There is an advantage to spending most morning meals on my own, whenever I head to the market.
I get to watch.
The privilege of being a conspicuous observer isn’t lost to me – it helps not having a pale, white face, a loud, booming voice, or a restless band of children orbiting me like little planets. I get to have a quiet meal, virtually uninterrupted.
But I allow myself the slightest bit of distraction anyway, and it’s hard not to do so – not when I’m sitting in the middle of a collection of hawker stalls that make the wet market more than just a welcome source for the day’s fresh stock of produce, or meat.
After all, everything appears to be in constant motion here.
The chattering of chopsticks being dried and rubbed altogether after a quick rinse. The stirring of silver spoons in tiny, porcelain cups of piping hot Kopi.
The silent whirring of electric ceiling fans, dissecting the direction of fluorescent light, casting ghostly shadows dancing upon the red dining tables.
The mystical wafting of smoke, escaping the ends of dangling cigarettes, casting a slow spell upon the air.
I watch the same white-haired men congregating around the same corner table, and I can’t help but imagine they’ve occupied the same, red plastic chairs, for years. Their banter is constant but unforced, as if they’ve been saying the same jokes they first told one another on the playgrounds of their elementary school.
The hawker stall workers, employing their keen sense for when it’s appropriate to bus their own dishes and clean up after their customers. With one hand gathering back their empty plates and with two quick swoops of a wet cloth upon the table’s surface, you almost forget that they came by at all.
Time simply refuses to stand still at the market. But perhaps, only for me – affording me the pleasure of watching all the slow, quiet, order of things, unfold.