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 exits 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