The Only Invited Guest who Didn't Turn Up on My Wedding

The guy arrived last night with his beautiful wife for his first trip to Perth. She shivered in the cold Autumn night while her husband busked under the moonlight in comfort. Within 5 minutes of the pick up, he commented we had the longest conversation in English since we knew each other.

"Channel 5 ok, Nora is here," simply said I.

"Hey, it's ok, she knows Chinese," came the reply.

I raised my eyebrows, kept the doubts to myself and began to give my buddy a quick navigation lesson.

"Look here, that's where you will enter the ROE highway tomorrow, keep going for 15 minutes until you reached the end where it will forked to the north and south. Keep left and you will hit south, no chance for error."

I repeated the instructions twice more to make sure he understood. At the back, Nora acknowledged and recited the plan. Smart woman. It looked like they were a good team. They would make it to Margaret River on their own without a GPS. I made a mental note to loan them our trusty map. Jen and I had never used a GPS during any of our trips to the south. We felt that was part of the fun of a road trip and we were not alone. My buddy would do exactly that the next morning with the same, "So be it if they get lost," attitude that Jen and I had. They were going to have fun, I noted.

"Nice place," was his first comment when he reached the 2nd level of the townhouse.

I made them made themselves comfortable after I showed them their room for the night. It was already past midnight and I wasted no time to make them a quick sandwich meal. As I warmed up their bread, he lifted his clothes and pushed his tummy out to the maximum. A customary sign of friendship between us. It was bizarre yes, but that was just the way it had been and I had no idea when or how. I stole a glance and noted he broke his all time record. Like a stock market index, the size of his waist fluctuated widely over the years, due to his fine fitness and fervent passion in sports and his love for food. My own tummy used to give him a run for his money during the peaks and wouldn't be too far off the mark even at the troughs. Last night must be the biggest gap of our tummy sizes, just like the gap between his soccer team Man Utd FC and my club Liverpool FC in the league table of the season which just ended. After a few rubs on his tummy, looking pleased, he finally let down his Arsenal FC Jersey. 

Yet he was the biggest Man Utd supporter I had ever knew. He could recite his past teams, honours and intricate club details backwards if you cared to challenge him.  "I have a Man City Jersey too!" He quipped. That was how quirky he was. We were classmates, soccer team mates, scoring partners (on the field) and soul mates. It was almost surreal to see him here in Perth. 5 years ago, having a conversation with him on Australian soil would never even make it to my imagination. I didn't even habour a thought of living and working in Perth. Man proposes, heaven disposes. Who knows where I will end up another day? Who knows where you will end up one day? Never say never too quickly.

We went through his itinerary as both of them munched up the delicious sandwich I made for them. Yes, it was delicious and I knew it, even if I didn't take a bite. By 2am, our meeting ended. He knew exactly what to do even if our communications would be cut out for the next two days.

"You need a map, I will get Jen to pass it to you the next morning. Good night and don't wake me up."

"YOU don't wake me up," came the retort.

I turned around, gave the lazy wave and attempted to claim my precious 4 hours of sleep without delay.   I went to work while they were still sleeping. Work was, of course, made tougher without adequate sleep. During the day, Jen sent the message, "Your friend rented a 4x4!" Hmm. Typical of him. If there was a tank for rental he would have done that. Alas, another round of babysitting awaited me when I finally made it back home after work because Jen was called up last minute to do some once-in-a-blue-moon accounting work for somebody. Great timing. Fortunately Albany was cooperative and enjoyed the dinner I did and fed herself in a reasonable amount of mess. I was lying like a piece of rag on the couch by the time Jen's keys came twinkling at the door.

"I made it, it was easy!" came his message on whatsapp. "And there is WIFI here." He didn't even bother to get a local sim card to communicate with me. Unlike one of our mutual friend, who would be equipped like a scout going for war at every trivial endeavor. Before long, a picture of his bed and his hairy legs followed up. 

"I still hope to try my brother's cooking on Saturday. Can I have a beef steak?" He was a great cook himself so I couldn't see the sense of 'trying my cooking'. I didn't give him a reply though I planned to do it. Many times I wondered why did we get along despite our obvious differences in personalities. I think it was his constant proactive efforts to engage his very, very passive buddy along the years that kept the friendship alive.

Very well brother. Welcome to Perth and see you on Saturday.