Malik adjusted his coffee cup, out of boredom more than necessity. He wanted to take a sip, but the beverage was still too hot for his sensitive tongue to consume. The inside of his mouth had been burned way too many times in his youth to not have learned from all those instances.
“Sorry I’m late Uncle Mal!” his staggering 19 year-old nephew exhaled as he took out his hands to shake his hand.
“It’s okay, Daniel. I haven’t been here that long pun,” Malik said with a smile after his nephew had bowed. He remembered a time when Daniel used to give wet kisses to his hand whenever he salaamed his hand. He’s grown so much since. It’s hard to believe that he’s now in university, studying journalism of all things. His choice caught everyone by surprise. But Malik was the first to give him a vote of support, even offering to buy him a netbook. His parents naturally declined the offer and bought it themselves.
“Daniel ada kerja satgi, so can we get straight to the interview terus?” the tall young man said as he pulled up a chair to sit opposite his uncle and took out a notebook.
“Alright, no problem Daniel. Eh, tak order apa-apa ka dulu?” Malik gestured for the waiter to come to their table.
“A-ah, okay,” Daniel waited for the waiter to come. “Teh o’ais limau satu?” He always ordered the same drink ever since he was 14.
“Alright, so what have you got for me?” Malik feigned to stretch his neck muscles.
“Haha. Em, let’s see,” Daniel flipped through his notebook and stopped at the latest page that didn’t have scribblings on the whole page. They were running out. “So, Uncle Malik, what do you do for a living?”
“This also you don’t know is it?” Malik gave a stern look.
“Ah, of course, mechanic, my bad, sorry Uncle Mal. It’s just that I wrote it down and—“
“Haha, tahu takut. Joking only lah! Continue terus, you have kerja pulao satgi kan?” Malik always liked to usik his nephew. He’s surprised Daniel isn’t used to it by now.
“Oh, hehe Uncle Mal ni. Emm, okay. What made you choose your line of work?” Daniel read out from his notebook.
“Hmm. Do you want to long answer or the short answer?” asked Malik while stroking his stubble.
“Em, medium answer can?” Daniel asked with squinted eyes.
“Hehe, alright, medium answer. Well, back when your mother and I were kids, we lived with your Tok and Opah in Penang. One day, we received word that my grandfather — your moyang lah —had been involved in an accident near his house in Ipoh. Your Tok got us in the car immediately and drove down there. He drove an old Datsun. Well, on our way on this journey, the car breaks down somewhere near Kuala Kangsar. You have to remember that back then, there weren’t any highways. We were so distraught, we didn’t know what to do. I remember my father just pleading for some other cars to stop and help us out.” Malik took a sip of his coffee and waited for Daniel to finish jotting down whatever he was jotting down.
“After about fifteen minutes, I think, of waving, a motorcyclist stopped. He didn’t say much. He just asked my father what was wrong and looked under the hood. He told my father some things and said that he needed to get some things from his shop first. He left, and about half an hour later he came back with some tools and stuff and fixed the car for us. My father was so thankful and offered to pay him, but the guy just smiled and went off on his motorcycle. I don’t remember much of what happened, but I do remember my father dropping a tear or two in the car when we continued our way to your moyang’s house in Ipoh. I saw how happy that person made my father feel, and ever since then, I’ve always looked upon that person as a hero who saved us all.” Malik ended his story with a smile. He noticed that Daniel wasn’t jotting anything down anymore.
“Wow, Ibu never told us that story before.” Daniel said, looking past his uncle’s face.
“Of course not, she was 9 at the time. She’s probably forgotten all about it,” Malik sipped his coffee.
“Oh, hm, okay.” Daniel seemed like he just remembered that he was actually there on an assignment and continued scribbling into his notebook.
A few more questions after that, and the interview was done. Daniel bid his uncle farewell and walked out of the restaurant. When Daniel was out of sight, Malik suddenly remembered that his nephew had ordered a drink earlier. Malik started thinking about getting angry, but then thought better of it. He finished his coffee and got up to pay at the cashier. He had better get back to the workshop too.