My Forever After (II)

I sit up in bed and look over at Afreen as she peacefully sleeps in the adjacent bed. Murderous thoughts infiltrate my mind as I replay the incident from earlier that afternoon…

<flashback: near death experience>

I know I’m in trouble the moment that I hear Afreen’s voice. The latest victim of her endless chatter is our diving instructor who is yet to notice that I’m missing. Caught under our diving glass boat, it’s not long before I realise that being rescued is now out of the question – I need to fight for survival.

What seems like an eternity later, having freed myself from the clutches of the deadly Red Sea, my hands firmly grip the stainless-steel boarding ladder like a boa constrictor choking its prey. As I pause to catch my breath, I feel slightly deflated by the thought that I hadn’t actually turned into a mermaid under water (yes, a childhood dream that I still carry around as a soon-to-be thirty-seven-year-old adult), but I’m also secretly excited by the unexpected adventure. I quickly turn to the girls and tell them that I almost drowned. Tamara’s reaction is of natural shock, but I notice a wave of confusion wash over Afreen’s face. Pausing to gather her thoughts, she replies: ‘oh… actually… I saw you from the glass below… and did wonder why you were under the boat…’.  My eyes widen with horror as the tinge of excitement swiftly exists my body. ‘Wait. You saw me struggle UNDER THE BOAT… and you didn’t think to raise the alarm?!!!’ I snap back. ‘Erm… well… I thought you were having fun… oops, sorry…’ she says, looking appropriately guilty.

<fast-forward: planning a murder>

As I survey her still body that night, I wonder whether suffocating her with a pillow will be as easy as it seemed in the ‘90s Bollywood movies. Pillow in hand, as I contemplate my next move, my phone buzzes. ‘Oh, fuck right off’ I whisper irritably, as I notice a message from Ahmed. We haven’t spoken in over six months, what could he possibly want now? As I start reading his messages, I’m instantly puzzled – he is being overly nice and apologising for hurting me. Hurt? Why would I be hurt? ‘Can we please be friends – like, as in just friends, I do really like you…’ his message reads. I’m utterly confused… we weren’t exactly dating in the first place, but I neither have the energy nor the crayons to explain this to the dimwit. His message has irked me though. My body temperature starts rising in response to my growing rage and I fire back a furious response. ‘Frankly – no. I invest in my friends. I take friendship seriously. Who are you even? Who is the real Ahmed??! I can’t figure you out, so no, sorry – we can’t be friends’ I say without stopping for breath. Of course, I’m aware that his vocabulary is limited to a handful of two syllable words, so I’m not expecting a reply.  Within a matter of minutes however, Ahmed manages to answer all my questions with four simple words…

‘Ok… basically, I’m married’.

 If you haven’t read part 1 of the story – catch it here.

<ten months earlier>

It’s definitely not a date this time I tell myself sternly as I pull on a casual printed dress that shouts ‘zero effort’. Minutes before I leave, I receive another change of location request because he is running late. I take a long slow hiss of indrawn breath and wonder why I’m entertaining this moron. The pervert within me however raises a knowing eyebrow but I quickly dismiss the internal suggestion that his dimples may have something to do with it. Hot or not, there is no denying that this man’s personality is as disappointing as a grey sprinkle on a rainbow cupcake.

I make my way to Aldgate East wondering how our non-date will go. I chuckle to myself as I imagine turning up in a bridal outfit to freak him out. As I exit the station and catch a glimpse of his lushness in his blue checked collarless shirt, my irritability is swiftly overthrown by an avalanche of lust as he once again grows on me like a cluster of E. coli on room-temperature ground beef. As the mischief in my eyes collides with his, I know that staying annoyed will be a struggle.

We walk to Big Moe’s American-themed Diner where I strategically opt for a kids meal to make space for my favourite dessert – an orgasmic fresh Belgian waffle with a drizzle of delightful Nutella… ummm…  I’m somewhat surprised by the energetic pull between us which seems to run deeper than the physical attraction. The conversation flows like a dream and as I make my way home that evening, I begin to wonder how this gorgeous, funny, one-dimpled, intelligent fine piece of ass can be as dull as dishwater over messages.

Over the course of the next three months, Ahmed and I meet several times. I’m never quite sure what to make of him, but I do conclude that he is definitely not dating material – his communication skills around our meetings still give the impression that he has precisely one brain cell that dings arounds in his skull like a Classic Windows 98 screen saver. Frustrated by his communication style, I think of cutting him loose on more than one occasion – but just then we meet, and I’m reminded of how insanely in sync we are.

It takes a while before I see the first sign of vulnerability. One evening in Spring, between our silly chats, he tells me about his father’s recent fall and his worries about his parents’ health. I also let my guard slip a quarter of an inch as his concerns echo my own for my parents. We spend the rest of the evening having our first mature adult conversation and I begin to wonder whether I have really misjudged him – that is of course until I don’t hear back from him for several months.

Fast-forward: October 2019

‘Ok… basically, I’m married’.

I place my phone face down on the bed and exhale. Thoughts of killing Afreen now seem a distant memory as I try to process what I’ve just read. Fuck. The lack of consistency over messages now makes perfect sense – how did I not figure it out?! Deciding that he was simply not worth my time, I grab my phone to block his number. I’m surprised to see that I have a further 64 unread messages from him – so his vocabulary does extend beyond ‘hey hey’, ‘haha’, ‘lol, joker’ and ‘sure thing’ – the utter prick, I mutter under my breath as I lean back and start reading through his messages.

As I get to the end, I have an uneasy feeling that he really isn’t in a good place. Don’t you dare even think of being kind to him says the mean girl in my head… don’t you fucking dare. Wait, hear me out – I try to reason with her. He didn’t have to reach out several months later and admit this… what if he is suicidal – do I really want to push him over the edge?! I lower the mean girl’s volume in my head and remind myself that I wasn’t emotionally invested so I could afford to be kind. ‘Well, I won’t spell out how fucked up this is, but right now… I think you need a friend’ I quickly type and hit send before she has time to intervene.

‘Dude – no, just no’ replies my close friend Binal when I send her a WhatsApp message to tell her what just happened. ‘But he has a child – what if he is suicidal?’ I say. ‘You can’t take on another project. Wasn’t Oskan enough of a project for you? and anyway, you don’t want his wife coming after you’ she says, holding her ground. ‘I hear you B, but this will be a quick one – a few weeks and he will be gone, I just need to make sure he is okay’. ‘Okay fine– you do you, but please be careful’ she says, knowing the stubborn Leo had made up her mind.

Ahmed and I meet at a Costa Coffee shop in Holborn the week after I return from Egypt. I’m not my usual chatty self, and neither is he – he looks troubled. I wrap both hands around my mug of green tea and hold it close to my chest– a sure sign that I’m feeling awkward and uncomfortable. He starts with an apology, which he repeats several times during our conversation. ‘You know, you could have just told me that you were married, practically all my male friends are… that was silly’ I finally say. ‘I know…’ he whispers.

Over the next few weeks, I learn more about his situation. I see raw honesty like I’ve never seen before – it’s almost like watching someone go through a spiritual cleanse. ‘I hate to say this, but I actually think he is good for you’ says Binal when I tell about personal things I’ve shared with Ahmed during our chats. ‘It seems you’re both helping each other and have developed a genuine and rare friendship’ she concludes.

Two years on and I can’t imagine life without him – we are family. Ahmed became the boy best friend that I always wanted – a bit like Martin from primary school who helped me chase racist trashy Trevor (with the dirty nails) through the playground and held him down whilst I kicked him in the shin. He is the type of friend that I can threaten to divorce every Thursday evening, but I know he will still be there to give me his rubbish dating advice on Friday morning. He knows my secrets and boy do I know his… I’ve seen him sad and I’ve seen him happy – making love hearts from herbs on his wife’s pizza (pass me the sick bucket). He is the sort of shameless friend that will buy you an Easter Egg but then eat it himself when he has his 2am craving for something sweet.  Ahmed is the guy that I’ll turn to at midnight with a request for an urgent call back. When he jumps out of bed and calls, I will ask him the most important question he has been asked all year: ‘would you kiss a fat man’s hairy belly to save my life?’.  Of course, he will say ‘no’ and when I get offended, he will say: ‘Bubbles, I know you. If I agree to kiss his belly tonight, tomorrow you will ask me to kiss other parts of his body – so let’s not… now go to sleep’.

Ahmed is far from perfect. He almost always runs late; he refuses to turn down the collar of his coat; he will lose things you get for him – including his personalised guitar pick (but will never admit to not being able to find it); it’s a miracle if he will ever remember your birthday – even though it’s only twenty-four hours after his, and he certainly should not be the person you call after you’ve run over your ex – he will waste time trying to get you to confess to the police rather than grabbing the shovel like your girlfriends would.

Ahmed – you are living proof that good people can sometimes really really fuck up – but I’m glad that I had a moment of madness and chose to stick around. Thank you for being my anchor. Just know that if I ever have to choose between you and Salman Khan, I will at least take three steps towards you before running to Salman Khan – that is how much I love you. Oh, and I know you would kiss every fat hairy belly in the world to save my life…so… whatever.

Happy Birthday Dimpz x        

The Accidental Lawyer

x

My Forever After (I)

‘I’ll call you when I leave’, his message reads. I stop squinting at the TFL tube map and divert my attention to more pressing matters – my outfit. My phone rings just as I’m forcing my second leg through a pair of tights. With posture resembling a dog urinating against a tree, I quickly bunny hop towards my phone. My 80 denier tights however refuse to stretch beyond capacity and my big toe breaks free from captivity. ‘Fuck you!’ I shout at my toe in sheer annoyance, as my phone simultaneously stops ringing. Notwithstanding the autumn chill, a gloss of stress-induced perspiration begins to form across my upper lip as I fight to regain composure and dial his number.    

It’s not the underwhelming Midland’s accent that triggers my alarm bells – that, I sort of expected. It’s something else, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. A few minutes into the conversation – the penny finally drops. Beneath the perfectly spoken words of English, I notice the faintest twang of a Pakistani accent. A sense of unease consumes me, as I involuntary recall the two types of Pakistani men that I’ve met from ‘back home’. The backwards Bashir type with the beady eyes and bushy moustache, who affords a woman less freedom than his sweaty balls roaming free from the shackles of underwear, and then of course the pervy Parvez type seducing guitarist whose idea of a perfect first date involves you strutting your stuff in a G-string, whilst he sips his red wine and serenades you… with the explosion in his pants.

 The question was, which of the two would my date be like?

It’s lust at first sight. I shamelessly wolf whistle at his profile picture as I eye up his connection request on LinkedIn. It’s not often that a Brown boy grabs my attention, but this one most certainly has. My curiosity is piqued not by his perfectly groomed beard or dimples, and certainly not by the dodgy boutonniere pinned to his left lapel – it’s his eyes. Reflective of my own, they’re teeming with mischief.

His first message hits my inbox shortly after I accept his connection request. ‘Hey Hey. How are you?’ he casually asks. A master of shutting down conversation on LinkedIn, I momentarily pause to consider my options. Oh, who am I kidding? I laugh. I’m fully aware that my pervert levels exceed the national average, and this pretty boy has my full attention. I shoot back a reply with the intention of being smoother than cream cheese on his bagel, however, my tranquil ocean of romance is quickly disrupted by the mean girl that lives within. She butterfly strokes her way to the surface at speeds that would put Michael Phelps’ achievements to shame. Taking possession of my (not so) delicate fingers, she forces me to shower him with sarcasm instead. Sighing heavily, I patiently wait for him to run for the hills. Pretty boy however is full of surprises – he seems to comfortably give as good as he gets. He is it seems, a rare combination of hot and witty.

It’s no surprise then that I agree to meet him a few weeks later. I play the obligatory internal game of ‘hmm… is this a date or just a friendly meet up?’ because of course – we’re LinkedIn contacts. I settle on: I really don’t care. It’s early October and I’m just coming out of dating hibernation. I’m an autumn to early spring dater. By Easter, you’re most likely to find my dates buried under my patio. Pretty boy Ahmed is a bit of Midland’s eye candy at most – you know, just to flex my dating muscles.

It’s the day of our meeting and I carefully select my outfit – a black ‘safe’ dress, paired with sparkly boots to tone down the ‘dressed for a funeral’ look – it’s too soon to kill him, I remind myself. Hearing his voice has put me on edge, and I’m now wondering whether I’ll meet a backwards Bashir or pervy Parvez. I give myself a little pep talk to see this date through, but I’m more than prepared for disaster.

