There used to be a small cafe at the corner of Jalan Telawi in Bangsar that specialised in the most creative of mango desserts. The year was 2008, and two months into my big move to KL, we stumbled across this quaint little place that sold frozen mango yoghurt, mango ice-cream and mango cheesecake much to our college girl giddy delight. But what really intrigued us, what drew us in — all 5 of us giggly 18 and 19-year-olds — was that the small shop, no bigger than a janitor’s closet that also shared the lot with a kebab store, also had mango chicken burgers and cured mango sandwiches. More curious than actually hungry, we piled in, in our message T-shirts and Converse sneakers, as attentive waiters in matching yellow collared shirts and yellow caps greeted us with hellos that were of a pitch too high to suggest genuine joy at seeing us.
It was nearly 11pm then, but revelling in our new-found freedom being away from home, away from parents, we stayed out and ordered ourselves a round of artificially coloured and flavoured yoghurt. I didn’t even like frozen yoghurt but because everyone was having one, I didn’t want to be the only one without a cup to herself. Someone, for the life of me I cannot remember who now, had the chicken nuggets with mango dipping sauce, and I vaguely remember regretting not asking for that instead because I didn’t have to take the sauce if I didn’t like it.
But it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter because everything was painted almost golden from the amber streetlamps outside and everything we tasted was sparkling gold flakes on our tongues. Youth had a way of glazing everything over with a hazy filter of invincibility and romanticising something even as simple as melting dessert on a hot June night. We licked sticky mango sauce off the plastic spoons and squealed when we talked about who we wanted to be when we graduated and decided that night was the best night of our lives.
Jenny wanted to be a teacher, someone who moulded minds and shaped personalities that would grow up and change the world. Jun wanted to be a psychologist, someone who unlocked brilliance, untangled confusion and mended heartbreaks. Jo-Eve wanted to be a physiologist, someone who fixed broken bones and torn muscles and taught children and adults alike to jump as high as they can to reach for their biggest dreams. Cynthia didn’t even know what she wanted to do, she was just here studying what she was studying because it seemed the most natural thing to do. I wanted to run away from home, to break away from the chains of a small town which shackles were beginning to chaff too close to the bone. Frozen mango yoghurt, even if for only the span of that few hours, silenced our fears that one day we might not make it to where we wanted to be.
We laughed till tears stained ours wide, naive eyes, till pain wracked the sides of our ribs but still we refused to leave. The workers began to put up the chairs and proceeded to mopping around us — their yellow shirts now unbuttoned at the first two buttons and their caps now thrown haphazardly on the countertops — but still we chose to believe the night was still as young as we were. The night was still far from done and still had so much potential in it — just like us. And so we stayed, our conversation fuelled by melted cream and the sound of spoons scraping the bottom of empty yoghurt cups.
Today I went back to that corner shop of Jalan Telawi and the yellow sign of the mango dessert shop was no longer there. I don’t even remember the name of the place, but if I closed my eyes and piqued my ears just hard enough, I can just hear the Fall Out Boy song that played in the background that June evening so many years ago.