A Chinese lady in her 40s and her younger Indian companion sat at one of the cosier seats along the wall of the restaurant. They were about to finish their meal when I requested a seat change, and moved in beside them.
As I started on my sandwich and Kindle, I could hear their voices filering in and out in the background. I didn’t mean to listen in on their conversation, but her soothing and accented voice against her friend’s hard and rather bitter tone seemed to implore me to do so. It didn’t help that the first thing I heard was, so where do you want to migrate to?
I couldn’t catch her friend’s reply above the multiple conversations going on in the restaurant. But as my lunch proceeded, I could make out parts of their chat. Words like education and paper qualifications were thrown out. I learnt that Bitter friend is a foreigner, but I don’t know that about Soothing friend. Judging from these snippets and tones, I found out that Soothing friend was dishing out advice and options to a friend who seemed to be having a difficult time getting desired employment. Her voice never once hit a decibel higher even when the latter hit back with negativity and doused her in her bitterness.
I finished a chapter of my book and my ham and cheese sandwich as they went on this way while drinking up the rest of their after-lunch tea. By then the lunch crowd had dispersed and the restaurant was visibly emptier.
The space returned to its pre-lunch status but Soothing friend never managed to turn Bitter friend’s mood around. As they took their leave, Bitter friend, sounding not so much defeated as defiant, told her friend that she’s tired of this city, and there’s nothing here she wants to do, essentially wrapping up the session and possibly bringing the entire conversation back to square one.