My gloomy mood unexpectedly lifts as I reach the underground exit and spot him in the crowd. My pervert levels begin to rise like the tides of a deadly tsunami, as my eyes sinfully linger over his body like a moth in a flood light. ‘Forgive me lord, for I’m about to sin’ I mutter under my breath, as he walks towards me like a lamb to the slaughter.

Almost immediately, I put my foot in it. ‘You weren’t born in this country, were you?’ I ask, with an air of suspicion. ‘No, I came here as a child’ he says, glancing sideways at me as though I’m a halfwit for asking. ‘So where shall I take you then?’ he changes the topic. ‘Chicken Cottage?’ his eyes flood with mischief. ‘Sure… if you want to die’ I mockingly retort, half meaning it.

As Ahmed and I take our seats at the Lebanese restaurant, I notice the male server hovering around him with puppy eyes. Sticking to him like shit to a shovel, I sense that I’m a thorn in his newly aroused flesh. I take the hint and excuse myself to wash my hands, whilst he makes the most of my absence. ‘I want to sit on his lap’ I say as I return to my seat, pointing to the overweight male entertainer. ‘He gives me the Santa vibe’ I add, looking tenderly at the tubby old man. Ahmed throws his head back and cackles like a witch, as he promises to get me Santa’s number before we leave.

‘So, you have a problem with dating younger men?’ he asks curiously whilst folding his right sleeve up to his elbow. He is exactly 364 days younger than me. We have a problem with men full stop – you arrogant little knobheads whispers the mean little girl in my ear. Say it! Say it! she insists. ‘Well, I’m trying to get over the mental block’ I say carefully. ‘Though, I almost didn’t date my ex, as I thought he was three months younger than me’ I add, unnecessarily. Hah! and what a blessing that would have been… tell him that we’d unplug the little shit’s life support machine to charge our phone, she volunteers again. My internal chatter is jerked to a halt as we are interrupted by the server who returns to take our order. ‘My brother and I are ready to order now’ I tell him with a smile. Ahmed blushes, knowing exactly what I’m playing at…

‘He was alright you know…’ I tell my mum that night. She gives me that knowing look as I try to keep a straight face. ‘You think I don’t know you? what did you say to him?!’, she demands. ‘I swear… ok… I told him that I wanted to take him to a male strip show and see naked men with him’.  I bite my lip in anticipation of the profanities that will follow, but to my surprise, she silently buries her head in her hands. ‘Well…’ I say tentatively, ‘at least I didn’t say the word penis…’. Deeply offended, my sister intervenes: ‘err… hold on a minute. You’re not going to a strip show without me’. Throwing caution to the wind, she continues. ‘We’ll take mum too… she can have a lap dance from the Black Stallion… he had a big one’ she chuckles, knowing full well that she has just pushed the final button. ‘SHUT UPPPPPPP badmashon (trouble-makers)’ my mum finally explodes, no doubt wondering where on earth she had gone wrong with us.

The following day, Ahmed and I exchange messages. In conversation, I mention that my mum gave me a telling off for some of the things that I said to him the night before. ‘Your mum??? Why did you tell your mum about me???’ he shoots back. ‘Err… because I tell my mum stuff?’ I say, utterly confused. ‘Ok… you got me worried, because I’m not looking to settle down’ he says, just as I’m boarding my train and lose the signal. Oh, he did not just say that I fume. The bloody cheek of that village idiot – the Midland’s moron!!!! I scroll through our entire conversation trying to figure out what on earth gave him the impression that I WANTED TO MARRY HIM!!! Abso-fucking-lutely nothing! I don’t rest until I catch the signal again and fire off a ragey response: ‘Right…  and you thought I was sitting here in a wedding lehnga (dress) waiting to marry you??? Dude – please’.    

That night, he apologises and explains that he freaked out. I accept his apology – albeit reluctantly. I explain that unless he is Salman Khan, I have no interest in marrying him. ‘Still friends?’ he asks. ‘Yep – without benefits’ I add, just to be clear.

 It doesn’t take long for me to completely lose interest in pretty boy. His communication skills are utterly atrocious, and his vocabulary appears not to extend beyond ‘hey hey’, ‘haha’, ‘lol, joker’, ‘whoop’, ‘oops’, and ‘sure thing’. A short while after our first date, I simply delete his number without a fuss.     

‘Hey Hey’ he says a few weeks later. I roll my eyes, wishing that I had just murdered him instead. ‘Why did we stop talking?’ he asks. ‘Because, I have better conversation with a six-year-old’ I say, matter-of-factly. ‘Oops’ he says, beginning to infuriate me. Despite my refusal, he insists on meeting to smooth things over – bitch please, we’d rather staple our tits to the carpet the mean girl whispers in my ear whilst painting her nails. Eventually though, I agree to a second meeting – and I’m not entirely sure why.

What could this human version of period cramps possibly do to change my mind about him?

How does he become one of the most important people in my life?

… and the only man I’ve ever said ‘I love you’ to.

Until next time…

The Accidental Lawyer

X  

My White In Shining Armour (Part IV)

‘I’m not ready to see him’ I say out loud, as I anxiously pace up and down the 3.6m x 7.4m newly renovated living room. Naturally, I start to think of every reason why this is a bad idea. Dishes. He probably doesn’t rinse his bloody dishes. Unrinsed dishes drip drying in soapsuds have just got to be the ultimate deal-breaker for a Brown girl. Panic seeps through my veins as I realise that I don’t even know what sort of music he listens to – clearly not the ‘90s Bollywood cheese, I sigh. My mind fucks me sideways as I picture him spending his evenings sitting in an armchair listening to Elton John’s Candle in the Wind. His Minton’s bone China dessert plate is carefully embellished with only the finest organic dark chocolate orange, whilst his premium silk napkin slowly teases his paper thin lips. I see him deeply analysing the citrus tang from the ripe Valencian oranges soaring over the base notes of the 70% dark chocolate that leisurely melts in his mouth… Dear God… why am I here?! I momentarily pause my internal livestream to share my meltdown with my friend Seema. ‘My heart is literally about to stop’ I tell her. ‘Take a deep breath’ she calmly instructs. Just then, I receive his message – he has arrived.


For the backstory: see here (part I), here (part II) and here (part III).


It’s coming up to two years and Harry is slowly becoming a distant memory. I’ve convinced myself that any connection I felt with him was all in my head, and I’m more than okay to just leave it at that. We chat briefly over LinkedIn during the summer because his client has an immigration issue that he wants to discuss. I wear my professional hat with ease, not once thinking about who I am talking to. That chapter is closed. Well… that’s what I thought.

Our paths cross again merely three months later. Another work related chat. This time however, we’re edging on friendly. He tells me about his new job as a lecturer at a well-known law school in the Midlands. I on the other hand, think it’s both appropriate and necessary to tell him about my law lecturer that wore his jeans so tight that I’m still haunted by the sight of his ‘package’. ‘Noted’ he says with a hint of amusement. I just can’t stop myself can I?! Before I have a chance to reprimand myself, he does the unthinkable – he asks me if I’m still drooling over Salman Khan. Wait. Let’s pause here for a moment. If by now, you don’t know that I absolutely LOVE SALMAN KHAN, then slap yourself with a wet fish. Hard. My love for the one and only Khan is often abused by those closest to me (aka my stupid sister) with ‘If you love Salman Khan do X’. Yes, I bloody well just do it.

I’d have been pleasantly surprised if a Brown guy remembered my love for Salman Khan. But a gora (White guy)… two years later?! Not one to miss an opportunity to talk about the love of my life, I pour my heart out to Harry and tell him how my poor baby received a five year sentence for poaching a rare antelope – twenty bloody years ago!! Harry of course has done his homework, as he is aware that Salman Khan was released just two days later. Smooth bastard I think, as I grin ear-to-ear. Harry remembers other things too: my obsession with Christmas, my passion for human trafficking cases, and… my late night confession where I admitted that I visualise myself murdering my love interest… oops

A day later, Harry and I move our conversation over to WhatsApp. I immediately check out his display pic. He looks different. I take note of the light stubble caressing his face. His hair is clipped on the sides and shorter on top – perhaps a new style to manage the emerging silver strands. Slender as an axe rod, his long neck makes my vampire fangs sing with sweet joy. Two years on, this guy is still without a doubt, the hottest man I’ve laid eyes on.

A week later I’m in the Midlands for an event at the NEC Birmingham. Harry lives close by, but I don’t tell him that I’m visiting until very late in the day. It seems that he has a lot going on in his life right now, and in any event, I’m not mentally prepared to see him yet. That night though, I’m taken by surprise as he asks me whether the quote on my display pic was about us – it’s about having a rare connection with someone that sparks your soul. Admittedly, my transparency doesn’t extend to this sort of talk – I quickly become guarded. I don’t answer his question, but instead ask: ‘do you think we have a rare connection Harry?’. He doesn’t want to answer either it seems. ‘I don’t know… I am drawn to you… but I’m also scared of your murderous side’, he says, trying to lighten the mood. As I ponder over this weird conversation we are having, he sends another message before going silent ‘yes’. Our connection feels like an elephant in the room and so I decide to admit that it has me somewhat confused. It defies logic and my lawyer brain simply can’t handle the mind fuck.


Harry then addresses the Rhino in the room. He won’t get married again or have any more children. He says he knows it’s something I will want and he doesn’t want to hurt me. I have mixed feelings about this. There are at least four reasons why he and I simply can’t happen, irrespective of his views on marriage. Individually, these reasons are big enough for me to not go there, let alone deal with them collectively. If I’m being really honest with myself, I don’t want to be married – at all, but I definitely want children. However, I haven’t quite figured out how to do this without upsetting those closest to me. The reality of course is that I can’t rule out marriage at this stage, even if the thought does make me want to throw up a little in my mouth. Panic sets in as I realise that he and I really shouldn’t be speaking – it’s a fucking disaster. What the hell was I thinking?! I ask myself. I’m neither interested in getting hurt, nor am I willing to hurt another. I decide to do the adult thing and tell him that we should call it a day. He agrees. His final message to me ends with ‘look me up when you’ve buried him. Harry x’. I collect my thoughts as I purposefully rise from my bed, slowly walking out of the front door. Looking upwards, I address him directly: ‘that was a cruel fucking joke God. I’m not impressed’ I turn around and storm back in, slamming the apartment door like an unhappy teenager. I reach for my Sophie Kinsella book: ‘I Owe U’ and hit Ctrl+Alt+Del on the world around me.

A week later, life is back to normal. I’ve booked a spontaneous trip to Albania. Many of my clients have been trafficked there, so I decide now is the time to check it out. My crazy interpreter Julie, who has become more like family over the years agrees to travel with me. I want to check out the North of Albania – where the alleged blood feuds take place. It’s a few days before my departure and I find myself sitting in the living room at 2am thinking about Harry. Something has been bugging me… I look at his display pic, more specifically at his neck – and I find myself getting increasingly annoyed at him. So I do what any normal adult would do at 2am in the morning. I send him a WhatsApp voice note.

‘Look me up when you’ve buried him. What does that even mean?! Do you ACTUALLY think I’ll be looking you up when I have OLD SAGGY BOOBS?!?!’ I shriek, assaulting my own ears. When I’m done ranting, I tell him that I’m going to Albania. Not one to stand in the way of my own imagination running wild, I’ve convinced myself that I’ll either be kidnapped in the North of Albania or shot by a ghostly looking fat hairy old man in a white vest, trying to enforce Kanun law. ‘Now that I’m here, I should just tell you some important stuff in case I die out there’ I say, with a hint of my usual drama. You’d be forgiven for thinking I was about to say something romantic. No. I take the opportunity to tell him about all the bad stuff I’ve done in life, like spitting in my cousin’s abusive sister-in-law’s tea, and even the accidental witchcraft I did on someone – I may have ruined their life in the process– oops. Nine minutes later as I offload my final demons, I say goodbye. I remind him not to reply to my message because put simply, I like to have the last say. Maybe it’s just a woman thing.

I wake up the next morning having swiftly forgotten about my antics from the night before. I have a message on WhatsApp. Fuck. You idiot, I scold myself as I realise who it’s from. I can’t even blame it on alcohol. Hold on. Why did he reply?! Typical man – can’t take simple instructions. I realise it’s too late now, so I take a deep breath and assess the damage: ‘I was listening to your dulcet tones whilst brushing my teeth… discussing necks, witchcraft… and boobs. Don’t delete it. I want to listen to it again on the train. I’ve buttoned up my jacket at the neck, you vampire’. Oh fucking kill me now I cry out loud. Saggy boobs?! Really woman, what a fucking image to give a guy! I sigh in despair as my cheeks flush red.


