Thursday, June 28, 2007

Not the Usual Date: Dinner and Then Some (Part 3)

8:35 pm.
La Fite.
Décor. Sobre. Staid wooden floor. Soft Curtains hanging.
Full house. Pin Drop.
Hushed whispers. Sweet nothings. Expensive nothings.
Our table. In a discreet corner.
Butt on seats. Drinks in hand. Pre-appetizers smoked.
No Models.

“What time did you tell them dinner was again?”
“They’re late.”
“They’re models. They’re late.”
“I forgot they’re a special breed.”
“Don’t you dare start.”
Staring at nothing. Just ahead.
Boom! Like a supersonic jet.
Gliding. Through the room.
Head turners. Heart breakers. Boner Muses.
Beauty. Not just a pleasure to see. A privilege to behold.
Walking towards. Us.

“Hey Wan! This is my friend, Nadia.”

We stand.
“Uh, yeah, and this is my bud, Zachary. You ladies can call him anything you like, but he prefers ‘Zack.’”
“Zack.” Nod. “Ida. Zack.” “And Nadia.” Nod. “Zack. Nadia.” “Shall we?”
We shall’ed.
Sit. Shuffling. Seats.
Must admit. This. Is the best part.
They are. Achingly beautiful.
Yes. She is. Miss Malaysia. The Miss Universe one.
That is. Usually. Not uncommonly.

Until they talk.
Still. Getting comfortable.
We begin:

“Can we get you ladies a drink? Champagne? Wine?”
“Hmm… I’m feeling naughty tonight. A glass of Champagne, I think.” Says Ida. Oh man. When did Urma die?
“Sounds good. About the champagne, I mean.” Knowing looks.
Okay. Somebody’s got lift off.
“And, uh, Nadia, what can we get you?”
”Orange juice for me please, thanks.”
Wan gets champagne.
I get orange juice.
A touch of huskiness. To her voice. Though. Nice.
“And I have miles to go before I sleep.” Mumble.

“So Zack. Nadia and I were wondering whether you are that criminal lawyer, Zachary Hamid.”
Sigh. Try to. Smile.
“Well that is my name and I do a little bit of criminal work here and there. Could be.”
They. Smile back. Those million dollar ones.
“That first year lawyer who successfully defended the ‘impossible trial’?” Nadia. Zhang Zi Yi's identical twin. Swear on whichever. Holy book. If need be.
Damn. Got me. Blushing.
These girls. Good. Very.
By then. Wan. Ida.
Conversation. In flight. We have take off. Roger that.
“Wow. This is so cool.” Surprised. Genuine.
“Didn’t know you were in the habit of following criminal trials.”
“I actually find the law fascinating. Even back then. Plus my dad’s a lawyer as well.”
Damn! Is this. On live telecast. Or something?
“What about law do you find fascinating?”
“The idea that justice could be meted out. Applying both in general with room made to accomodate each individual too. Like this huge elastic umbrella that can reach out and shelter some of the isolated groups or people not directly under it. It... it's like the rails of society. That's it.” Very pleased. With herself. Flashes another one of those. Million dollar smiles. Glowing. With the pleasure of thought. Wow.
Is she for real. Or what?
“I think your friend, Ida, mentioned to Wan that you are in the legal line?”
“Something like that but ‘were’.”
“I just finished my Masters. I just got home and am taking some time off. Relaxing.”
“Where’d you do read your law?”
“Lovely place.”
“Yeah. It has a very rustic feel to it. I love it there! You could go walking in the forest anytime you wanted because they had treks just behind the halls. They have a lovely church. When they sing during mass on Sunday, it’s heavenly! The acoustics lends a sense of majesty to the singing. Have you been there before?”
Cross. Necklace. Plain silver.
Resting happily. Against her collarbone.

“Oh. Once. It’s been so long though. I don’t even have faded memories to hold on to about it. Sad, right?”
“Well, maybe it’s time you went back to England. When was the last time you were back there?”
A lifetime. Ago.
“I haven’t been back since I graduated.”
“Oh wow. Is that long?”
“Yeah! Like… 8 years ago.”
“That IS long. Where’d you graduate from?”
“Oh Bristol. It’s a lovely place! Kinda hilly though, right?”
“Yeah. Have you been to Bath though?”
“Oh yes! Bath is absolutely gorgeous. I loved the Roman baths. The quaint cobble stone streets. The bridges. It’s like a perfect postcard picture town.”
“Alliteration noted.”
She giggles.
“I’m impressed! Not many people notice that. Or when they do they don't know what it's called.” A touch of satisfaction crept. Into her smile.
“Confession time. I’m a geek.”
“Would you believe me if I told you I’m one too?”
“Nope. As a lawyer, I have to put everything to strict proof. And in such devastatingly serious matters such as these, the burden of proof of beyond a shadow of a doubt.”
"It's true. I love to read. I'll read anything.”
For real?! Oxymoron. Smart. Model.
“So who are your favourite authors?”
“I'll even read toothbrush or cereal boxes... Oh sorry! It might take us all night if I list them out."
Sounds fine. To me.
"I’m actually into short stories at the moment. So Maupassant is definitely up there.”

