“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