Sunday, September 25, 2011

Green Rice Date

I sit down in the wobbly plastic chair at one of just four small tables in the hole-in-the-wall restaurant and try not to touch the dust-coated tablecloth. I already placed our order—two servings of green rice regular, which includes a small piece of chicken, some fried tofu pieces and a side of spicy sauce.

I am early for my lunch date with my husband at our favorite date spot that is tucked in between a cargo business and an abandoned airline office on airport property. Its official name is Kantin Cargo. But everyone calls it Nasi Hijau, translated “Green Rice” and you’d never know it by looking at it, but it’s popular. Most days they run out of food for the lunch crowd by 12:30.

My kids are at home with the sitter and Brad is on his way from the hangar. I’m glad I squeezed out about three minutes to run the straightener through my frizzy hair and dab on the perfume before I left the kids to finish peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

I put on the best “date clothes” I could come up with on laundry day, but the shirt is already blotchy with sweat marks at this hot noon hour.

I blush when I tell the others in the place that I’m waiting for my husband. For our clandestine date in this unlikely joint next to a turned-over World War II bunker from yesteryear, with yesterday’s trash pushed into its round fortified wall. The food comes before Brad does, and I breathe in the fragrance of coconut milk, ginger and red chilies. Spinach is what gives this rice its green color. And though you may think it doesn’t sound good, it’s my favorite rice in a country that has dozens of varieties and does them all well.

A man at the nearby table—the only other customer in the hole-in-the-wall place—goes through the list of MAF pilots he knows, waiting for me to nod at my husband’s name. I don’t know him, but we MAFers constitute 99 percent of the white faces who live in this town. It’s hard to hide here.

Brad pulls next to our car on his motorcycle and he laughs with his airport friend before sitting down in front of me. We eat and talk without interruption from the kids, and I mix in a little hot sauce with my green rice until I sweat off all the perfume.

Just one hour. We catch up on lives that are pressed in by kids and work and needs and goals and dreams. I get lost in my husband’s blue eyes and I forget to worry whether Evan is drawing on the walls or Renea is eating the cat’s food.

We’ve certainly had more beautiful date spots over the years. Our favorite lake in Alaska. An Italian restaurant we found in Bali. The coffee shop in Colorado with the perfect view of Pikes Peak.

But when you’re in love with each other—and both love green rice—this $5 lunch, with sweet teas included, doesn’t even need the chilies to make it sizzle.

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