Eric Fong’s relationship with his family hasn’t been great ever since he came out of the closet, but he owns a dim sum restaurant that’s quite successful, and he’s happy at least one aspect of his life is proceeding smoothly. Granted, his life would have been much better if he had a boyfriend because then he wouldn’t feel quite as lonely. However, overall, he’s satisfied with his life.
Benjamin Wen is the owner of The Crossroads Diner. Eric thinks Benjamin is cute, and something about the owner of the diner is intriguing. Most importantly, Benjamin prepares food that tastes identical to the ones Eric’s late maternal grandmother used to make for him. There are other aspects of the diner, such as the strange customers who gawk at Eric and only stare at their food and drinks instead of enjoying them, that he considers to be fascinating. He visits the diner night after night, hoping to solve the mysteries behind its existence. Along the way, he finds himself falling for Benjamin. But Benjamin is hiding quite a few secrets from him. Things Benjamin seems unwilling to reveal.
Can Eric and Benjamin’s relationship survive in spite of the secrets? Or are they destined to go their separate ways?
He rushed toward the entryway and grabbed the piece of red cloth that was draped over it before pushing it to the side. He smiled as he entered the diner. All of the lingering anger toward his mother dissipated right then and there. Similar to what had occurred on the previous evening, Benjamin and all of the other customers inside the diner immediately and simultaneously stared in his direction. That was rather creepy, but Eric was too delighted that he was somehow lucky enough to be able to find the diner even though it had apparently moved away from its original location. He waved at Benjamin and approached the circular counter. He also ignored the tinkling of the bell, along with the fact that all of the other customers suddenly glanced away from him. The whole thing was strange, but Eric was more focused on Benjamin at the moment.
Eric grinned widely at Benjamin in response. “Hey, Ben.”
“Of course. I told you I would, didn’t I?”
Benjamin gaped for a second or two before he nodded. “Uh, yeah. Sure.”
Eric chuckled. “What? Am I not welcome at the diner?”
“No -- I mean, nothing like that. You’re ... uh, allowed to be here.”
“Gee! Thanks! You sounded so enthusiastic.”
Benjamin blushed. Or maybe Eric had imagined the hint of redness that colored Benjamin’s cheeks and neck because it faded away in an instant.
Benjamin seemed stunned for a moment. Then he beamed.
“I’m sorry. Have a seat, please. I’ll be right with you.”
Eric nodded. “Take your time.”
After that, Eric headed toward an empty table and sat on one of the chairs before he studied the other customers carefully. He was confused when he realized that none of them were consuming anything even though they all had food and drinks in front of them. Then his concentration burst when Benjamin appeared right in front of him. He was surprised when Benjamin placed a medium-sized bowl of porridge on top of the table and offered it to him. Benjamin also placed a teapot and a cup down next to the bowl.
“Chrysanthemum tea,” Benjamin explained while pointing at the teapot. Then she gestured at the bowl. “That’s chicken porridge. Be careful. It’s steaming hot.”
Eric was taken aback. He had no clue how Benjamin appeared to know exactly what he required even though he hadn’t ordered anything, but he was thankful. He stirred at the bowl of porridge curiously when he noticed the thin slices of century egg on top of it. He was even more amazed when the liquid yolk of an egg seeped through the bottom of the porride all the way to the top, staining a part of the porridge into a light yellow color.
“My late maternal grandma used to --”
“I know,” Benjamin interrupted.
Eric was shocked to hear that. “You know?”
Benjamin’s cheeks reddened for the second time that evening. “I mean, I guessed. You had mentioned her quite a bit last night.”
Eric couldn’t remember doing that exactly, but he played along anyway. “Oh, I see. Cool. Thank you for the porridge and tea.”
“You’re welcome. Enjoy them!”
“I’ll stop by your table later. I need to take care of the other customers.”
After that, Eric concentrated on the porridge. He also enjoyed the chrysanthemum tea very much. Similar to what had occurred with the food from the previous evening, he discovered that the taste of the porridge that night reminded him of the one his late maternal grandmother had often cooked for him many years ago. Even the chrysanthemum tea had a light hint of honey, which was exactly the way his late maternal grandmother had prepared that particular beverage before. As he slowly swallowed spoonfuls of porridge and sipped on the tea, he looked around. He noticed Benjamin moving from one customer to the next. He had no idea what Benjamin was saying to the other customers, but some of them were crying. Surprisingly, a short while later, a few of them had that contented expression. Eric wondered in silence if Benjamin was also acting as a counselor or therapist in addition to being the owner of and chef at the diner. It wasn’t any of his business, though. Hence, he decided to focus on his porridge and tea instead.