Beneath the fiery furnaces.
Right. What a grand way to invite a person to lunch – and then making him feel more alien and lonelier than he already is, in a foreign country, miles away from home – by conversing in hushed tones in a language that he does not speak nor understand.
Bad enough he was the only thorn among the roses, but that is just not polite, man.
And so, lunch turned out to be a rather disastrous affair. The other end of the table was where the laughter and jokes came from; while on ours, the atmosphere was rather subdued and awkward.
One of the girls even cried in Malay, “Help, I don’t want to sit here,” upon realising she would be seated next to him, desperately grabbing my hand from below the table. I told her, in plain English, to not worry – and mumbled something incoherent about the weather just to throw him off track. The other girl was rather direct in delivery, though not in language: “Let’s switch places,” she told me in Cantonese.
But really – any idiot would know that they (we?) were talking about the white guy who was in our group. Why else would we all be talking in different languages when the obvious medium then should be English?
He looked rather confused at the girls’ antics and it made me feel terribly sorry for him. And so, I nonchalantly took the seat across him and frantically tried to whip up a conversation (and failed miserably at this, because I am definitely not a talker).
For starters, however, I know him better than the other girls do – and I do get along with him rather well, in fact. We have gone out for meals together, had brief chats in between work, and tossed emails regularly back and forth with each other.
But during lunch that day, I wished the ground would have swallowed me up so I would not be seen in the company of these merciless girls. The girls who invited him out to lunch and then – blatantly, impolitely, chose to exclude, ignore and avoid his presence – and instead left him alone like a fish out of water.
He leaves for home this Saturday, having spent three weeks here for work.
I somehow can relate, because loneliness has always been my solitary companion – though, frankly, it is something I would not want to wish on anyone else.