On Tuesday, I went to the pasar malam (night market) near my house as my eldest sister, Along, had asked for my help to buy some provisions for her as she was not feeling well. Truth be told, it has been a good ten years since I last went to the said market and that was before I got married. It's not that I have been shying away from local scene. The main reason for the absence of yours truly is undeniably due to the apparent fact that the night market in my home town is not exactly a night market so to speak.The stalls here close up as early as 7 pm when the norm for night markets is that they would go on sometimes well over midnight. As such, by the time that I would have reached there from work, the night market would have long ceased its operation and it would have been purely a waste of any time and effort on my part to even make the journey over there in the first place.
It was no different this time around. I reached the market at almost 7 p.m. and true to my predictions, there was only a small number of stalls left trading. Most night markets would have different stalls selling a wide variety of choices from food, to fruits, vegetables, fishes, poultry and sometimes even clothing. The ones that were open this time were mostly food stalls selling a variety of food including that of my favourite kuih putu piring - a sweet delicacy which resembles a small pancake made of rice flour, sugar, dissected coconut and shaved gula melaka, steamed in a special container (though it reminded me more of a UFO ship, really) and served hot on a square cut banana leave .
I was asked to buy some fishes and vegetables for Along so off I went to the wet market section which is on the other side of the night market. As it was already late, there were only 3 stalls left open and I went to the stall that looked like there were still fishes available for me to choose from. Although the quality of the fishes left was not to my satisfactory, however I quickly reminded myself that if I wanted fresh stocks I should have gone to the morning market instead like the ones in Selayang or Banting where stocks there come in abundance as early as 3 a.m. straight from the source.
I quickly chose my fishes, put them in the small basket provided by the fishmonger who was standing behind his stall and went to pay for my purchase. As I hand him my basket, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the fishmonger was the same "abang-jual-ikan" (guy who sold the fish) whom I had a crush on when I was 17 years old. I was a naive teenager back then and I remembered that I would often look out for him amongst his peers because somehow he reminded me of a young Keanue Reeves who acted as one Detective Jack Traven in the 1994 movie - Speed. He looked just like how I have always remembered him as except he was older, his face rougher and there were some fine lines surrounding his eyes - a sign of age and maturity perhaps. He gave me a smile and almost immediately, I was reduced to a state of 'nothingness'. I saw his mouth open as if he was asking me a question. I don't remember ever replying to him but I hope that I have given him a proper answer and not something embarrassing indeed for truth be told, the very moment that I saw his smiling face, it was as if my brain had gone all mushy and I had lost all speech capabilities. Heck, I don't even remember the question that he posed but I saw my hand handing over a few blue Ringgit Malaysia notes to him when he gave me my purchases in a pink plastic bag. I don't remember leaving (apparently, I must have suffered temporary amnesia as I seem to have forgotten A LOT of things after that) the stall but I had hoped and prayed to God that I had left the stall in a manner that shows my maturity and wisdom - in accordance to my age and of my stature. I really, really hope I did not left the stall skipping and giggling like a shy high school girl who had just met her idol - just as I would have done a long time ago.
I then walked around the night market. There were mostly familiar faces but there some new ones as well. The same man who sold roti john stood there at the very same corner, just as the couple who sold the yong tau foo did, although I can't say the very same for the prices of the goods sold. The skies were getting darker and the sun had started to set, but standing amidst the small crowd, I was somehow transported back to the time when I was stil just a teenage girl roaming around the pasar malam with my girlfriends - through the sites and smells of all things which were very familiar and haunting to me.
Oh yes, 'tis was a fine walk down memory lane for me. And very fine one indeed that I don't mind coming back to sometime near the future.