Maupassant. My favourite.
Chekov? Holy shit!
I love. Maugham.
“Novelists… hmmm… I love Nick Hornby, Kazuo Ishiguro, P.G. Wodehouse, Kathy Lette for my trash, and... oh, there are just too many!”
Paradigm shifting. Major.
“How about you?”
“I like those guys you mentioned too."
"Cool! What are you reading now then?”
“Well, I haven’t been reading a lot of fiction lately. At the moment, I’m reading this book called “The Age of Missing Information” by Bill McKibben. This guy is hilarious. He did an experiment. He spent 24 hours, or a day, in the country. And then spent a few weeks watching 24 hours worth of TV for each 93 cable TV channels for one day. I haven’t really finished it but the gist of his argument is that you learn more sitting in the woods naked contemplating your navel compared to plopping yourself in front of the TV.”
“Really? Sitting naked in the woods?”

“Yeah. Not one thread.”

Pause. She's thinking.
"Why does he have to be naked?"
"Why does he have to wear clothes?"

“You’re funny.”

“Not really. I think you just like to laugh.”

Smiles. Cheers.

Menu. Served.

Waiter. Black suit. Bow tie.

Beside. Table.

“Have you been here before?”


“What would recommend?”

“What do you feel like?”


“Okay. How about the pigeon to start and the lamb cutlets for the mains?”

“Sounds good.”

We order.

“You mentioned your father was practising?”

“Yeah. Maybe you’ve heard of him – Lim Wei Ming.”

“Hmmm… afraid not.”

“It’s okay. He does mostly corporate work.”

“Ahh… which firm is he in?”


“Ah. Big time.”

Shrugs. “Not really.”

“Is he why you ended up reading law?”


“No pressure from him about reading law?”

“Nah. Maybe it was all those law shows on TV.”

“Maybe. You’d be surprised how many people tell me that they ended up being a lawyer
because they thought practise was like LA Law or the Practise, etc. i.e. fun, exciting, full of drama.”
“You mean it’s not?”

“Those instances are few and far in between. Most of the time it’s drudgery. You just plow through piles and piles of paper. You go through reams of statements. Spend your time in quiet contemplation or doing research. Writing papers.”

“Then why do you do it?”

“ I love the law. Although I'm in the process of falling out of love with it. The thing about legal practise here is it's challenging. Sometimes on the law. But mostly it's about how you get around certain things. And intellectually there’s always some issue that has loose ends, imperfect principles, different ways of approaching it, for us to research and think about.”

“Sounds like you still enjoy practise.”

“Heh… looking at me practise, you wouldn’t think so!”

“Well, it’s what’s inside that counts, right?”

Uh. Yeah. But not for you, honey.

Wan. Shoots me. Look.


“I dislike people who judge books by their covers. I didn't quite feel this so much in England when I was there, but I find Asian people do that a lot.”

“Well, the logic I suppose is that covers are supposed to be an indication of what’s inside. You know… The title gives an indication about what the book’s about. The cover gives an impression of the book. The little write up at the back tells you what the book is about and there are the comments as well about what other people think of the book. So, there is a lot of information on covers. These days, anyway.”

“Yeah, but that’s just information about what the book is about. You can’t make a proper evaluation of the book with just that information. You can’t tell whether it’s good or bad read just from that information. And what’s more, the comments at the back are biased. They only tell you the good things about the book. That’s why I never bother with the comments about the book.”

Wan. Kicking me. Under the table.

Appetizers are served.

“Oh these look so lovely!”

Not. As you.


“It’s almost a shame to eat them.”

“Key word here is “almost”. Bon appitit.”

Damn. Looks. So good. Eating that.

Wishing. Fervently. Her appetizer: Me.

Brunello di Montalcino. Ordered.
“So where’d you do your Masters?”


Fuck! Not. Just smart. Damn smart.
“Ah. So what’s next for you? Any plans to practise?”