We’ve done it again. We’re back in the room with the elephant and rhino slowly suffocating us. This time, two days later, he cracks first. I’m not annoyed at what he is saying, but rather how it is said – like a dick swab. The following morning, I receive a message from him – so it’s a rather hot photo of him in a white shirt, with a message wishing me a safe flight to Albania. I overpower the dirty little pervert in me and fire off an angry message instead ‘are you drunk again?!’. ‘No, I thought I was just being cute’ he responds playfully. The bitch in me however has awoken: ‘cute would be you jumping off a cliff’… and that is the last I hear of him.

This time, not speaking with Harry is easy. He’s actually pissed me off. I consider running him over in a metallic red Range Rover Evoke, and getting the girls to bury him under my patio. If the existing bodies are nudged to a 45 degree angle, I’m certain we can free up some space to accommodate his 6’4 frame. After much thought, I let him live – only because he has children.

The house warming gifts I ordered for Harry two years ago are still residing under my bed. Now, they’re starting to feel like a thorn in the flesh. When I return from Albania (alive and well as it so happens) I decide to throw the gifts away. Bin bag in hand, I take them out and throw them onto my bed. The guilt of throwing away the photo frame with the names of his children however overwhelms me – I can’t do it, even if I am pissed off at him. As I’m assessing my options, I realise that I know where he works. I decide to send the frame to him – he knows from our earlier conversations that I’m holding on to something from two years ago. I pack the unopened frame for delivery, marking it from the elephant in the room. I decide that the other two items, including the personalised hammer can be binned without guilt. But wait. A deeply satisfying evil grin slowly spreads across my face as I have an unprovoked eureka moment. I unpack the hammer from its original packaging and hold it up. I imagine the shock on his face when he receives this at work with a personalised message: ‘Harry, fucking up since 1981’. Two years ago, the intention behind the purchase was simple – I wanted to balance out the ‘nice’ gift with something a little batshit crazy- after all, you can’t be too nice to a man… but now, it just seems so fitting. ‘Mr Nice Guy will shit his pants’, I laugh out loud as my black heart spins like a jubilant ballerina. I’m not surprised when I eventually receive a thank you message, but this time I don’t engage in unnecessary conversation and Ctrl+Alt+Del him from my thoughts.

A few months have passed since we fell out and I’m busy doing what I love – collecting horror stories through my dating adventures. Standing in front of my bedroom mirror one night, with my hairbrush in hand, I notice how much my hair has grown since… I last saw Harry. I’ve not thought about him for a while but I now feel the sudden urge to see him. Shut up I tell myself as I head back downstairs. Planting my bottom on my two seater sofa, I reach for my phone. I have a message from Harry.

Once I’ve lifted my jaw off the floor, I read the message. I learn that he’ll be coming down to London next month and, he wants to meet – or as he puts it: ‘you owe me a drink for that hammer’. My stubborn lawyer brain jumps into action – no fucking way are you seeing him. My heart however tells my head to go fuck itself… and so I reply ‘bring that hammer with you’.

As it turns out, we don’t wait for a month. We meet the following week. What happens when we come face to face? Is he everything I’ve made him out to be in my head? Or just another dick swab… well… I suppose that’s a story for another time.

The Accidental Lawyer

x

A virgin’s tale: “Hold my bum and put it in your mouth”

“Hold my bum and put it in your mouth” he instructs. I close my eyes and try to control my gag reflex as the sour taste of the drizzle sharply catches the back of my throat…


It’s Reena’s hen do, and we’re meeting her friend Kay for a late lunch at Dishoom, in Central London. I’m told that Kay wears a hijab (headscarf). I wonder if I’ll have to be on my best behaviour since my potty mouth can quite easily secure me a place of high standing within the “astagfirullah” club. The literal translation of astagfirullah in Arabic is ‘I seek forgiveness in Allah’ but it’s often used as an expression of disapproval or shame. Usually though, even my good deeds are punished with the likes of aunty Bushra who’ll mutter astagfirullah under her breath as I innocently tell her that sex toys are now up to 30% cheaper at Ann Summers – after all, I’m just trying to look out for uncle Amjad who needs a little more spice than aunty Bushra’s peach coloured Marks & Spencer girdle.

Don’t talk filth I remind myself as we park up and make our way towards the restaurant. One thing I’m not worried about though, is small talk. Unnecessary communication is Afreen’s department. Not one to understand the definition of precise and concise, she will literally talk until your ears bleed. I on the other hand have other plans. I’ll be using this time to assess Kay. She’ll be travelling with us to Reena’s wedding, so if I don’t like her, I guess I’ll have to find a way of nudging her out of the vehicle when it’s moving at 80mph. After all, accidents do happen.

Wowzers, she is tiny I think, as we’re introduced to Kay. At 5’10 with heels, I tower over her 4’11 miniature frame. As we take our seats at the table, I laugh at the thought of Kay fitting snuggly between Tamara’s gigantic boobs which radiate the heat of a fully functioning tandoor. Surprisingly though, it’s not long before we warm to Kay and I quickly drop the idea of pushing her out of a moving vehicle. “We have a spare ticket… for the strip show… if you want to come” I ask tentatively. The girls quickly echo the invitation. Kay casually shrugs and accepts the invite, winning our hearts in the process. Our evening is spent bonding over male nudity and watching Kay squirm in her seat as the host picks her as his target for the evening.

Reena’s wedding venue is Eastnor Castle, a magnificent Georgian castle situated in the foothills of the Malverns. It’s early April, and we’re hoping for two things: hot guys and good weather. We arrive a day early with the bride to-be in the hope of a relaxing stay at a hotel nearby. I’m immediately put on edge by the smell of cheap cigarettes as we walk through the dimly lit hotel car park. The sticky floor in the reception area doesn’t go undetected as I exchange what the fuck was Reena thinking looks with Afreen and Tamara. It’s essentially a pub with a handful of rooms upstairs. I miserably carry my luggage up the navy blue carpeted spiral staircase. As I reach my gloomy room, I silently pray that Reena gets explosive diarrhoea as she tries to consummate her marriage tomorrow. Ignoring the dust on the mahogany furniture, I charge towards the bathroom to assess the showering facilities. Aside from the foul urine smell, it’s apparent that the shower hasn’t been cleaned since the armies of King Harold and William the Conqueror clashed in the 1066 Battle of Hastings. It really is a hotel from hell.

As we later join the other girls in their room, I note that Reena still hasn’t showered. She blames her lack of hygiene on having had a wax yesterday, but we know that if she had it her way, she’d only shower once a fortnight. Taking my role as her bridesmaid seriously, I firmly remind her that she is getting married tomorrow, and her husband to-be won’t appreciate her smelly bits. Afreen and I resort to forcibly walking her to the bathroom and pushing her in to shower. She emerges half an hour later looking somewhat cleaner, albeit wearing a questionable outfit – it’s what she describes as her night ‘maxi’ – if you’re Bengali, you might know what that looks like, otherwise, let’s just call it a hot pink mess.

The next morning Reena, Kay and Tamara leave early to meet the make-up artist at the castle. As Afreen and I enter the bridal suite a couple of hours later, I can’t help but laugh at the sight of Kay standing beside the bed that almost matches her in height. There is talk of Tamara joining Reena and the groom in their bedroom overnight. We can’t quite figure out whether this is a joke or some weird Bengali tradition. Afreen and I exchange confused looks as we make our way to our room, trying hard to shake off the image of Tamara sleeping between the bride and groom.

Our bedroom beautifully captures the views of the botanic gardens and lake. The castle is simply exquisite and for a fleeting moment, I allow myself to think that I could happily get married here – until of course I digest the fact that it would require me to tolerate a man long enough to walk down the aisle. We quickly get dressed and head downstairs to sort out the cupcakes and wedding favours. We’d spent endless hours at Tamara’s house the preceding week preparing bridal cupcakes and putting together these fidgety favour boxes. For the odd sugar almond sweet that dropped on the tiled floor, we placed this in a special favour box for Reena’s evil sister in-law. Of course now that these favours are being placed on the tables, we can no longer identify the box containing the floor-kissed sweets. Oops.

As the wedding commences, Afreen and I are tasked with leading the bride down the red carpeted stairs. Whilst we wait at the top of the stairs, I look down below to get a glimpse of the groom and his family. I’m casually scanning the room for hot men when my eyes freeze on the groom’s face. I suddenly panic. Why the fuck does he look like Jackie Stallone?? How has he managed to look 30 years older than his age?? We all attended the same college in East London and whilst he did look like a gangly Brown boy, what the actual hell has happened to him since college?!! I look at Reena’s beautifully made up face and then down at this Brown Jackie Stallone with a Donald Trump tan. I just don’t understand. As we start walking down the stairs with his bride, I notice how miserable and moody he looks, almost as if he doesn’t want to be here. As I edge closer to him, I see that the orange colour is more prominent on his cheeks – he is wearing tangerine coloured foundation. Once I’ve got over the initial shock, I feel a little bad for judging him superficially, and rather ashamed of my reaction. He’s probably a nice guy I try to convince myself, but for once, both my heart and mind are in sync: NO. There is something about his energy that I just don’t like.

Other than a slight altercation with the evil sister-in-law over the lemon drizzle cake, the reception is going rather well. As the two token Pakistanis at a Bengali wedding, Afreen and I struggle to convince the golden oldies that we really don’t understand their language. Sadly, my knowledge of the Bengali language is limited to “ami tomake bhalobashi” (I love you) and “amar nunu chaat” (suck my dick), neither of which seem quite appropriate for this particular occasion. The wedding fortunately ends on a high and we’re back in the bridal suite trying to pull Reena out of her extremely heavy bridal dress. As Tamara and Afreen pull her wedding dress over her head, Reena bends over to expose her pink lace knickers. I can’t help but to grab the broom in the corner and try shoving it up her exposed arse, as a preview of what’s to come when her cherry is popped tonight – yes, she is a virgin.

Once the bride and groom are in their honeymoon suite, we settle by the fireplace in the drawing room, surrounded by medieval amour, tapestries, Italian furniture and fine art. The night guard who I’m convinced is a ghost, offers to light the fire whilst Afreen and I head upstairs to make tea. As we return with the tea in hand, we see Kay and Tamara nestled up against a wooden panel. I raise an eyebrow as Kay whispers that the bride and groom’s bathroom is on the other side, and they can clearly hear the conversation. Feeling not even an ounce of shame, I pick up a slice of lemon drizzle cake and join the party.

The running tap suggests that they’re trying out the fancy bath tub. Getting Reena in the bath is of course a small miracle in itself, but I’m hoping he’s not trying to pop her cherry in the bath tub. Merely seconds later, I freeze with horror as I hear his words “hold my bum and put it in your mouth”. My lemon drizzle cake makes its way back up as I try to control my gag reflex. The image of this Brown tangoed Jackie Stallone instructing his wife to hold his bum and put his little wiener in her mouth is simply unbearable. Why would she need to hold his bum? I wonder. Does his little jalapeño spin in clockwise direction like a handheld fan? Is it really that small? I try hard not to imagine what his bum looks like, but I’m failing miserably – and it’s not a nice image. Reena soon has us all in hysterics as she says the dreaded words that no man wants to hear: “is it in?”. Suddenly though, the mood turns sour. He starts raising his voice in frustration, because it seems she doesn’t know what she’s doing. The fun is knocked right out of us as she starts crying. I get the sudden urge to hold his bum and stick a cactus plant through his back passage, but we know that it’s not appropriate for us to step in, so we head back to our rooms, unable to make sense of what’s just happened.

As a Muslim woman, I find the patriarchal arrogance of many Brown men deeply disturbing. Screw around, insist on marrying a virgin, and when she isn’t bringing it like a Hugh Hefner Playboy bunny in the bath tub – make her feel like absolute shit. It’s fair to say that this whole virginity obsession irks me – on both sides of the debate. Our Eastern values dictate that we don’t engage in pre-marital sex for a number of reasons: religious teachings, the risk of pregnancy before marriage, oh the shame – “what will people think”, you’re a cheap whore if you do, and my personal favourite: “no man will marry you”. Compare these values to the West where a more casual attitude is taken towards sex, and we soon find ourselves in a bit of a pickle.

