Continuing on from where I left off, the story takes a turn late one evening. My friend was over to stay the night, and we had rented a bunch of movies from Blockbuster. There were Doritos and salsa, and it was a Friday night.
My landlord was off out with two of his work colleagues, since he hadn’t had a weekend off in a while. He wasn’t particularly chummy with the two of them, but felt obliged to go nevertheless. This wasn’t a figment of my imagination: he actually said all this to me before leaving to go clubbing that evening.
They returned pretty late, and my friend and I were just finishing Six Days, Seven Nights and were having a conversation about Anne Heche’s lifestyle choices. (I was 16, and this was my first experience with homosexuality. I was baffled at the time.)
My landlord walked in, and was a little cheesed off to see me still awake. I found out much later that he was upset with my presence because he was quite protective of me. My friend, of course, was thrilled to see him, and immediately went into starstruck mode. He hinted heavily about me heading off to bed, but she was having none of it. And because this was England, and no one forced anyone to do squat no matter what the age difference. *cough* stupid Indian mentality *cough*
The next thing I knew, his friends had pulled, and under my astonished gaze these three men brought in two girls. Well, one girl, who was from our sixth form college and who my friend instantly recognised, and an older lady. And by ‘older lady’, I mean she was at least 50. They were all drunk, including my landlord, although he was not on a happy high.
Now if you do the math like do, you will notice that there were three blokes and two ladies. My brain seized up at that point, and I wanted to bolt. My friend hung on to my hand tightly and compelled me to sit back down again. Apparently, she couldn’t stay back if I decided to go up to bed, and she oh so desperately wanted to witness this crazy comedy.
I should perhaps mention that my friend is an Arab Muslim, and lived a rather sheltered existence. Tipsy ladies coming in on the arms of drunk men they met the same night was not an experience either of us had ever encountered. She was mesmerised, and I was bemused.
The sofas were ranged around the sitting room walls, and these folk were sitting on the largest one. My friend and I were sitting on the two-seater opposite the television, and one of the girls squeezed in with us. My landlord, the host, was sitting primly on the last sofa at the far end of the room. He was not pleased about this arrangement.
Soon, someone suggested that they would like some water. So he got up to get some, glaring meaningfully at me. I had no clue what he was trying to communicate in this non-verbal way, so I merely shook my head to indicate I didn’t want any.
He went out of the room for approximately two seconds, when he charged back in again with glasses of water, slopping messily on the carpet. He then offered the room a cup of tea. Again, I shook my head. The others heartily welcomed this offer. Again, he stormed out of the room, only to charge back in two seconds later. This time, though, he came in to ask for my help.
This night was proving to be very confusing for me on many levels, and this uncharacteristic request to help with tea was the final straw. I couldn’t very well say no, as he phrased the request in such a way that if I had refused, it would have looked like I was being an awful hostess.
Another bit of back story here: I couldn’t make tea to save my life at the time. I didn’t even drink the stuff, and I followed him confused to the kitchen. And then he admits that it was a gambit to get me out of the room, because he was very uncomfortable with me being there with those men and women. Just as I was incredulously about to ask why, my friend came barrelling into the kitchen. And my landlord promptly clammed up. He handed us four cups of tea, and marched ahead of us back into the living room.
In our absence, the men and women had taken the opportunity to rearrange the seating plan. The large sofa was now occupied by one canoodling couple, and the two-seater my friend and I were on had the second giggling duo. The sofa my landlord was originally sitting on had two spots free. I made a beeline for one of those, as I assumed he would do the gentlemanly thing and let my friend and I sit together on it, and he would take the remaining seat on the large unit. Spoiler alert: he didn’t.
My friend was forced to take the seat next to one of the couples, and she sat squished into the corner, trying her best not to come into physical contact with either of them and their flailing limbs. (They were still clothed, just very actively embracing.)
For the first time that eventful evening, I saw my landlord relax. He slumped into the sofa a little, and I ended up being pressed into his side. (The other side was taken up by magazines and other paraphernalia, which I couldn’t shift for the love of anything.)
I remember that he smelled of his leather jacket, the styling cream in his hair, the faint sheen of perspiration, and his perfume. And my heart started beating wildly in my chest. It was so exciting and unprecedented. What was happening?!