“Hmm… not at the moment, no.” Smiles. “I’m taking a year off.”


“Mmm… well, not … sort of.”

“Sounds all… very mysterious!”

“Bizarre, more like.”

Like. Today.


“Would you believe it if I told you I won the Miss Malaysia title?”

“I would believe it even if you didn’t tell me.” Work it. Work it.

“Yeah, right!”

“Yeah, right! Yeah right!”

“Hmmmm…. That was good.”

Appetizers. Finished.

Big smiles. All round.

I’m addicted. To her smiles.

Want to reduce it. To powder. So I can sniff it.

“When did you win it?”

“About a month ago.”

“Damn! You’re Miss Malaysia and what do you do on your first month of your reign? You go for a dinner with two strangers!”

“I know! I was just thinking how ironic the situation is. Here I am, Miss Malaysia and there you are, the famous criminal lawyer, and we’re both here chaperoning our friends! You’d think it was the other way round.”

“Tell me about it.” Whisper. Gritted teeth. Story of my life.

Stunning. Smart. Classy. Talker. Reader. Damn.

She is. Kitchen Sink.

“So, how do you know, Wan?”

Hooo Boy. Hoop. Hoop.

“Him. Oh. Heh. Hmmm… We met like about 5 years ago. Yeah.”

“Oh. Okay. How did you meet?” Curious thing!

“We met at like some mutual friend’s party and uh, hit it off from there!”

That should do it. I hope.

"I see. Can I be frank?”

“Only if you let me be Mrs. Frank. Sorry. Couldn’t help myself. Sure. Be frank.”

“You seem pretty different from Wan. Well, from what Ida told me about him, anyway.”

“Well, we are pretty different from each other. But somehow, and you might find this hard to believe, we do actually have some mutual interests in common. Plus, he’s a pretty fun guy, most of the time.”

“Ida says he’s crazy.”

“Yeah. Borderline insanity.”

Laughter. Comes easy. For her.

Better. Switch. Topics.

“So, how about you and Ida?”

“Oh, we’ve been friends for like, forever. We’re neighbours. Same school. Same college. The only
difference is she went to a different university. We both even did law.”
“Soul sisters, eh?”

“Yeah. Something like that.”
“How many in your family?”

“Four. Mom. Dad. Me. And my younger brother, Alex. Yourself?”

“Six of us. Parents. Me. Two younger sisters, Zila and Nina, and one younger brother, Saiful.”

“Sounds fun with so many siblings!”

“There are highs and lows.” Half hearted. Smile.

More lows. Lately.

“So is anybody else in your family a lawyer?”

“No. Just me. Zila’s in advertising. Saiful is… is… just … let’s just say he’s religious. And Nina, the youngest, is in first year uni. Studying graphic design.”

Frowns. Not good.

“Why do you say ‘religious’ like that?”

‘Because… truth?’


‘He’s extremely religious. Nobody knows what he does. He’s never around. We suspect he’s giving religious classes at some mosque. We only see him once a week during family dinners on Sunday. And even then he’s pretty secretive about what he’s up to. And let me tell you, it’s no fun because he’s always preaching to everybody else about what sinners we are, and I’m always arguing with him about what a zealot he is.’

‘Hmm. How is it you’re here drinking a glass of wine when your brother is probably some place giving religious classes?’

‘That’s a question I’ve been asking myself!" Nervous laughter.

Smiles back. Whew!

‘I thought it was forbidden for Muslims to drink wine.’

‘And your thoughts are most certainly correct! But then there are muslims and there are muslims, and there are the irredeemably naughty muslims.’ Cock Head. Left. Smile.
I’m a sinner.


‘But I’ve been babbling about myself. What about you? What’s your family like?’

‘Oh, not as colourful as yours, I’m afraid. My father’s a doctor, and still runs his clinic. My mom’s retired and now just takes care of the house and my father. My brother’s still studying architecture in Australia.’

‘So, they happy that you’re back?’

‘Yeah. I’m happy to be back too. There’s no place like home.’

Ida breaks in.

‘Uh, guys, we’re going to the ladies for a while.’

Wan. I. Get up.

Corner. They disappear.

‘Sooo… the model thing still a bad idea?’

‘I apologise.’

‘Damn right, you apologise! From the word ‘go’, everybody else just ceased to exist!’

‘Okay. Okay. I’m the idiot!’

‘Got that right. Just remember who said that the next time! So. How is she? Looks fucking amazing!’

‘Kitchen sink.’

