The elderly waitress placed before me
a bowl of steaming Gou Maki.
She must’ve thought I would order it
after all those years eating with my Angkong
at Davao Famous Restaurant.
Tonight I took the table facing the entrance.
It has been years since I last ate here but
the noodle soup still tasted the same.
Perfect for tonight’s cold October weather.
Does their cook never die?
Angkong used to bring me here on Fridays
or whenever he had time.
We used to own a small junk shop in Matina.
All day, he would stay there to watch over
or negotiate with clients selling scraps.
Conscious of his hairstyle,
he wouldn’t go out without fixing his hair—
he’d comb his hair forward
and flip it up backwards, creating a pouf
like James Dean’s.
He was a jolly man. Once,
he showed me how to slurp a noodle soup.
I watched him hold his bowl of Maki
with both hands, ready to slurp.
His face fitted nicely in the bowl.
Then he started coughing and coughing hard
his false teeth came off his mouth
and fell into his bowl.
I laughed. But I was quick to pinch my legs.
Lola used to do that to me when I misbehaved.
Hurriedly I brought him a glass of water
to make him feel better.
The same way he woke me up
that night I dreamt of him inside a casket
slowly lowered down the pit.
With my fingers, I combed my hair
styled like James Dean’s in memory of Angkong.
Old enough to pay for it now
I lift this bowl of Maki to my mouth.
Hot soup steam rising, fogging up my glasses.
I slurped it the Angkong way!
Chris David F. Lao recently graduated Magna cum Laude from the BA English Creative Writing program of UP Mindanao.