The sky was cloudy, maybe even to the verge of a late afternoon downpour. My car rattled down the starkly empty road in Sri Petaling back home, me and Friend putting up a great fight to stay awake. For my part, at least. Nothing, and truly nothing, would stop me from getting home and curl up in bed ASAP, I told myself.
Already the strangest time and place for A Final Cendol Story to take place.
And yet it did.
Before I even realised it, my car had parked itself by the road, right before the Cendol Stall of lore. It was by no means a calculated decision - I was still deadset on giving in to my sleepiness at the traffic lights five seconds ago. Something about the lonely white Cendol truck framed by waving trees, gloomy clouds, and everything but people just struck me. The same manner run-down houses rumoured to be haunted always made you look twice, and sometimes even go in.
Only a middle-aged Indian lady stood there, tending to both the rojak and Cendol. I couldn't recall seeing her there before, there usually were some Indian men in funny black and white costumes.
"Dia adik saya."
Oh. She was the elder sister to one of them, in case you didn't get that.
Without me even noticing, she was already filling two bowls of shaved ice with brown sugar solution and coconut milk. The ladle hit the bottom of the big pot, echoing a half-hearted thunk, thunk. Two scoops of beans for me, two scoops for Friend.
I sipped long and hard. It was, as the woman had earlier asked me, nearing six. Soon cars of tired people longing to forget the day they'd been through would throng the streets. Yellow and black buses ferrying yapping kids home where they stopped yapping. Even the Indian man in black and white, who appeared from nowhere, was folding up the tables and packing the stall umbrellas. A big curtain drew itself down on the whole day. It felt like something big was about to happen, something everyone was preparing for. The night? The rain? Their homes?
The last of the plastic chairs stacked up. We had apparently been their last customers for the day.
"Well, that was...neccessary." Friend said to me as we drove away, the Cendol stall fading in the distance.
I winked back. "Told ya."