March 19, 2024

Shu-Ling Chua

Like an Egg on a Spoon

On our third date, sharing a comfy sofa at a bar in Werribee, you asked what my favourite colour was.

“Why are you asking me?” It had seemed a child-like question.

“Sometimes, people forget to ask about the little things.” You curled your arm around my shoulder as I leaned into you.

Via text, you asked how I liked my eggs, so you could cook them for me one day.

At our next date, we both wore yellow.

You, a loose mustard shirt and baggy pants.

Me, a yolk-yellow T-shirt and pale-blue skinny jeans, cropped blazer flung over my shoulders. Hair in a high ponytail. Diamond ring on index finger. Tiny gem caught in a swirl of gold.

On my way by train, I had texted you: I’m going for an off-duty model look.

We had onigiri at 279, then wandered around North Melbourne.

At Seven Seeds café, you took a photo of me, my cheek in one hand. The orange slice in my Coffee Old Fashioned complemented my T-shirt. I would later make it my profile photo on all social media.

Two weeks later, in early April, you returned to London. We messaged every day and video-chatted weekly.

From my evening walks, I sent you photos of a black rabbit and autumn leaves, tiny yellow weed-flowers, luscious sprays of golden wattle, and a single glowing streetlight.

In May, I bought a ticket to visit you in October for a month.

*

It’s easy to write about falling in love. It’s less easy to write about day-to-day love.

*

The following May, I visit for three and a half months.

This time, the permanency of being in a relationship stretches dauntingly before me.

A few weeks into my visit, I tell you that I like being in a relationship with you, but I also miss being single. 

You say that it’s also an adjustment for you, that you haven’t been in a relationship for a while. I’m like a crystal ball, held close to your chest, that you’re trying your best to protect.

“Like an egg?”

“Yes, it’s like I’m trying to protect an egg on a spoon.”

“In a three-legged race,” I add.

We laugh. I’m relieved to hear that you feel similarly about maintaining our independence.

*

It would be simpler to not have to worry about someone’s feelings.

It would be simpler to not have to worry about the possibility of hurting someone’s feelings.

*

In London, I learn to read the clouds for signs of rain.

We are learning each other’s habits, preferences, and importantly, communication styles.

*

You make us toast for dinner—one slice topped with zucchini fritters and hummus, another with anchovies and chunky garlic butter—and soft-boiled eggs. 

You want to give me the ‘prettier’, intact egg but I steal the imperfect, dented one.

Later, we laugh about this. The silly, inadequate ways we express love.

You make bánh xèo, crispy turmeric crepes filled with thin slices of pork belly, bean sprouts and fresh Vietnamese herbs. Your mother making them for you and your siblings is a favourite childhood memory.

I make bak kut teh, a clear, aromatic broth of pork belly and tofu puffs. It reminds me of home.

We share ‘old cheese’ in Amsterdam, tanjia in Marrakech, and bread dumplings in Prague.

I begin to carve out a life of my own. New friends. Book and art events. A day trip to Jane Austen’s House. Catching the number 37 bus to Putney Heath.

Towards the end of my visit, your housemate gives me a short-sleeved sheer yellow blouse. One button, which I presume lost, has been replaced with a tiny gold flower.

I tell her the story of our third date and how I used to avoid yellow, thinking it unflattering.

Now, I realise there are many shades of this hue.

Shu-Ling Chua is a Melbourne-based essayist, poet, and zine-maker. Her essay collection, Echoes, jointly won the Small Press Network Book of the Year Award. Shu-Ling’s work has appeared in Peril Magazine, Meanjin, Rabbit, 4A Papers and elsewhere. She’s interested in unexpected beauty, small joys, and quiet epiphanies. ‘Like an Egg on a Spoon’ was recently published in her zine Low-key Love.






Image: Shu-Ling Chua