Merry Christ­mas, Mr Wang

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIVING -

think I’m nuts to be­friend you could see this side of you,” I re­mark.

Peter Wang is a friend I met through this col­umn. I get all kinds of in­ter­est­ing e-mails from read­ers, but his caught my at­ten­tion from the first sen­tence. In short, he demon­strated him­self as a man who not only knew his sub­ject-verb agree­ment, but who could ap­pre­ci­ate the quo­tid­ian plea­sures of chu char (Chi­nese stir-fry).

Now, I’m a sucker for men with im­pec­ca­ble English and crisp Bri­tish wit. So, af­ter a few weeks of friendly e-mail ex­changes, I agreed to meet. In all hon­esty, my heart was rac­ing pal­pa­bly when I got out of my car at the meet­ing place, a cof­feeshop in Ipoh Gar­den. With any luck, he would turn out to be a dream­boat.

I did a dou­ble take when my dream­boat pulled up on a bi­cy­cle in the form of a 60some­thing gen­tle­man. With my best poker face, I sat down for what I thought would be a short meet­ing; half an hour at most.

But our lunch ex­tended into tea, and tea into din­ner. As we talked about ev­ery­thing un­der the sun, my ini­tial mis­giv­ings about per­ceived per­sonal dif­fer­ences gave way to de­light­ful dis­cov­er­ies of shared in­ter­ests. There was only one flaw in this meet­ing of minds – my pride was de­flated some­what when he re­vealed that I wasn’t the only, or first, The Star colum­nist he had writ­ten to, just the first one who was ge­o­graph­i­cally close enough to meet in per­son.

It was the first of many meet­ings over the last five years.

This May-De­cem­ber friend­ship has not been with­out its chal­lenges. We at­tract strange looks when we hang out to­gether, pre­sum­ably be­cause of the age dif­fer­ence.

I get it even from my friends. Once, I wanted to in­vite him to a karaoke ses­sion and one of my group mem­bers was not very keen for him to join us. I in­sisted. Peter fit in like a glove, even though he proved once and for all he couldn’t carry a tune.

Al­though singing isn’t one of his tal­ents, he has many other virtues. For one, he has a goofy sense of hu­mour. He also has a huge arse­nal of es­o­teric trivia; our con­ver­sa­tion topics run the gamut from Dou­glas Adams to the health ef­fects of pomegranates.

Al­though he claims to be a loner, he can be thor­oughly en­ter­tain­ing when he chooses to. At one time, we were sup­posed to meet at a pop­u­lar cha­p­ati in­sti­tu­tion in Ipoh Old Town. When I ar­rived, he and the owner, a burly guy twice his size, were arm-wrestling like two teenagers in­stead of grown men whose com­bined age ex­ceeded 100. It was their first time meet­ing.

Wang is also highly en­ter­pris­ing. As he doesn’t own a car, most of the time I’m the one fer­ry­ing him around. The slight in­con­ve­nience has never stopped him from mak­ing his way to in­ter­est­ing but off-beat places that many peo­ple in Ipoh have never even heard of.

It was be­cause of his glow­ing re­ports of the Kinta Na­ture Park, the Falim House Mu­seum, and other hid­den gems, that I even­tu­ally went there out of cu­rios­ity and wrote sto­ries about them.

And de­spite his goofy na­ture, he can be an in­cred­i­bly good con­fi­dante, I think, as his next words bring me back into the present.

“Life. Death. Mar­riage. Pain. Ev­ery­thing will pass,” he in­tones in a solemn voice.

I burst out laugh­ing at his com­i­cal yet earnest at­tempt at Zen, but Peter has the last laugh be­cause he turns out to be right. The prob­lem that had re­duced me to tears was re­solved by the next morn­ing.

Sev­eral days later, I ask Peter if I could post the line about draw­ing firm lines on Face­book.

“Yes, but only af­ter you google it,” he replies per­plex­ingly. “Huh?” “Aren’t you sup­posed to at­tribute quotes to the orig­i­nal source? It’s a vari­a­tion of the Seren­ity Prayer, not my cre­ation,” he says. His firm voice brooks no ar­gu­ment.

A man of hon­our who doesn’t like tak­ing credit for some­body else’s work, in ad­di­tion to be­ing funny, quirky, kind-hearted and eru­dite?

And there I was, think­ing that they don’t make friends like they used to.

Dear Peter Wang, bless your goofy heart for five years of won­der­ful friend­ship.

Alexan­dra Wong (www.bun­nysprints.com) looks for­ward to another year of new friends and adventures.

Firm friends: the colum­nist and her friend of five years, Peter Wang, whom she got to know through this col­umn. – Photo by cK Lee

Wang has many in­ter­ests, as de­picted in this mon­tage.

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