I got a taste of western life that night, sitting in the booth of a late cafe, drinking coffees laced with whiskey, and eating chocolate pancakes.
My friend Amil and his British girlfriend, the one he was seeing in secret behind his parents’ backs, an alternative to the daughter of a family friend they wanted him to marry. A traditional life and all that.
And the girlfriend’s friend. A plump but fun girl from Wigan who chatted about rock bands, and movies I’d never seen. She said she liked roller-coasters and eating chips on the pier. It was the most exciting thing I’d ever heard.
It was strictly platonic, she liked an older guy and her parents were quite strict anyway, she didn’t have boys over, it wasn’t worth the hassle. But as she sat next to me in the booth, I imagined what it would be like to have a British girlfriend, and not Go Home to get married. Double gooseberries, we watched Amil and his girl kiss and feed each other chocolate drops and share secrets.
“You’re engaged already Assir?” said Amil,
“Yes,” I said.
Years later when my kids were older and my wife was attending prayers a lot, when the sex had dried up and all she did was shop for more trinkets and tat for the house, and bitch about other people’s kids and complain about her figure, and chide me for not observing the lord’s day often enough, I looked up that girl from Wigan.
I couldn’t find her, but a friend who had an English mistress invited me out, “Anita will bring a friend,” he assured me. I had no idea if it was good or not. An innocent night out or an gateway into a world of vice. Who was Anita anyway, some whore, or just a bored housewife. And who was her friend. A frumpy slut looking for a bit of fun?
We went to an upmarket restaurant on the east side of town, and sat in a private booth. My friend ordered champagne. His mistress Anita and her friend Louise both worked in sales and were very prim. Cold even. Anita didn’t touch, and talked about nothing but money. Her own money, and the house she wanted to buy. Do we look like two couples, I wondered, or just a party of four?
We ate French food, which my friend pretended to know about, and I did not enjoy, and then he took us on to an expensive hotel where there was a late bar. I drank cocktails and thought about my wife, and how thin Louise was compared to her.
My friend disappeared with Anita, and I was left in the bar with Louise and nothing to talk about. “I’m in room 401,” she said as she finished her drink and disappeared through an archway towards the stairs.
Women are exotic creatures. If you keep them in a cage they wilt and die. The pretty girl I married aged twenty is long gone. In her place a shell of a woman wearing brightly coloured plumes.
I walked through the arch. Here I was chasing cold women, not because they were good but because they were different. A novelty. Women who wear men’s pinstripes and fuck-me shoes.
But the spell had been cast years ago when I sat in that party of four with Amil, bewitched by the western girls, and destined to ever follow them. The green eyes and the un-pious ways. Fearless and wild. I walked down the corridor towards room 401. Who is Louise? And if I go into her room and lie with her can I capture something of her spirit, take it home with me in a cologne jar, keep it on the dresser and drink of it every time I need new life?