had to be in the office at 7:30am like him. Nine was even a rarity, most of them showed up around 9:30 or even 10 on a Monday. He wondered who he would see today. This was one of his favorite parts of the job, and he smiled cheerfully as he chatted with Mori about the new shipment of coffee beans which arrived this morning.
Maria was the first regular to arrive, and he greeted her happily. She was a friendly woman in her late 30’s from Spain and had been coming to his café for almost two years. They frequently chatted about food, as her favorite food was Thai and he had given her many suggestions on where to find quality meals nearby. She was a fan of the same khao tom food stall that he frequented as well. He also occasionally asked her questions about HR best practices, since she was a HR consultant for Oracle and had a lot of experience in the field. He also appreciated that she usually was not in a rush to leave the café, and would often stay and chat for five or ten minutes at a time. She would also frequently come in with her coworkers, and John had a serious crush on Rachel, a younger Spanish girl who came in once or twice a week with Maria. Unfortunately for John, this morning Maria was alone. Tommy smiled as he asked Maria how her weekend went. He really enjoyed the people at this job.
Only a few minutes after John finished explaining for the seventh time why Rachel was his soulmate, Henry walked in. Henry was a good guy, and one Tommy thought he had the most in common with. Henry had lived in Singapore for about a year with his wife and new baby, a little girl named Nisha. He was a developer for Google and was just as excited about his daughter as Tommy was about Krit. As Mori was making Henry’s cappuccino, they commiserated over the difficulty of having a sick child and not being able to be there to take care of them. Henry’s daughter had a flu over the weekend and was still not feeling well when Henry left in the morning.
Not too long after Henry left, the rush started in earnest. As he was taking his turn on the Mastrena High Performance Espresso Machine to help keep up with the orders, he noticed Arthur walking in the café.
“Good morning, Mr. Arthur!” he exclaimed over the noise of the crowd. Arthur was an interesting guy, an American who had been working in Singapore for about two years and always had a latte in the morning. He enjoyed talking with Arthur about traveling and his plans after Singapore. Arthur was a director at Initech and Tommy often wondered exactly what he did. Though he was often gone on business trips during the weekdays, when he was here he often spent an hour or so sitting outside the café and apparently in no rush to get back to his office. They were friends but Arthur always seemed a bit remote, though always polite and friendly with the rest of his team and customers alike.
After handing Arthur his latte, he waved goodbye and immediately saw his favorite customer enter the café. Mei Lin was there with one of her business partners and someone whom he guessed was either a potential client or customer. Mei Lin was young Chinese woman and the cofounder of a medical research company who seemed to be on the verge of rapidly expanding. He couldn’t help but overhear her discussing things with the various people she brought into the café, and he knew that her company was on the verge of agreeing to a huge deal with Amgen. It always gave him a feeling of satisfaction to know that people came to his establishment to do business and he was part of their successful meetings and discussions.
He also liked Mei Lin because he thought she was a very kind person. They had discussed a few times about the different ailments common to children, and she had given him good advice a few times about the symptoms which Krit had been suffering in the past. He knew she wasn’t a practicing doctor, but he gave her opinion some weight as she did have a doctorate in medicine. For someone her age, that was impressive.
As he considered the variety of different impressive people who he was lucky to consider friends, the next customer came through the glass doors. He smiled and greeted them warmly, wondering whom else he would meet today.