My issue isn’t whether you’ve taken a vow of chastity or engage in pre-marital sex – it’s the judgement that comes with it. If you do engage in pre-marital sex, it’s likely that you can’t openly discuss it with your family or even with some of your friends from the Indian subcontinent out of fear of being branded a whore. But equally in the West, you’ll find that telling someone you’re a virgin will be met with “Are you serious – you’re a virgin at this age?!”. Chances are, you’ll be too embarrassed to express your truth, so you let people assume otherwise. Basically, you’re a whore if you do, and a whore if you don’t.

You’ll often hear men like Reena’s husband moan about Asian women pretending to be virgins when they’re not. Yes sweetheart, they do. You can push your 3.7 inch little wiener into your mama’s home baked cherry pie and no one will bat an eyelid, but a Brown girl can have her character assassinated merely for not being able to make round chapattis, let alone her sexual activity. The real question to ask is why a penis is considered so important that it can change who a woman is? Hymen is a tissue, so stop making it a bloody issue. Whether we have cobwebs, cucumbers, or battery operated boyfriends between our legs – it really ain’t your business.

Until next time…

The Accidental Lawyer

X



Dear Diary…

Dear diary,

There is nothing else I can think of except him. First, ages ago I just thought he woz cute but slowly it turned into a crush, then love, but now it’s an obsession. I can’t live without seeing him, he’s like a drug, if I don’t see him I become restless, I see him everywhere….

[2.01.2007]

So here’s a confession – I’m a bit of a hippie-dippie at heart. Eden Phillpotts’ quote ‘the universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper’ wholly resonates with me. I believe in the magic of the universe. My entire being can perhaps be summed up in a few words: the soul of a gypsy, the fire of a lioness, the heart of a hippie, and yes… the mouth of a sailor. My curiosity, coupled with a heavy dose of childlike excitement often takes me to the strangest of places.

8 May 2020: whilst browsing Etsy.com, I stumble upon an unusual listing: “I will draw your twin flame with accuracy within 24 hours”. Bullshit I think, as I read through the ThePsychicArtist’s seemingly exaggerated claims. He promises not only to draw your twin flame but also to provide you with a description of their character. The reviews seem appropriately falsified:

Do I believe that a psychic can draw my twin flame? No. It has scam written all over it. Do I part with $33? Well, of course.

9 May 2020 [09:24]: ThePsychicArtist’s email lands in my inbox with a warning that the sketch should not be shared with anyone else. Alright scam artist I think, almost rolling my eyes into another dimension. A shadow of guilt begins to darken my eyes as I realise that the money could have been donated to a cause more noble than lining the pockets of a fraudster. I mean why else would I not be able to share it if he wasn’t trying to recycle the sketches?

I refuse to let this dampen my spirit, and decide that I will share my latest adventure with my girlfriends regardless. I swiftly justify my purchase in the name of entertainment and shut down the internal chatter. With my morning tea in hand, I head towards my favourite spot in the living room – my two seater leather sofa. Surrendering to my childlike excitement, I quietly chuckle to myself as I hope to find a sketch of a short, fat, balding egghead who was probably named Rizwan at birth.

I’m caught off-guard by the first paragraph. The description in the first sentence alone brings to mind someone that I already know. Knob head, I say out loud, as I shove him firmly back into the ‘do not enter’ zone of my mind. Skimming through the remaining description much faster than I had intended, it’s finally time to view the sketch of this so called twin flame. Once downloaded, I spend all of 10 seconds looking at it before I put my phone away. It’s not anyone that I know.

It’s almost 3pm before I’m willing to admit that something is in fact bothering me. I’m great at blocking things out of my mind, but I just can’t shake this one off. It’s the sort of uneasy feeling that I get when I see people touching the pedestrian crossing button. You see, my theory is that people don’t wash their hands. I’m therefore convinced that pedestrian crossing buttons contain traces of semen. You know… person A touches the button with his unwashed right hand that has just provided a two minutes and twelve seconds service elsewhere. Innocent bystander B touches the button, and picks up a smidgen of semen – unknowingly touching their clothes, face, and God forbid… mouth… ah… salty. I call it ‘the wank button’ for a reason.

Anyway, I know what I have to do. I dive back into my emails to look at the sketch again. Now that I’m willing to be honest, I saw it straight away. I scroll down my WhatsApp contacts until I find the person I’m looking for. Fuck. I see it clearly. The left hemisphere of my brain however requires further evidence – I am after all, a bloody lawyer. I place both images into a collage frame to assess the evidence. One third of the sketch is an identical copy of this man’s WhatsApp display pic. The long neck, the shape of his jaw, the way in which the hair is styled, and every stroke of the stubble accurately mirrors his display pic. It’s almost as if the artist produced part of the sketch using the very same photo, whilst sympathetically giving him a 12ml dose of much needed lip fillers. Turning back to his display pic, I tenderly whisper the most romantic word in my advanced Punjabi vocabulary: panchod, as I mentally screw up the sketch and throw it over the fence for my neighbour’s dog Soca to chew on.

A few weeks later, whilst discussing the difference between soulmates and twin flames, I casually mention the artist to my sister. Like me, she of course isn’t surprised by who the sketch resembles, but is stunned by ThePsychicArtist’s abilities. I see a little glint in her eyes as she toys with the idea of purchasing one herself. “You can if you want to” I say with some uncertainty. I’m hoping though, she won’t. She’s been with Abraham for almost a decade. Despite his head being the size of a watermelon, he’s an alright guy.

“Well he definitely isn’t my twin flame…” she laughs, thinking of Abraham. “He is more like my best friend… he’s loyal… omg maybe he was my dog in a past life… baji [sister] can you have a soulmate dog?” she asks, as though I have all the answers. In that moment, our thoughts turn to the same person – Ali. Pulling a sour face, she says “omg, imagine if it were Ali… eww”. Not one to miss an opportunity, from memory, I theatrically recite a passage from her 2007 diary – aka ‘the love journey’. “STOP” she begs, trying to forget her childhood trauma.

Yes, I’d sneak into my little sister’s room to read her personal diary. No, I have no regrets. More dramatic than an episode of the Love Island, her school life was heavily influenced by Bollywood twists and turns – a bit like a ‘90s Karan Johar movie. It was addictive. Her person of interest was a boy named Ali. How did she feel about him? Well, let’s find out…

<Flashback> January 2007:

“I love him a lot but he duznt luv me, he duznt give me any attention at all, and it hurts my heart! If I got his luv it would mean the world 2 me but I just know that its neva guna happen. Wishes + dreamz neva cum true and hope neva helps! Whenever he luks at me, I feel special, but I no I’m not, when he smiled at me, I felt I woz on top of the world, whenever he takes my name, my body tingles from inside, whenever he talks to me, I feel like I’m in a dream world with just me and him and loads of stars twinkling around us..”

Some days were of course good, when she managed to do her half-pony:

Other days, well… she wasn’t so sure:

One unfortunate day though, she thought she lost the love of her life. Those wicked witches Neena and Jessica, trying to take what should have been hers:

<Fast forward> 9 July 2020:

I receive a WhatsApp message from Abraham. My sister and I celebrate our birthdays soon, and he can’t think of what to buy her. His choice in gifts is questionable at the best of times (i.e. a custom made wooden …. box), but this year it seems that he has really lost the plot:

Newsflash: she… doesn’t… like… Lego.

Less than an hour after I save his ass from being buried under our patio, I look up to see my sister glaring at her phone. Eyebrows tightly knitted, I see the shadow of annoyance wrapped around her face. Oh you plonker, I think, as I realise Abraham has told her what he had been planning on buying her. She looks up. “LEGO?!. If he had wasted £400 on Lego, I’d shank him” she barks at me. “Why does he think spending a lot of money makes a good gift?! He looked up luxury gifts!!! Luxury!!! Me?!!! How does he not know me in 10 years?!”. I hold in my giggle, and message Abraham a new gift idea “relationship counselling?”. He promptly responds “I fucked up lmao”. Oh, he really did.

The next morning she grins at me. I recognise that look – she gets it from me. Sweet revenge. Poor boy, I think. “So baji… last night, I purchased the twin flame drawing. That’ll wind him up” she says, looking satisfied. Ok, I admit. I’m beaming with pride. That’s my girl, I cackle like an evil witch. She doesn’t buy it from the same psychic though, and I suspect that’s because she wouldn’t really want to know.

Hours later we are looking at the photo of this alleged twin flame… we exchange ‘err is this actually Ali?!’ looks. A bit of Google stalking later, we are satisfied that’s not him. She is of course not stupid enough to end a relationship based on a sketch, but she gets her satisfaction when he reacts:

Whilst my sister and Ali don’t end up riding into the sunset together, her ‘love journey’ nonetheless continues to be a great source of entertainment for me. These days, Ali can be found playing football with Abraham and their mutual friends (#awkward). I’m quite certain that Abraham would prefer to substitute the football with Ali’s head… ah… true love.

If I’m not murdered and buried under my patio for splashing my sister’s diary all over the internet… until next time…

The Accidental Lawyer

X

An Eggs-tra Special First Date

“Tonight hahahaha can’t wait” his message reads. “Me neither”, I candidly reply. “How lovely gona be blastz hahahaha”. I chuckle, knowing that tonight certainly could be a blast. Feeling as anxious as a cat on hot bricks, I turn my attention to the most important task of the day – selecting underwear to mark this special occasion. Go for something sexy, I challenge myself, after all, he has booked a hotel for our first night together… 

Clutching my yellow folder in front of me like a shield, I pass through the detention centre security checkpoint. Trying to avoid eye contact, I look like a shady mule smuggling contraband between the cheeks of my buttocks. Of course, I’m not a mule. Despite being a poorly paid legal aid trainee solicitor, I have morals – or perhaps I just don’t want to end up in prison. Today though, I’m just trying to avoid him.  You see, it’s July 2012, and I’m observing the holy month of Ramadhan. I’m really not the ‘holier than thou’ type, but flirting with this beautiful man of dual heritage whilst fasting just seems wrong. It’s also now a little too late to say “hey, I know I was flirting with you 72 hours ago, but can we kinda hit pause on this for a month?” So I do the next best thing – I hide.

The putrid smell once again assaults my nostrils. Heavily diluted disinfectant lingers in the air. That’s not all though – detention centres unleash a particular kind of smell… sweaty nutsacks and male ejaculation combined with foul morning breath and cheesy feet – not that I have person experience of sniffing them of course! Rest assured though, you will leave the detention centre with the smell clinging to you like shit to a shovel.

I’m escorted through several sets of locked doors towards the lifeless and dimly lit legal visits area. Familiar sounds echo nearby.  The usual desi gang of old Indian aunties are dissecting the latest episode of an Indian drama between detainee searches and allocating interview rooms. As I approach the help desk, I’m greeted by one in Punjabi: “kiddan?” (what’s up) she asks. I have a quick natter in Punjabi, and ask for the more spacious interview room no.15, to ensure that my client sits more than a few centimetres away from my face.

The interview with my client concludes within the hour. The shortest lady offers to escort me out. She is busy bombarding me with complaints about her long hours and issues with management when I see him standing by the water dispenser. My eyes innocently scan the flimsy fabric of his white shirt. His body underneath – taut as a drawn bowstring, has my full attention. Aunty looks annoyed as he smiles at me. Oops I think, as I remember. I quickly look away, reminding myself to keep my bloody thoughts clean. “Harami” (bastard) she mutters under her breath as she locks the door behind us. A small chuckle escapes me. “You know the kanjar (pimp) flirts with our [Asian] girls”, she warns as we reach the exit. I tut disapprovingly, trying to suppress a smile.

I battle to retrieve my bag from the locker in the visitors’ room. Amongst the lunchtime cacophony of chatter, I hear his voice. “Done for the day?” he casually asks, leaning against a defective locker. “Yup” I quickly reply, trying to maintain my cool demeanour. “So… take my number?” he suggests with a hint of mischief in his eyes. For fuck sake I think, as I feel the muscles around my vocal cords tensing. With a voice creaking like the hinges of a rusty iron gate, I tell him that my number will soon change so there is no point. As I see the confusion slowing washing over his face, I bolt towards the exit without looking back.

You absolute twat! I scold myself as I board the bus towards the station. Admittedly, I’m more worried about what my friend Priyanka will say. Actually, scrap that. I know exactly what she will say: “Ahhh dude, tu rehn de (you let it be) *loud evil cackle* you’re such an Asian girl!!” No doubt she will compare me to ‘asexual Adeeba’ – our colleague with the brick heels. Fair play, I think. After all, when our Serbian colleague voluntarily gave her number to a ‘hot guy’, I teased her endlessly when we realised the ‘Mr Miller’ she’d been chatting to over WhatsApp wasn’t the hottie she thought, but rather an old Jamaican grandad. Argh, I’ll tell her tomorrow I think, as I board my final bus home. With my head stuck between several odorous armpits, I reposition myself to catch my breath and read the final chapter of what would become my most loved Jojo Moyes book: ‘Me Before You’.  

