After tossing and turning and spending what can only be called an uncomfortable night, it is hardly a surprise that I sleep in late the next day. Eva weaves in and out of my memories, which take the form of dreams as I fall in a deeper slumber. I finally wake up around half eleven the next day, tired even after the staying in bed for so long. I clamber out of bed and make my way to kitchen to make myself some breakfast.
As I rummage through the pantry, I find an unopened box of chocolate chip pancake mix at the very back. I am hit with nostalgia yet again. I am transported years back, standing in the same place. Late Saturday nights with Eva and sleeping in the next day. Me, often getting up before her and fixing her a breakfast in bed. After a whole week of her doing it for me, it was only fair I did it on weekends. Plus I loved cooking for her and even though I had never had a colossal sweet tooth like she did, I usually made her favorite chocolate chip pancakes with whipped cream right out of the canister and would serve my beauty in bed. And almost every time she would tear up and hug me like the easy crier that she was and my heart would melt watching her trying to manage those wet sloppy smiles.
I put the pancake mix on the counter and fry myself some eggs. I don’t have much of an appetite anyway, so I sit on the kitchen counter picking at my egg and sipping coffee. Thinking about the day ahead. Since the The Chinese Palace doesn’t open until late noon, I have an hour to myself and I put on the news while I clean the house and do a few loads of laundry.
It’s 1PM when I pull into the car park outside the Chinese Palace. The place is already bustling with their usual customers and there is a wild busy hum in the air. Eva would have liked it. She liked the busy static in food places, she always said it made human beings feel like honey bees.
I approach the counter and the polite young Chinese guy asks me what he can get for me.
‘Nothing, thank you. But there is something I want to ask about your fortune cookies.’ I say
‘Yes sir.’ He says, polite smile still on ‘How I can help you with that?’
‘Where are your fortune cookies made?’ I ask. ‘And the messages inside?’
‘Is there a problem, sir?’ He inquires clearly worried, smile wavering.
‘Not at all, I just wondered. That is all.’ I answer quickly
‘Well in that case sir, I can definitely answer your question.’ The smile is back as he answers me. ‘We have many branches all over the city but each branch is supplied by a fortune cookie plant in California. We receive them in boxes all prepackaged and we just select and toss in a few with every order as it goes.’
‘Is there any way I can choose what fortune to send to a friend or family? Just for fun?’ I ask him the most important question which had been haunting me for a while.
‘I am afraid that would be impossible, sir.’ He shakes his head gently. ‘There are about 4 million fortune cookies made every day, in a single factory. The messages are sweet and short but most importantly, randomly selected. We can’t possibly send someone a specific cookie. We don’t even know ourselves what is inside the packaging.’ He completes his sentences. ‘Is that all?’
I nod and turn to leave, my head buzzing with the newly formed information, so much that I hardly notice the queue which had formed behind me. I leave the restaurant and sit in my car. For a long time I stare at an advertisement on a billboard, the street across the car park, not really seeing it.. The conversation plays in my head.
For the past 1 year, I have collected 12 fortunes, one every single month. One message monthly. It has always been something evocative. Not a single silly one. Almost always fitting the condition of my heart. And somehow these little fortunes were helping me get over my trauma, my loss; they were slowly making me feel alive. It was clear from my recent exchange that it couldn’t possibly be preplanned. It was just not possible.
Is it possible Eva was looking out for me after all?