‘100% bona fide kitchen sink, right out of your mama’s kitchen. Goddamn man! Why is it you always end up with the hotter chicks?’

‘Hey, ease off, man. I haven’t ‘ended up’ with her!’

‘Whatever, man. She looked like she couldn’t wait to get under the table.’

‘Shut up. And I don’t know what you’re complaining about. Ida’s looks like bloody Uma Thurman!’

‘Yeah, but she’s not Miss Malaysia.’

‘Jeez. Will you get over that?’

‘Yeah. BBP! Plus she’s a wild child! We were playing footsie under the table!’

‘Really? I’m getting this ‘christian’ kind of vibe from her.’
‘Zack. Listen to me, okay? Enjoy the moment. That shit doesn't matter okay. This is not for life. You’re not going to fucking marry her, okay?’

‘Shit. I feel cursed. I meet one of the most stunningly beautiful, intelligent and interesting woman I’ve ever met, and she’s Christian. This is why, I’m not religious! I’m God’s joke!’
‘Zack. Shut the fuck up and enjoy the night, alright? God. If I could light another one up and shove it up your ass right now I would.'

They’re back.

Can see. They’ve talked.

We’ve been rated. Evaluated. Dissected.

Come to sit. In judgment.
Oh, be merciful!

Dinner. Immediately served.

‘Oh wow. The cutlets smell so good!’


‘They look good too.’

‘They do don’t they? Your fish looks very interesting.’

How about me?

‘They cook the fish really well here. Somehow they always manage to surprise me. Well, enjoy!'

Small pieces. Cut. Chewed. Tasted. Exquisite.

‘So…’ I start.

Beethoven’s Ninth. Blaring. Sounds like.

100 piece orchestra.

Wan’s phone.

‘… how was that?’

‘Oooh… simply divine!’

‘Uh… Zack. Phone call.’




‘Yeah. Ma?’

What she says. I don’t like.

Not. One bit.

‘Zack! Sai’s been caught by the police!’ She. Virtually screams.
Escapes the phone. Rolls around our table.
Which goes quiet.
They. Turns to me.

‘Just! Ina just called me.’

‘Ina knows? How does she know?’

‘I don’t know! All I know is she said he was taken by the police.’

‘Where was he?’



‘That’s what she said?’

‘Yes. Oh Zack, please do something!’

No. No. No! Story of my life.

‘Okay. What’s Ina’s number?’

She tells me. Hang up.

‘What’s wrong, man?’ Wan.

‘Uh. Sai’s been arrested.’

‘Holy shit? How did he get arrested?’

‘I don’t know. Will you please excuse me?’

Step out. Dial. Tone. Ringing.


‘Mualaikumsalam. Ina ke?’


‘Ma kata Sai kena tangkap polis. Betul, ke?’

‘ah ah.’

‘Dia dekat mana, tu?’

‘Kat masjid kajang …’

‘Dia tengah buat apa tu?’

‘I dah kata dah kat Sai pagi ni.’

‘Ina, bila Sai kena tangkap?’

‘Baru ni! Kereta dan van polis tu baru tolak.’

‘Kenapa dia kena tangkap?’

‘Tak tahulah. Tak sempat nak cakap dengan dia tadi.’

Shit. Shit. Shit. Fucking Saturday night!

‘Uhm… Ina, cepat tolong cari kawan dan ikut kereta polis tu. Aku nak tahu mana dia nak bawa Sai.’

‘Okay. Okay.’

‘Sekarang tau!’


Shit. Shit. Dinner with Miss Malaysia. And my brother gets arrested.

Fucking unbelievable.


art harun said...

Great story man. And great story telling too!
That Nadia. Her smiles and giggles. Reminds me of someone. And I kept on thinking about who she reminded me of. Yea, those sweet smiles and infectious laughters...she just laughs easily...infectiously. Now I remember. I watched Jay Leno one night and there she was. Looked like an angel. Bod like a sculpture. Beautiful wavy shoulder lenght blonde hair. Green eyes. Denise Richards. Aiyo....aiyo....aiyo....

the Anomaly said...

yup must agree with Art, I really got caught up with the story. I must have also got confused with the conversation flow though ... I tot Miss Malaysia/Universe's father is a corporate lawyer from Shearn a Lim something Ming then I must've got lost towards the end - was it Miss Malaysia who said her father is a doctor who has a clinic? I guess he could be both... Or is it Zach's father who has a clinic? ... somebody help me!

art harun said...

Yerp.I am a bit confused there as well.Must have been some mistakes somewhere. Anyway, it does not negate the fact that it is an absorbing story.