Nasi Goreng Tango
He danced the same dance every night, alone. In a cubicle of steel, like the rest bordering the food court. A square parade of picture frames with family recipes within.
His feet swept over the same tiles that his father’s did. The same snaking eights worn into floor as he sashayed to the beat his wok demanded. For a sachet of spice to smack into the pan. A splatter of chilli. Ladle of goat broth. Salt. Pepper. Noodles, cascaded. Flipped in tsunami waves as metal grated against metal.
She’d been watching him for over three decades.
Her mother had taken her to the stall whilst it was still his father’s. Master had been teaching apprentice then. And he had been a bronzed boy shuffling the floor on bandy legs. An awkward tap dance.
Her order never altered, and was spoken softly at least once a week. Yet he never remembered her, so caught up was he in the rhythm of his ancestors’ creations.
Then, on one particularly tropical night, when the air was thick with dampness as well as spiced aromas, she spoke her order a little louder than usual. As if appalled by her new womanly tone, the flame beneath the wok leapt out, bit the man’s fingers and slapped the woman hard across the cheek.
As quickly as it had become wild, the flame became tame.
The man clutched his hand, scolded and scorned. The woman slipped into the cubicle, unravelling the scarf around her neck as she did so, and wrapped his wound in the silk. Held his hand in hers.
Unnerved by the betrayal of his own fire, he held her waist to steady himself.
There they were. Nose to nose. Cheek to cheek. Entwined. Dancing the tango together. Into the rest of their days.