“Pian’erchuan” this restaurant is a local gem.

However, by six o’clock in the evening, the dining hall was already full of diners who had come from far and wide, and most of the private rooms on the second floor were also lit up.

Yezi and his eldest brother had been waiting in the wind for about ten minutes - their eldest brother, who had asked them to work in the city before, had reserved a table for them, but they couldn’t find the name “Ye” in the densely filled white book at the front desk - unexpectedly, they were stood up on their first meal in the city. According to the waiter, they would have to wait for another two or three tables of guests to be seated. The eldest brother found a newspaper from nowhere and read it murmuringly, but Yezi was completely indifferent to the news in the newspaper. He leaned on the glass outer wall with his right hand, staring into the restaurant with hesitation. The golden spring rolls, steaming hot river fish, and sweet wine yeast balls, the aroma of the many delicious appetizers almost pierced Yezi’s nose through the glass.

“‘Number 49, please.’” Yezi’s ears perked up as he heard the waiter calling out numbers and immediately poked his eldest brother next to him, “Is it our turn?”

After being seated at the table by the pillar, Yezi felt a sense of relief in his heart and the anxiety he felt before gradually disappeared. The waiter brought the menu, Yezi glanced at it hastily and pushed it over to his eldest brother sitting opposite, to which his eldest brother shook his head reproachfully.

Yezi began to turn his head to look at the neighboring diners, a father with a young girl, around the same age as Yezi. The father had a completely bald head, which made Yezi inexplicably want to chuckle. The father’s sunglasses were folded and placed on the edge of the table. The father and daughter seemed to have already ordered their food and were staring vacantly while waiting for their dishes.

In the meantime, the eldest brother had already ordered the food, and called the waiter over, whispering softly, “Serve us some rice early, thank you.” Eating dishes with congee was a long-standing tradition in Yezi’s family.

With a creak, the glass door opened slightly, just enough for a lady dressed in a green cheongsam with gold trim, wearing silver earrings and carrying a small leather bag to squeeze in. As soon as the lady entered, she strode straight to the empty table on Yezi’s right.

“Young lady, bring me some tea,” she clearly addressed the waiter who was still busy arranging dishes on the nearby table. When the waiter tried to hand her a menu, she added casually, “No need for a menu, I know all the dishes here by heart.” Yezi admired her, as it was her first time there, and yet this lady seemed to be a regular customer.

“Give me a plate of white-cut chicken, and a plate of lettuce…”

“We don’t have lettuce.”

“How is that possible? I just had some the last time I came here.”

The waiter suddenly remembered, “Oh, we have stir-fried vegetables.”

“What kind of stir-fry?”

“Stir-fried vegetables, that is, Chinese cabbage,” the waiter patiently explained.

“Oh, Chinese cabbage, right, that’s fine, just that.”

The waiter smiled and shook her head, then went to take the lady’s order. Before leaving, the lady turned back and raised her hand, “Hey, miss, was this cup of water left behind by the previous customer?”

“How could it be water that someone else drank!” The waiter felt the lady was acting a bit unreasonable.

“I didn’t see you pour water for me.”

“If you don’t believe me, ask the customer next to you.”

Yezi didn’t pay attention to when that cup of water arrived, she wanted to explain for the lady, but she couldn’t find the right words to say. However, the lady seemed to be taken aback by this statement, the girl took the opportunity to add, “I would throw away any cup that was used by others, don’t make things up, auntie.”

“Oh, okay, I wasn’t making it up, I probably didn’t notice.” The lady seemed to lose interest in the situation, muttered to herself, turned around, picked up the cup, took a sip, nodded, as if something was confirmed.

With back and forth banter, the dishes for Yezi and the father-daughter table arrived. The waiter first brought a plate of pan-fried dumplings to the father and daughter, followed by a plate of white-cut chicken, sea cucumber, and the seafood congee that Yezi’s eldest brother had ordered. Yezi cheered up with excitement and picked up her chopsticks, unsure which dish to try first. Seeing this, the eldest brother reached over, took Yezi’s bowl, and scooped half of the congee for her.

Suddenly, a thunderous voice came from the left, “Hey, waiter, why have those who came after us been served congee already, but we haven’t received ours?” Yezi felt a pang of uneasiness, raised an eyebrow slightly at his eldest brother, who was absorbed in reading the newspaper and enjoying his congee, so she stayed silent and continued to eat her congee in peace.

“Oh, sorry, we’ll bring it to you immediately.” The waiter gestured apologetically to the father of the girl.

Before the waiter could turn around, the lady on Yezi’s right began to complain in a soft voice, “I’m starving, hurry up and bring me a dish, any dish will do, white-cut chicken, Chinese cabbage, anything, quickly.” The waiter seemed a bit weary but still smiled and nodded, “Alright, coming right up.”

The plate of white-cut chicken in front of Yezi remained untouched, and the kind-hearted Yezi even thought about offering it to the lady, so she could fill her stomach first. However, she hesitated, thinking that the lady would probably decline, so she suppressed the urge.

Vinegar-flavored shrimp, crab meat dumplings… Yezi couldn’t count how many dishes had been served, but at this moment, she was more concerned about when her “friends” on the left and right would get to eat their food.

To her delight, not long after, the father and daughter began to enjoy their seafood congee, but the lady on the right still had no dishes on her table. The lady drank her tea absentmindedly, gazing lazily at the streetlights outside, as if she couldn’t be bothered to argue with the waiter anymore. Yezi felt uncomfortable, as the lady was a regular customer, and the restaurant should have been more considerate by making her wait so long.

“Here you go, auntie!” The waiter’s crisp voice was like a gentle rain awakening Yezi from her thoughts. The waiter brought a large plate with white-cut chicken, steamed rice, and stir-fried Chinese cabbage. Oh, there were also a plate of fried dumplings! “This plate of dumplings is a compensation for you, we are really sorry for making you wait this long.” The waiter’s face was filled with a genuine smile, which made the lady also relax and chuckle, “It’s okay, thank you.” Yezi felt inexplicable joy, and her appetite returned.

“Wasn’t this dish served earlier,” the father on the side looked up at another waiter, pointing to the plate of fried dumplings in his hand. “This plate is also for you, the congee was served too late earlier.” Yezi took a bite of a Xiao Long Bao and found that the filling was still the same, the soup was still the same, but somehow, it felt warm and sweet.

October 9, 2020, at Fudan University