Freshly showered, I remind myself to empty the pockets of my jeans before putting them in the wash. I reach into the back pocket to retrieve my Oyster card, but with it, out pops a folded scrap of paper. I unfold it to see “Call me” written on it in blue ink with a telephone number. Displeasure immediately consumes me. My personal space is my exclusive territory, and I take its invasion seriously. I’m annoyed at him, but also very confused – how, why and when could he have possibly done that I think, as I fire off an angry message to Priyanka.

“Lollllll. Mate. How do you NOT know when someone touches your arse and puts something in your back pocket?” she replies.  I roll my eyes. Yes, I know she has a point. After receiving several more insults, I agree to send this mystery man a message.

I roll into work the next morning with a face looking like a wet weekend. I know that eventually this will become one of the many jokes that we shamelessly recycle for years to come, but right now, I’m not laughing. Memories of being molested on public transport as a child resurface as I re-read the message I received this morning:   

“My name is Faisal. I saw you at station and I’m on bus behind you”.

Priyanka and I fume over this in our office kitchen. We return to our seats only when reeking Ryan enters the kitchen to microwave his breakfast – Rustler’s microwaveable quarter pounder with cheese and signature sauce.  

Naah dude….. Let’s get him” Priyanka says hours later, putting down the phone to her client’s baby mama. I pause, then laugh. “Err what, a bit like the time you were supposed to ‘get’ arrogant Aron for kicking us out of the training session? Weren’t you supposed to make him fall in love with you and break his heart?! – mate, tu rehn de (you let it be), we both chuckle at our stupid plans.

“We could throw eggs at the saala (Hindi insult)” she perseveres. “Dude – cameras” I warn. “They don’t have cameras behind my station… we can call him there” she suggests. “Should I be throwing eggs at someone in Ramadhan though?” I say. “Should he be touching your arse when he is fasting?” she challenges. Point taken. “You know, that could actually work… my phone line goes off in 10 days… we will need to pull it off within that time…”  

And so the planning begins. That night I tell my mum and sister the plan. My sister jumps with joy: “I’m going too!!” she insists. My mother wants to call him and give him a piece of her mind. “It’s not enough mum” I say determinedly. “Don’t get yourself in trouble” she pleads. “I won’t” I assure her. I rope in additional help from my friends, place an order for essentials: Ali G and Mr Bean face masks, silly string spray cans and plenty of eggs.  

The biggest challenge I think will be to converse with him. Utter grossness aside, it is Ramadan and I want to keep the conversation as clean as possible. Over the next few days though, I realise that the universe is on my side. He is desperate to meet and all I need to do is act like a‘90s Bollywood villager to impress him:

Encouraged, he tells me that my date with him will be different to my earlier dates with burger boys (presumably, that means British guys?):

As we prepare for my date on Friday, Priyanka and I wonder how far we can push fuckboy Faisal. I make the suggestion that we book a hotel room for our first date. Faisal, (sadly) a Muslim observing the month of Ramadhan agrees without hesitation. I ask him to send me a copy of the reservation to an email address that I create using an alias. As he dreams of giving me a “full body massage” and “rhymr” me to sleep (?!) in our hotel room, I wonder whether this ‘Pure Punjabi Munda’ will be fasting. Reeking of desperation, he seems to buy my story of needing to meet him behind the station without any real problem.  

Despite everything going smoothly, on the day of our date I feel nervous – there is potential for so much to go wrong. I decide to trade my sexy underwear set for more a comfortable mismatched one; this certainly was not a day for bra straps to be slipping and sliding.

After work, my friends gather in my living room to discuss the final plans. I am due to meet him after our fast opens today. Despite my mum’s motherly reservations, she tells me she is proud of us. My friends get to work on removing the sunroof to ensure that we have all angles covered, whilst I select my favourite ‘look’:

It’s a wet summer in England, and as we reach our location, we don’t see our target. My friend Nadia drives her bright blue Renault Clio up and down the road several times. We park up to avoid attention, and split the eggs and silly string cans between us. Moments later, we see movement. Nadia starts the engine and makes her way towards the target. Everyone is on edge. I really need to pee I think to myself. We pass the target once, but with the slight drizzle of rain and it getting darker, no one can be sure it’s him. He looks around as though he is waiting for someone. It must be him we conclude. Eggs in hand, we prepare ourselves for the moment of truth. I’m hovering near the sunroof with my legs crossed so I don’t pee myself. As I’m ready to jump out with Mr Bean firmly planted on my face, “WAIT THAT’S NOT HIM” my friend shouts. Oh fuck I think, as I quickly sit back down, facepalming Mr Bean.

This was too good to be true, I sigh, with an edge of disappointment. Just then, he appears on the horizon. “Hold on, he is with someone” Priyanka shrieks from the front seat. We watch in amazement as another guy with fuckboy Faisal hides behind a car. Was he there to watch… or something even worse? If there was ever a moment where I was sure of what we were doing, this was it. Bound by determination, Nadia fires up the engine one last time…

Both Faisal and his friend are showered with eggs and silly string. As they both run down the secluded road, we give them chase, ensuring every egg meets its intended recipient. As they run out onto the main road, we pull up to rest and digest. I send Faisal one last text, telling him what a disgusting despicable pervert he is, ending it with “enjoy your hotel room – I’m sure it will be blastz burger boy”. His final message though comes as no surprise:

As we drive home, there is one last thought troubling Priyankya… “But dude…. He didn’t even bring an overnight bag……”

 “…..or a toothbrush” I add, with a shudder.

The Accidental lawyer

x

Lifting the veil

Today’s post takes a little detour from my usual dating stories. Last week, my sister ‘had a moment’. Not a stranger to mild anxiety, she suddenly panicked at the thought of turning thirty in three years and not having done all the things she was ‘supposed to have done’. Having considered her list of things to do, I asked what would prevent her from doing these things after she turned thirty.

Nothing it seemed – but thirty was ‘old’… and naturally, it’s all downhill from there…. right?

Wrong.

My thirties have been my best years. As a teen preoccupied with sticking mayo filled condoms on school fences (thank you Keeley for stealing your parents’ condoms), I’d predicted that thirty-five would be my best year.  Thirty-five really has been my best year, but not because I finally got that J.LO body, or that my smile suddenly gave me the softness of Kylie Minogue. No, I didn’t even bag myself George Clooney – he clearly got the wrong human rights lawyer. My body still does its own bloody thing, my sharp vampire teeth continue to make me look more murderous than Count Dracula, and I’m still convinced that the love of my life got stuck in a condom.

So why has thirty-five been amazing I hear you ask? Grab yourself a coffee and allow me to take you on a journey…

I was eleven when I first experienced the feeling of vulnerability. Travelling to Pakistan to visit family, I was immediately captivated by the vibrant and populated streets of Punjab. Whether it was flying multi-coloured kites with my ‘cousins’ or developing an unhealthy obsession with spotting excrement in the malodourous open gutter – I was truly fascinated. I quickly warmed to my father’s maternal relatives, effortlessly basking in the light of their affection. My father’s uncle, affectionately known as “abba” was a sweet old man with hygiene issues.

Donning his gigantic brown ‘chaddar’ (shawl) that had no doubt escaped a wash since the ‘60s, you’d find him indiscreetly spitting out his phlegm on every available surface – I soon realised that walking around without your slippers had consequences. Despite the need to hold my breath to avoid abba’s nauseating stench, or playing hopscotch around his phlegm, I was thrilled to be there.

One evening, I discovered that within a week, my favourite uncle was moving to Dubai for work. Irate that he was leaving, I refused to talk to him for several days. The night before his departure, as usual, I joined my female cousins in the communal room to sleep. My uncle came in to talk to me. Stubbornly, with my back to him, I refused to talk. To an observer, what seemed like an uncle cajoling his niece, made an eleven-year-old suddenly very uncomfortable. Frozen with fear, I wondered why he was getting too close – was I, an eleven-year-old child imagining his hand hovering around my growing breasts..?

The pattern of blaming yourself, even at eleven is not unusual. Was it my fault? Should I have listened to my mother when she insisted that I slept in her room? Had I not been stubborn, could this have been avoided? Was I just being disgusting and making this whole thing up? What would happen if I told anyone? He called me ‘daughter’ though, so I must be wrong, I somehow convinced myself.   

Over the years, although the characters in the story would change, the storyline, as I soon discovered, would remain largely the same. At twelve, the Indian man standing behind me would find his erection on the bus, whilst an uncle’s hand would miraculously find itself resting on my thigh when no one else was around. Making excuses to dodge his increasingly frequent calls, I soon learnt that the heavy breathing that made my skin crawl was, in fact, him masturbating on the other end of the line. It’s not that my parents wouldn’t have believed me had I reached out; they would. My father would have murdered anyone that hurt his baby – but I felt ashamed and angry at myself for not being able to protect myself; I hated that I had no voice.  

Around this time, a death in our family significantly changed the dynamics at home. Despite my tender age, emotionally, I felt it was time for me to step up and make sure that we never fell apart again. Naturally maternal, I raised my sister – not because my parents were incapable, but because I’d quickly learnt what was out there, and would not allow her to experience what I, and many other young girls my age were experiencing. I found a mute button for my own emotions and a headstrong, protective and feisty Leo emerged. This was a pivotal moment in my life – my ‘resting bitch face’, death stare and unpredictable angry outbursts had these dirty bastards running for the hills.

Now aunty Bushra down the road will have you believe that you pass your sell-by date before your twenty-first birthday. Expect trouble on the horizon if you’re not willing to dress up like a Christmas tree and marry cousin Bashir from the pind (village). Despite his unsightly monobrow and ‘Matric fail’ qualifications (i.e. high school failure), cousin Bashir is a good catch. He has his very own Ya’maa (Yamaha motorbike) and speaks some words of English, even if it is just “do you friendship me”. The fact that cousin Bashir doesn’t understand the concept of underwear shouldn’t phase you though, as once he gets his UK spouse visa and skips through Heathrow terminal 3 straight into your arms, you can devote your entire life to pulling that wedgie out from his hairy ass crack.

As a British Muslim woman, you are likely to spend your twenties making sense of where your values lie between the East and West. Generally, the usual narrative is that “good Muslim girls don’t have boyfriends”, so many, but of course not all, don’t. You enter your twenties and realise that cousin Bashir who will no doubt have a remarkable career at your local Chesters Chicken shop, is really not happening. You discover that you are now at a severe disadvantage – your parents expect you to suddenly pull a “good Muslim boy” out of your ass when you barely know how to communicate with the opposite sex, and rest assured, aunty Bushra will be by your side – tutting at your inability to settle down.  

Whilst my twenties didn’t quite follow this narrative, it’s been the norm for many British Muslim women I know. My early twenties were spent rebelling against my overly conservative relatives and breaking free from the “you can’t do this because you’re a woman” shackles – women don’t jump out of planes? You watch me do it would be my answer. Fortunately, my father, himself a rebel for marrying a woman that was not his blood relative, never felt the need to dictate my life – however, this didn’t stop others from trying. I was largely disliked by my relatives because I’d found my voice and would not think twice before telling the aunty that had me physically locked up in her house for 4 hours until I ‘listened’ to her advice on marriage – to fuck right off. My motto soon became – “if you hate me then grab a ticket and join the back of the queue”. 

My mid-twenties were overshadowed by a toxic relationship that left me drained, depleted and distraught. Gaslighting was the hallmark of this relationship, but at the time, my ego would never have allowed me to reach out to anyone, or admit that I was being subjected to emotional abuse – obviously because I was invincible and ‘in control’. The end of this relationship saw me enter the online dating arena. I met some good guys, but my self-allocated responsibilities wouldn’t allow me to pack up and leave. I mean, even if I had married that guy living just an hour away, how would I get home at 3am when my mother was having an anxiety attack over throwing an old pair of shoes in the bin? Who would go through the outdoor bins in the early hours of the morning in the midst of winter, like a diseased rat just to calm her down? Yep, that was my job – and actually, I really didn’t mind, even if my hands would emerge covered in spoilt chapatti dough from the night before last.

So what changed in my thirties? Well firstly, I found my passion in working with survivors of human trafficking. It gave me a sense of purpose and allowed me to channel my anger into making a difference to the lives of those that were vulnerable. My job became my biggest blessing. I learnt a lot from my clients. Their immeasurable strength and willingness to carry on in the face of adversity really put things into perspective for me. I realised that I was exactly where I was required to be and that every experience carried a life lesson; my faith in God became unshakeable – I knew he had my back.

My mother’s anxiety became more manageable when I realised that mollycoddling her like a 4-year-old wasn’t helping her. My sister had grown up and was sensible (though sometimes too sensible), so we worked on making her more independent. These days, she is a social butterfly and doesn’t really give a fuck about us mere mortals – she is the queen of social media, and yes, even has a bloody ‘tick tock’ account!

Freeing myself from some of my responsibilities has given me plenty of time to self-reflect. At thirty-five I now know that it is okay for my friends to know who I really am; and it turns out that they love the filthy-minded, imperfect, confused and sometimes wrong me (though for the record – I’m never wrong). I’ve learnt that we all have our own struggles and reasons for being where we are; there is no judgement between us. I know that my friends will be there if I struggle to cope, but most importantly, they will bring that shovel to bury the next body under my patio – without question.

At thirty-five I finally appreciate that happiness is a choice and that I am responsible for my own happiness.  I understand the need to keep ‘destination addiction’ – the idea that happiness can be found somewhere other than the present, at bay. Happiness does not lie in my next relationship, job or my shrinking hips, though the latter is open to debate.

There are of course areas of my life that are still surrounded by uncertainty. I’ve recently come to realise that marriage really isn’t for me. My biological clock, however, issues me with daily warnings, because despite my frequent jokes about babies being “cum pets”, I want to be a mother. As much as I’d love to head down to my local sperm bank for a donation from a gorgeous gora, as a Muslim woman trying to keep the balance between the East v West, the odds on that are still against me. I know, however, that one way or another (I’m creative like that), I will be a mother. I am destined to raise good children – a son that will be worthy of being someone’s husband, and a daughter that doesn’t have to live in fear of uncle Amjad making her uncomfortable because mummy and her aunties will have buried the bastard under the patio before he can even think of it.

As a single woman in your thirties, it’s easy to forget how you got here. It’s much easier to forget the sacrifices that you’ve made. Instead, you convince yourself that fuck face aunty Bushra is right; you are single because you are “too picky” or “stuck in your ways”. No, you don’t need to be the fourth wife of Jamal with the hairy back, because you’re in your thirties. If bucktooth Billy is what your heart desires and you can find a way to make it work – let’s get the bloody non-alcoholic champagne out! Similarly, if no one meets the standards that you have set for yourself – and you are fully entitled to do so, don’t let anyone tell you that you must marry because you are quite capable of being whole, all by yourself.

For what it’s worth, I’m discovering the joy in finally living for myself. I take risks that I wouldn’t have dreamt of taking in my twenties. I still make plenty of mistakes – be it the sporadic raged outbursts, accidental witchcraft (yeah – don’t ask!), still caring for people that I know will shit on me, or allowing myself, now and then, to be treated like an option. At thirty-five though, whilst I continue to learn and grow, I can finally say that I actually really like me. I like that I can be kind, compassionate, generous, full of inappropriate humour and kinda batshit crazy all at the same time. I like that I speak my truth, and am – unapologetically me.  

This post really wasn’t supposed to make it to my blog of dating horrors. In fact, I’ve sat on it for a couple of days, questioning whether I’ve lost my mind in trying to share this with my friends, colleagues and the bloody World Wide Web. However, when the sister you’ve raised wishes that “more women would talk about the positive experiences of being in their thirties”, you know it’s time to lift the veil.

Stay tuned for the next dose of dating disasters, where I explain why my ‘date’ was pelted with eggs..

P.s. You can now follow the blog via email for automatic notifications of new posts – simply scroll down to the bottom and pop your email address in.

The Accidental Lawyer

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A date with Mr Domestic Violence

“So when will we involve your parents?” he asks, without a hint of sarcasm. I shift uncomfortably in my seat, my eyes firmly fixed on his masculine hands. Looking directly into the eyes of this unhinged wife-beater, I clear my throat and say “well…….”

I blame my sister.

Having 392 dick pics in your gallery is not the only reason why you ought to password protect your phone and not share it with a soul. You see, passwords are like condoms. Condoms prevent unwanted pregnancies, and passwords prevent unwanted dates. 

Swiping, or rather ‘window shopping’ for a partner can be a soul-destroying experience. It is, however, a source of ecstasy for those closest to you. Armed with fire and arrows, should your phone ever end up in the hands of these demonic Pakistani cupids, expect disaster. With glinting dark malevolent eyes, they will swipe right at every deranged looking male with a pulse, ensuring that you match only with the finest of Britain’s deadliest criminals.

It was an instant match said my sister, looking guilty. I Usain Bolt across the room to grab my phone, hurriedly clicking on the ‘Muzmatch’ dating app. “Fuck my life” I curse, as I survey the damage. This man made Charles Bronson -Britain’s most notorious prisoner, look like a member of the Gandhi brigade.

Just as my fingers hover over ‘unmatch’, his message arrives:

Wow I didn’t think you would like me!”

I gaze at my screen, guilt slowly seeping through my veins like poison. Oh you’re being such a judgemental bitch! I reprimand myself. And what happened to ‘looks don’t matter?’ and ‘my type is fat, bald and funny?!’ I say, mocking my own voice. Annoyed that adulthood had somehow supressed my evil streak and turned me into a bearable human – I reply. At least I will sleep better at night, I tell myself, letting out a theatrical sigh.

Sadly, the messages exchanged are drier than a fuck with no foreplay. Extracting blood out of a stone, I learn that he works only minutes away from my office. Having a eureka moment, I decide that the best course of action is a quick coffee – within 24 hours. It takes little to convince him, and less than 24 hours later, I sit in my local Costa coffee shop, dreaming of kicking the shit out of my sister.

Mindlessly tapping away at my phone, I lift my gaze to notice a bald, barrel-chested Brown Incredible Hulk gradually making his way towards me. Built like a brick shithouse, his shadow could effortlessly fill a room. I gulp. With my rapid heartbeat turning into tachycardia, my eyes dart towards the exit. As my mind races to secure an escape plan, I hear a gravelly voice vocalise my name. Driving my fight or flight response, my sympathetic nervous system leaps into action. A false sense of bravado immediately consumes me, and I look him dead in the eyes and say “nope, wrong person”.


You see, men don’t usually frighten me. I’m not fragile. My first glance at my date is likely to involve an assessment of how I will ‘take him down’ – should the need arise. Aware of my own physical limitations, I’ll allow my eagle eyes to carefully evaluate every inch of a man’s body for his weak points, whilst of course also taking in other areas of ‘interest’. A kick to the side of the knee may well be enough for a man with gangly legs, whereas a man with a long neck may be the perfect recipient for a strike between the collarbone and the laryngeal prominence. Experience will teach you that whilst a heel palm strike to the nose may be effective on some men, this technique will be redundant on a Pakistani man, as his nose is likely to resemble the deadly Mount Everest – you will get hurt. You could instead aim for a handful of groin, however if your mind is as curious as mine, you will end up in a Q&A session asking why his left testicle feels unusually small.


Despite my questionable belief that I possess the ability to destroy my opponent with a Jackie Chan flying kick, on this occasion, even my fertile imagination refuses to play ball. Finding myself between the devil and the deep blue sea, I turn to mother earth. Grounding myself, I summon up the courage to persevere. Forcing a smile faker than Donald Trump’s orange tan, I extend my hand, allowing this beast to envelope it in his bulky calloused hands.


We awkwardly settle down with our hot drinks and exchange pleasantries. Be nice, it will be over soon, I tell myself encouragingly. The warmth from the first sip of my green tea barely escapes my mouth before I hear the words: “I know your profile mentions that you don’t want anyone with a history of domestic violence, so I’ll just be honest…” He pauses and looks right at me. With fingers tightly wrapped around my mug, I raise my right eyebrow – a bit like ‘The Rock’, silently inviting an explanation.

I notice a hint of sweat building up on his unmoisturised face. With his palms facing away from me, he looks up at the ceiling for a moment too long and then suddenly, as though just becoming aware of his surroundings, he directs his attention to me. Firmly holding my gaze, he confesses to having been convicted of domestic violence.


I observe his raging bloodshot eyes whilst he places the blame squarely on his ex-wife. I allow him to spend the next ten minutes furiously listing her flaws, oblivious to the fact that he was here for a date. I silently question how many hours had passed since he had last taken drugs.


My facial expressions must have given away my feeling of disgust, as he looks at me and says: “you don’t look too impressed”. Having been the unwilling beneficiary of an unhinged stalker for 7 years of my life, I certainly was not looking for another. However, I struggled to contain the fire within. Flabbergasted at his audacity, I shoot back: “I didn’t realise that I was supposed to be impressed by your disclosure”.

Finding my composure, I calmly tell him that having worked with victims of domestic abuse and sexual exploitation, he will find that I have little sympathy to offer him. My dating profile which may have been a little tongue-in-cheek, did however reflect my views on the issue – slap me once, and I will punch you twice. I do a double take as I see him nodding in agreement, fast realising that this man is beyond hope.

Oblivious to my disinterest, the Brown Hulk turns his attention to Bollywood movies and my love for Salman Khan. Now, mention Salman Khan and I’ll be a soppy mess, grinning from ear to ear – but not today. I remain frozen with apathy.

God please don’t test me with another stalker, I silently plead, as he asks when my parents will get involved in “this”. “Well… no. They won’t” I say, swiftly turning my attention to a cute child sitting opposite us. “You don’t have children do you?” I ask, trying to keep this unhinged wife-beater distracted whilst I race to finish my green tea.

Yeah, I have a 10 year old boy. The case was about me beating him up, but it was just discipline and my wife used that……”. I’d heard enough. I reached for my bag, telling him I was getting late for a meeting.

As I stood up to leave, he said: “so can I take you out to the cinema then?”.

As you can guess, we never made it to date two.

The Accidental Lawyer

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Death by dating apps

My earliest memory of online dating is the Indian matchmaking service shaadi.com. Founded in 1997, I viewed it as only being suitable for losers. As a teenager with questionable morals, I spent time on shaadi.com making fake profiles of people that I abhorred – oh, there were many. I’d give them various contagious diseases to see whether they would generate any interest. Astonishingly, I found that people ‘back home’ were still willing to marry them. My good deed was completed with the virtual match being given the phone number of their future spouse. Don’t judge me, I know I was a mean little shit..

Fast-forward a decade, coming out of a serious relationship that didn’t end in sunshine and roses, I found that ‘meeting people naturally’ was no longer a thing. You see, when you’re Muslim and you don’t drink or hang out in bars, the chances of meeting someone new reduces significantly. Prince Charming is unlikely to come looking for you whilst your mouth makes tender love to chicken breast at your local halal Nandos.

If you want to find Brown men, your only option is to head down to your local Shisha lounge. Clutching your asthma inhaler in your left hand, you’ll acrobat your way through the crowd to your 21st century Muslim Don Juan, the ‘Seducer of East London’ i.e. Abdul with the gold tooth. You will find him manspreading over a germ-infested red sofa, letting out silent, but deadly farts. Bad-boy Abz will be ‘chillin with da boyz – innit’, and if you’re wearing your lucky red knickers, he may just undress you with his cold, empty, leering eyes. Blowing smoke rings in your direction, he’ll say “alright buff ting” as you walk past, noticing that bit of coriander stuck between his teeth – no doubt, a remnant of the fish curry that his mother cooked for his dinner the night before last.

I soon came to terms with my fate. I would join the loser brigade and turn my attention online. Thankfully, Muslim online dating had improved by leaps and bounds since my teenage years of searching for life partners for the diseased antagonists in my life. We now had ‘Muslim Single Solution’, ‘Single Muslims’ and dating apps such as ‘Muzmatch’ and believe it or not, ‘Minder’.

Ready for my new adventure, I joined the dating sites and apps. Following a little trial and error, I set my profile to read as follows:

Ok so here is the criteria [split into mandatory and desired requirements]:

Mandatory –

  1. Must have an original non-tampered British passport with a security chip (protection against fraud).
  • Must have a sense of humour that goes beyond reading jokes on the back of a Penguin chocolate bar.
  • No history of domestic violence please – slap me once and I’ll punch you twice.
  • Must be family orientated. That means being more than a lodger to your family.
  • Ideally someone not on benefits; ambitious enough to have a job?

Desired:

  1. Ideally Salman Khan or maybe a look alike.. but don’t worry, Jonny Lever’s will not be discriminated against.
  • DBS cleared (enhanced preferred).
  • Ideally come from a family that won’t set me on fire for dowry.

I thought I had it all covered. Online dating can’t be that hard, can it? What could even go wrong?

Well, it seems that a lot can go wrong.. find out more in the next dose of dating disasters..

The Accidental Lawyer

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My White In Shining Armour (Part III)

If you haven’t read Parts I and II, you can find them in the ‘LinkedIn dates’ section or here: Part I & Part II

It had been a great date, but I didn’t really know where I was going with this. Well, I knew it wouldn’t, or rather couldn’t go anywhere, but the problem with being a Leo is that you always play with fire because you think you’re invincible..

After the initial few messages that night, Harry was oddly quiet. I didn’t class myself as a paranoid woman, or an over thinker. My mind was constantly full of mischief, so it was hard to dedicate too much time to thinking. Intuitively however, I knew something was wrong. Did he all of a sudden realise that he hated my company? I mean c’mon, of course not. If I must say so myself, I’m a dream to be around – well, so long as you can handle a potty mouth and a bucket load of inappropriate comments and sarcasm.   

A few days later, I figured that there was no point in waiting around, so I sent Harry a message. If I didn’t receive a response within a respectable period of time, I’d simply sit back and let my ego take over. I certainly wasn’t a chaser, and Harry would be no exception to this rule.

I did however receive a reply that evening. Call it a bombshell if you must. It started with “full disclosure…”. Harry told me that I had been his first date in several years. His marriage had recently ended, and he had children. He apologised for not saying this earlier, and that if I wanted to block him, he would understand.

Would I be justified in being mad? In the circumstances, I didn’t think so. In the weeks leading up to our meeting, we never really talked about relationships. I certainly didn’t feel the need to tell him about my past, given that he was a LinkedIn contact. In fact, we hadn’t even acknowledged that our meeting was a date until 3pm on that very same day.

Of course, whilst the “what the fuck is he thinking, surely he can’t be ready for a relationship” alarm bells were ready to ring louder than a Yale HSA 6200 alarm system, I’d have been a hypocrite for making it an issue. I had enough self-awareness to understand that it was no coincidence that I had never made it past date three in the last 5 years. The fact that the words “commitment” and “boyfriend” would send shivers down my spine were indicative of my own issues, that really, I was not ready to deal with anytime soon. What right did I have to judge Harry? So, I sent him a “don’t worry about it” message and everything just fell into place again.

I looked forward to my conversations with Harry. We talked about everything from my obsession with Bollywood’s Salman Khan, to how he went about murdering a goldfish as a 7 year old evil child (note: my instincts about him being a serial killer weren’t so wrong after all). Talking to Harry was different. I was never guarded with him like I was with others. It’s fair to say that he was a little scared of my constant threats to murder him which I did – you know, just for fun. He was also seemingly okay with me having a feisty bitch reputation, and not wanting to ruin it with – God forbid, coming across as ‘nice’. He suggested that I drop the act with him, but if he ever met my friends, he would tell them that I was a bitch.     

My friends on the other hand, were soon on to me. My dating life generally consisted of one date horror stories – and I loved it. It gave us plenty to laugh about. Needless to say, when I casually tried to mention that I’d had a decent date with a nice guy, it raised some eyebrows. The third degree grilling was amplified when they noticed that I awkwardly blushed when answering their questions – of course the girls were not intending to let this one go. It was good to know that my friends were not at all phased by the fact that he was White, or that he had children. The more pressing issue I hear you ask? His foreskin. Yes, foreskin.

Muslim men are circumcised, so this hangy little foreskin thing has been the subject of much amusement for Muslim women around the world for many years…. okay, or maybe just for us. I mean, how does the ‘head’ just ‘pop out’ of the foreskin?? Does it make a popping sound *pop*? There are plenty of questions to be asked! My personal issue with it has been more to do with hygiene – do you pull it back when you pee? How do you clean it? I’d imagine you wouldn’t take a baby bottle brush to it?      

Anyway, my third degree grilling led to obvious WhatsApp jokes from my friends that night, one of which was their ridiculous pitch to my mother as to why I should be allowed to marry a gora with foreskin and children. The message itself was cringe but hilarious, so as you do, I scribbled over the really cringe stuff (i.e. reference to his foreskin and children!) and sent Harry a screenshot of the torture I was facing. To my utter horror, he managed to read through the scribbles and learnt that we had been discussing his foreskin! I think that moment probably makes it in the top three most embarrassing moments of my life. He was gracious enough to laugh it off though, and make me feel like less of a moron than I clearly was.

We spent the Christmas break exchanging messages and photos of our families. Harry was visiting his parents with his children. This is when I learnt that I had no reason to feel sad for his parents; the ‘Rosy and Jim’ boat that I had imagined his poor and elderly parents to live on, was in fact, a super yacht. I told Harry that I had imagined it to be a Rosy and Jim boat, but didn’t quite go as far as admitting how theatrical my imagination had been.

We had planned to meet in the New Year. In exchange for me cooking him a meal, he was willing to teach me how to ride a bicycle and sit through a Bollywood movie with me. I wasn’t quite sure that this gora could handle the spice in my cooking, but I was willing to watch him suffer. In anticipation of our next meeting, I ordered him some gifts – a personalised photo frame with the names of his children, and to balance out the ‘nice’ gesture, a personalised hammer to remind him that I often threatened him with murder.  

Now, as often happens, shit hits the fan just when you start getting comfortable. I’d always known that Harry was carrying a lot of emotional baggage, particularly around the separation from his children. He was an amazing father, and in many ways his relationship with them reminded me of my own father – a man that would do absolutely anything for his children. Over the next few days it became clear that this wasn’t Ryanair 10kg emotional hand luggage, Harry was carrying Air India First Class 40kg emotional checked baggage – plus 8kg hand luggage!

You see, we were never meant to happen for more reasons than one. We were just two people chatting about work over LinkedIn (fuck you LinkedIn, fuck you!!) and perhaps, playing with fire. Neither of us were ‘looking’ but we found something special. So special that we couldn’t handle it in the end.

And just like that, it ended quicker than it had begun. His personalised gifts arrived a couple of days after our last conversation. I found the unopened packages a home under my bed. 2018 had started on a real shitty note. Just as well that I didn’t bother with a New Year’s Keto diet then I thought, as I reached for my packet of Munchies chocolate.

Now and then, when thinking of that gora, I’d tell myself to throw away the gifts that were sheltered under my bed. That way, I’d have no reason to think of him again. After all, I was a master of blocking out memories of people that were no longer in my life. The only reason I’d think of him was because of those stupid gifts, I convinced myself. Not because I cared.. But how could I throw away something with the names of someone’s children? Not just someone – Harry’s children.

Well.. either these gifts would end up with me in my old age nursing home, or maybe, as my intuition told me, our paths would cross again some day.. Maybe.

The Accidental Lawyer

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My White In Shining Armour (Part II)

My heart sinks as I look at my reflection in the mirror… “why the fuck do you look so shit?” I scold myself, as I wipe away the eyeliner that had escaped my eyes. I stick my face under the hand dryer in a lame attempt to warm up my bright red Rudolph nose. “Right, game face on bitch, you’ve got this.. if all else fails, just scare him”

If you missed Part I, catch up here.

I’d developed a bit of an obsession with sweet ‘karak’ tea in Qatar, and the smooth bastard located the Chapatti and Karak branch in Knightsbridge and suggested meeting there for tea.

In the days running up to our meeting, we continued chatting over LinkedIn. I quite liked that we hadn’t exchanged numbers yet. Weirdly, I was really looking forward to meeting this gora (White guy).

A few nights before we met, he sent me what he described as a “kind of a gay selfie” he’d taken after a drink.. Fuck right off Harry, that is so not you!! I thought, as I sat down to analyse every last pixel of this grayscale image that had landed in my Linkey inbox. Harry not only looked good, he looked extremely fucking hot. I’m talking Bradley Cooper type hotness – who by the way looks very much like our Bollywood hunk Hritek Roshan, don’t you think?! Yum! Anyway, where the hell was the posh boy with the grandad flattened hair?! The evidence in whole before me suggested that Harry was a nice guy – so naturally he ought to have a face like Shrek. My lawyer brain simply couldn’t handle the mind fuck and so I convinced myself that he’d look nothing like that in person. I mean really, what was this a Disney princess movie?!

I warned Harry before we met that I was directionally challenged, so I would try to leave early to allow myself sufficient time to get lost. He said that he was staying close to the station and if I wanted, I could meet him there and we could walk down together. Hmm… I immediately became suspicious and my imagination started running wild. Maybe all the charm was an act and he was in fact a serial killer!! How would I escape? Would my death stare be enough to scare him? Would that flying kick I was so convinced that I was capable of actually materialise?! I wasn’t sure a karak tea was worth dying over, so I said I’d meet him directly at the tea shop, just in case that flying kick of mine failed me.

On the morning of our meeting, it suddenly occurred to me – was this a date or was it two professionals simply meeting for a tea and a chat? The lines were slightly blurred so I decided to dress safe, and wear a black casual dress that didn’t shout ‘too much effort’. As if the same thoughts were going through his head, by 3pm I started receiving several messages – “so, is this a date then?” said the first. I laughed. Well, at least he was being honest and not playing it cool like I was. “I guess so?” I replied. “How am I allowed to greet you?” he enquired. I wondered why he asked, was it because I was Muslim and he was afraid I’d slap him if he went in for a kiss, hug or handshake? Or did he think my dad would be following me with an axe? I sent him a Youtube video of an Indian touching the feet of an elder person and said that was my preferred way of being greeted. He laughed and pointed out that he was my senior. Instead, he told me that he planned to go in for a single kiss to the cheek.. Why was he sounding nervous? I was convinced that it was because he looked like Shrek in real life. I didn’t mind though, Shrek had kind of grown on me.

It was a bitterly cold December night. I parked my car at the station and headed towards the train. I wasn’t at all nervous about meeting Harry, dates didn’t phase me. I was more worried about getting lost and being late. As I came out of the station, I turned on my Google Maps and as expected, started walking in the wrong direction for 7-8 minutes before I realised that the ETA to my destination had increased by several minutes. The cold was getting to me. I could feel that my nose was starting to resemble that of Rudolph the Red-Nosed reindeer. My eyes were watering, and I could feel that I was starting to look a real mess. I hoped he was running late so I could fix myself up before he arrived.

I eventually found the location and made my way in. I had barely caught my breath before the waitress pointed me towards a table with a big smile. How did she know who I was here to see? Of course she knew. The other guests were all Arabs. Harry stood out like a sore thumb. With a blurred vision I approached him as he stood up to greet me, a kiss on the cheek, just as he had planned. “Wow, you’re tall” are the only words that came out of my usually jabbering mouth. He awkwardly thanked me. My head was exploding with internal chatter: no really, how is he so tall? Why does he NOT look like Shrek? Are his lips thinner than mine?! Is that Black he is wearing? Fuck fuck fuck, why do I look like shit?! Is my nose still red? Yes, those lips are definitely thinner than mine. Wait.. did my frozen heart just skip a beat? His eyes… oh his fucking eyes..

I excused myself quicker than a man switching off the porno when his wife walks in. I headed straight for the ladies. I locked myself in and let out a laugh. I looked a real mess, had the damage been done? I started thinking of an action plan as I washed the germs off my hands that I had no doubt picked up on the train. I internally barked orders to myself: Right, eyes and nose. Fix those eyes and warm up your nose. Don’t take too long or he’ll think you’re taking a dump!  Once I had managed to release my head from under the hand dryer, I readjusted my poker face. As I made my way out, I was prepared. I would unleash the fiery Leo at the first sign of arrogance and have him running for the hills.

 As I walked back eyeing him up suspiciously, Harry looked at me, and said “look, I’m just going to admit, you’ve got me all nervous”. Oh. Well I’m glad he can’t hear my internal chatter. “Just the way I like it” I grinned, making myself comfortable.

“So what does your dad do?” was his opening question. I mean really, who asks that kind of a question on a first date… unless you’re a Brown aunty?! I answered with a straight face, trying not to laugh. He was clearly very nervous. He’d ask a question and cross his arms. Jaw tightly locked, his lips would compress. I watched in fascination as his paper thin lips vanished altogether. He displayed classic signs of defensiveness and anxiety… but why was this beautiful creature so anxious?

He had a Dunchenne smile, one that conveyed a sense of sincerity. His eyes were intense and this made me nervous. This feeling was almost alien to me. I was aware that I had begun fidgeting with my hair, but I hoped that my poker face was still in play.   

As our sweet karak tea arrived, he eased up a little. We talked about a lot of random things. He mentioned in passing that his retired parents had sold up and lived on a boat. I instinctively felt a little sad for them. I imagined an elderly couple struggling to pay their bills so felt they would sell their moderately sized house and downgrade to a ‘Rosy and Jim’ type boat. I hoped that they had decent showering facilities at least, as hygiene was important.

The topic moved on to alcohol. I told him that growing up I didn’t drink for religious reasons, but as an adult it was out of choice. I was a bit of rule-breaker, so would take sips of alcohol here and there. I soon realised that it was bitter and disgusting and I was quite okay not drinking. Harry tentatively suggested that we go for a drink, and if I wanted, I could take a sip of his drink. Walking into a bar or pub was no longer a problem for me. I’d been plenty of times, and quite happily sat down with a diet coke or red bull, so I agreed.

With eyes widened like a 5 year old in a candy shop, I walked through Knightsbridge eyeing up every shop window for its Christmas display. Harry on the other hand focused on finding a suitable pub or bar. I probably ought to have been a little more focused on this handsome creature, but heck, I loved Christmas and everything about it! Harry I’m afraid, would have to wait until I’d had my moment.

We soon arrived at a pub. Oh boy, it looked grimy. Standing outside, I started wondering if I still had my anti-bacterial cleaning wipes in my bag. As though he had read my mind, deciding the place was not suitable, Harry said “no, I wouldn’t do that to you”. God definitely created this man on a Sunday. Instead, we went for a long walk and he eventually walked me to the station where we hugged and parted ways..

As far as first dates go… I think that would pass as kind of okay… right?

Would I see him again? Would I break my maximum 3 dates rule? Or would this all go tits up? Stay tuned to find out what happened next..

The Accidental Lawyer

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My White In Shining Armour (Part I)

Ladies, before you raise your COVID-19 self-isolated unplucked eyebrows at me, hear me out okay. I’m no Linkey whore. I, like many others detest the unwanted attention received on LinkedIn, but sometimes, you just connect with a stranger that you thought you’d have nothing in common with..

<Rewind to October 2017>

My long hours in the office had taken over my life. The problem was that I absolutely loved what I did. I’d spent the preceding four years specialising in law relating to Modern Slavery. My clients, survivors of human trafficking, were like my family; I was fiercely protective of them and so justified every additional hour spent in the office. My dating life was non-existent, and my social life had begun to suffer.  

I earned myself a well-deserved solo break and was soon travelling to Qatar. Amidst the chaos, my phone buzzed. A LinkedIn connection request, nothing out of the ordinary. I had a quick peek at the requester’s profile – White male barrister, meh, another hoity toity barrister I thought. Fine, I accepted the request. He pinged through the usual polite “thanks for connecting” message, and I sent my usual yawn-induced “pleasure to connect” response.

His profile photo.. well, it was the sort you would expect from a posh barrister. Taken from afar, it seemed as though an Indian grandad had pat his head far too many times and flattened his hair. He was smartly dressed, with a half-assed smile and he’d probably used a Sepia filter to give his photo the old-school feel, you know, like a posh boy. Not that I was actively looking for a man, but he really wasn’t my type.

Having grown up in East London predominantly around Asian and Black people, culturally, for many years, I could never ‘fit in’ with the White folks. I didn’t drink, the clubbing scene at university was my worst nightmare, I followed a halal diet (yes, get that bloody pork away from me!), and if you spoke to me about the theatre I’d probably stab myself in the eye. Finding the cultural balance between the East and West took its sweet time, and it’s only in the last few years that I have felt that I truly am comfortable with both. I mean, I still don’t get the obsession with wine and cheese.. but I’ll let that one slide..

Now it’s not that White guys aren’t my type, I mean just look at Bradley Cooper. That man is sex on legs! Religious differences aside, I think the issue is that I’m too Asian for White guys. When I’m mad I swear in Punjabi, sometimes even in my sleep. Will a White guy be willing to learn every rude word in Punjabi, so he knows what I’m saying when I’m mad at him?  Will he really get the culture, and be okay with it? Will he tolerate my obsession with Bollywood movies? Does he really want to spend his weekends with me watching ‘90s Bollywood flicks whilst I repeat every damn dialogue because I’ve already watched the movie 264 times?! Yeah, I thought not.

Well, this is what happened next.

Scrolling through my LinkedIn feed, I saw a post from this guy, Harry. It was related to his area of work, ‘what would you do in X scenario’ – one of the options was to ‘call your dad’ – that is exactly what I would do, so I gave his post a little like and thought nothing more of it.

Not long after, I received message from Harry. A thank you for liking his post, followed by a very thoughtful message that showed he had taken the time to read my profile. He asked about my work, its challenges, and acknowledged how hard it must be. He was neither perverted, nor hoity toity. He was that weird thing that we don’t see enough of these days…. A gentleman. There was something weird about this creature, he just brightened up my day.

So when he mentioned that very same day that he would be travelling to London soon and asked whether I’d like to meet for a drink, I didn’t think “knob head” and ignore him. Instead, I told him that I didn’t really drink alcohol, but in any event, I was flying out to Qatar, and maybe we could meet for a coffee on my return. I wasn’t sure if I meant it, I was being polite, but if he remembered to message in a few weeks, I probably would.

A few days later, I had a message from Harry asking if I’d arrived safely. I spent the rest of my holiday in regular contact with him. Harry wasn’t exactly Mr Funny. I mean, I wasn’t sure if he could even read a joke on the back of a penguin bar with conviction, but he was really charming. The doughnut also didn’t realise that I received LinkedIn alerts every time he clicked on my profile – and that was frequent!  But I didn’t mind. Posh boy was clearly technologically challenged, and that in itself was a little endearing…

To be continued..

The Accidental Lawyer

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Mr Vogue

“Isn’t it too soon to be going to a dark alley… on our first date?” My mischievous eyes met his, expecting a witty response. Looking blank, he answered: “no, the coffee shop is just through here”.  Well, this looks to be a ‘fun’ date…  

Following my usual dating pattern, in the autumn of 2015, I came out of hibernation, ready to date. Fed up of the usual dating apps, the idea of going to a professional Muslim matchmaker was daunting, but I was talked into it during one of my many “well, we better get serious now” chats with my girlfriends. The matchmaker was highly rated, and she personally vetted all the men. The vetting process was unclear, but I guess not getting dick pics after a brief conversation would be sufficient; my phone was fast running out of storage space.

We were greeted by our professional matchmaker in her office – an Indian garment shop in East London. Fighting the pungent smell of clothes fresh from the Indian subcontinent, we made our way through the shop floor to her ‘private consultation room’ where we received our warm welcome: a lecture for being 30 and unmarried. Soon we were left to our own devices to look through numerous lever arch files of ‘potentials’ – think Tinder swiping exercise, albeit on paper. We giggled our way through the profiles, quickly forgetting why we were here. Instead, being the mature adults that we were, we spent our entire time taking photos of the silly profiles that made us laugh – from men in suits with Krusty the Clown bow ties, to those posing as though they had accidently sat on a cactus plant. On our way out, we thanked ‘aunty’ for her fantastic service and promised to contact the handful of potentials we had considered suitable – or not.

I had thought that was the end of my adventures with the matchmaking aunty, however a week later she called. She managed to guilt trip me into agreeing to meet an excellent match. 38, unmarried, professional and good looking – well, what harm could it really do? Shortly thereafter, I received a WhatsApp message from my match. His display picture appeared to be his face photoshopped onto the front cover of the Vogue magazine; the narcissism made me want to throw up a little in my mouth, but in my moment of madness, I decided to give him the benefit of doubt.

Having exchanged a handful of dull messages, the big day finally arrived. Communication over WhatsApp can be challenging at the best of times, so I planned on keeping an open mind. Our walk through the dark alley however confirmed my suspicions that despite his claims of being ‘really funny’ over WhatsApp messages, he was seriously lacking in that department.

As I stopped to give change to a homeless man, Mr Vogue felt the need to express his view that the homeless were lazy and played the system. Trying to keep a lid on my building rage, I ‘joked’ that he was full of empathy and compassion. We eventually found light at the end of the alley, but I certainly couldn’t see one at the end of the tunnel – and this was just the beginning.

I watched with dismay as we walked past the Costa and the Café Nero towards an unknown grimy café. I’m all for supporting small businesses, but I’d prefer to have coffee in a place that didn’t look like it hadn’t been cleaned since Pakistan lost the cricket world cup in 1999.  I could feel my heels sticking to the floor as I walked to our filthy table; I was on edge – I don’t like germs. No, really, I don’t.

I sat down awkwardly on the metal chair, folding my coat onto my lap, with my big bag placed on top for good measure. Mr Vogue didn’t seem to notice the filth, the hand sanitiser I was gripping onto for dear life, or my very obvious distress.

What I learnt about Mr Vogue during my 3 hour ordeal:

  • He woke up at 5am daily and went to the gym to workout – this was mentioned at regular intervals. He particularly focused on his legs, which by the way were as thin as my pinky finger.
  • Several times during our one-sided conversation, he expressed his view that he was quite good looking and received a lot of female attention. I’d say he was average on a good day, but that didn’t stop him from telling me that he often had to tell women to “calm down” around him.
  • He had ‘rejected’ 46 girls, but couldn’t explain why.
  • He was shorter than his claimed 5’10 height. I stood much taller at 5’9 (with heels), but I’d still have been taller at 5’6 without my heels. Perhaps his narcissist personality took up an extra 6 inches, and another 2 inches for his micropenis would take him to his 5’10 wholesome height.      
  • He maintained that he was funny – maybe the ‘leg day workout’ was the joke?
  • He sounded as though he had swallowed a bucket of helium. He had the ability to make my ears bleed.

What Mr Vogue learnt about me, based on the 3 questions he asked me in the 3 hours we spent together:

  • Yes, I had siblings
  • Yes, I enjoyed my job
  • Yes, I liked chocolate

After 3 hours of intense torture, Mr Vogue suggested we go for dessert. For his safety, I politely declined. Thoughts of murdering him in the dark alley were already starting to emerge.. I’d probably lose my practicing certificate and not be able to watch the latest Bollywood movie in prison; no, he really wasn’t worth it.

As we stood to part ways, I looked down at him and uttered the most romantic words I could think of: “for someone that spends a lot of time in the gym, your legs are tiny…”  

Needless to say, no. 47 received her rejection WhatsApp message the following morning.  It was of course, gratefully received.

The Accidental Lawyer

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About

When your meddling Asian ‘aunty ji’ (i.e. every Brown lady in East London) asks why you’re not married at 35, apparently, telling her that “it seems the love of my life got stuck in a condom” is not the correct answer. A gasp, followed by the facepalm gesture and some muttering under the breath of how education has ruined girls is likely to follow.

My education has never been the problem though. I am, what you can call an ‘accidental lawyer’. I spent more time in school dreaming of a magical pen than practicing cursive writing. I was the fat tomboy with the awful ‘80s haircut whose idea of exercise was merely walking to the fridge and back. Yes, I was THAT annoying child aiming wet ink at her maths teacher’s white shirt. I was, in short, the child with no hope.

I’d have quite happily skipped my education and settled on working as a nail technician, but I lacked the requisite skill. I eventually took inspiration from Bollywood’s ‘90s movies where lawyers were only required to argue with their opponent and say “I object your honour” to each question asked in cross-examination – a legal career seemed rather straight forward. I somehow coasted through college and university, never really thinking I’d make it to the end; but I did. You can call it luck with intermittent hard work, or simply a blessing from God, but I eventually qualified as a lawyer and was dubbed the ‘accidental lawyer’ by my siblings. An accidental lawyer that would later fall in love with her work as an advocate for human rights.

I was less useless at home. Whilst my parents were as liberal as they could be, I did the “good Muslim girl thing” and was fully domesticated by the age of 12. I entered the world of femininity, lost my ’80s hair and eventually cut down on my trips to the fridge. I did however maintain my fat girl humour.

Whilst my nail painting skills may not be on point, Alhamdulillah (praise be to God) I have a good career, my chapattis are round and I can make a killer biryani – so why the heck am I single?  Is it the Leo stubbornness that won’t let me settle for anything less than a soul-deep, electrifying connection? Am I too British for the Muslim guys? Or too Muslim for other guys? Is it my potty mouth and filthy mind or that I dare to hold an opinion? Am I just batshit crazy or do I deploy defences to keep the good men away? Is it me… or is it them?

Stay tuned to find out… 

The Accidental Lawyer

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