Wined and dined

This restaurant might be too high-calibre for us. Take the telecom tower stools, for example. We clamber on like children straddling our horses. We watch, bewildered as they switch out the forks and knives: one for entrés and one for mains. Why they would do such a thing eludes me.

The napkin is dropped once and retrieved by the waiter. It is dropped twice and retrieved by the tip of my heel. I am an imposter in painted red lips, checking my reflection every so often to remain in an upright posture, as is only proper.

We have just one glass of wine each, the cheapest on the menu. I spit on my arm mid-conversation. We have tap water, the small portions. But there’s tripe, porcini mushrooms with potatoes and four postage stamps for Ravioli. Garlic bread, complimentary- a highlight with the olive oil. We are surprised by it’s quality and potency. Being here is like scraping a C in the top set for Maths, or buying a Rolex when one eats dirt on a daily basis.

***
Let’s take a moment to appreciate the siblings who wanted to share their rack of lamb and rocket salad dish. They had ordered too much. “That’s nice of them- not the fact that they offered but that they didn’t want to waste food”. Rare in a place like this, perhaps. How very lovely.

“Si” he affirmed each order. The Italian waiter- I suspect, the manager- who reminds me of my Dad’s best friend. The one I used to have a crush on, with his stubbly chin and sparkling smile. He stood a little too close. Touched my wrist gently in recommending the porcini, when he caught my eyes scanning for the bathroom. And he did so with a smile bright enough to have been the one before the kiss.

Dear J

I learnt what “skid marks” were the hard way. I also lived with the most putrid, rotting fish fingers in the fridge – so pungent I caught a whiff of it on my robe after a hot shower in California. To be fair, I contributed to this lifestyle by allowing us to keep the leftover Chicken Masala in the microwave after a night out, still a superior alternative to the kebabs across the street. ‘Twas good whilst it lasted but we weren’t raving to it.

It’s not exactly socially acceptable to pee in the same room as another person, with the door open. I don’t usually let people listen to me pee either. So I think what we have is pretty special. There’s also no one else I’d rather be caught tatas out to the sun with but you, babe. Only in France.

And don’t even get me started on “when the day is winding down”. The onset of night is the beginning of delirium. We can get away with following a good looking man home (half joking), guffawing in tears in supermarkets, malls, parks, trains… We have left echoes of our joint existence in narrow lanes and bar corners. We are insufferable, but who can help it when you pronounce ‘Gare du Nord’ like that??

You are my saving grace on Moody Mornings, your positivity dampened only by scoundrels that demand you donate to them- the deaf, blind and mute. All of them hearing & speaking. You drag me away from hopeless conversations and you help me snag all the deals. Ask for the iPhone charger, you say, the hotel adapters, an umbrella, low sodium meals on the airplane. Where would I be without you? Soaking wet, wandering through the streets of Paris, lost, and dying from chronic high blood pressure, most likely. And I can’t thank you enough for trouble shooting my laptop and updating my phone so that I can upgrade my emoji usage. I have been waiting for a ‘crossed fingers’ pictogram for the longest time. You are my I.T Wiz, MY ROCK.

I am thankful that you’re always on my cycle: lazy-day bud one day, hiking and yoga bud the next. Wine buddy one day, I-would-rather-die-than-drink buddy the next. Thank you for listening to stories about the same guys over and over again. Thank you for seeing the best in me. And most of all, thank you for understanding that my God is my compass.

I am always glad to know you are near, your sandals thumping behind me.

London

This morning: the wail of a siren rising in pitch, the image of a chest expanding upon inhalation.

***

We walk onto the footpath, under the bridge and by the water. Enchanting in the sun, forbidding under moonlight, where shadowy figures blow smoke and talk to themselves.

***

Regent’s Canal: A Shiba Inu scampering with it’s tiny cute butthole. A fluffy baby duck floating amidst the algae, a linoleum green bank. Rustic, the rubber of a tire encircling a patch of soil. Some green shoots. Do the pretty weeds fight for life or does the stone give way? Embellish the mouldy brick, the chipping wall paint with some flowers and graffiti.

***

We walk by a bar of morbid things. Drop anything into a mason jar and it will become an artefact. I read something I wish I hadn’t. I have a gross fascination with disgusting ideas- I hate them in reality. Like, bad things are funny when they’re not real.

***

Chilli plants like a crazy head of red. We are drawn to any sign that says: coffee. And my enthusiasm for walking fizzles out with the rain. I am on a one-man mission for food. I do not do well without breakfast, it seems. A third of the way into the chicken schnitzel and laughter bubbles inside me. Her name is Aquel.

***

Buckingham palace: I spilt coffee on the monument. I learn that she hates holding cups. You can learn a lot about your friends on holiday.

 

On understanding the obsession with English weather-talk:

Only 2% of gingers in the world and they’re all congregated in London. You’d swear it was at least 34%. Although they comprise a substantial portion of the population, London teems with diversity, bearing the unmistakable face of globalisation.

London presents the historical backdrop on which the modern man walks: Ed, adamantly against Brexit (and sadly, his grandparents), gets on the Tube and sits next to a tanned Australian. He catches a little Italian in his ear on the way to work and eyes Hindi on the menu for a plate of steaming samosas during his lunch break at Borough market. He wonders whether it used to be a train station (it wasn’t; the market’s been around for 1000 years). After work, he rides a bike past St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Monument for the Great Fire of London, and finds himself flying through the East London markets where hijabs and crates of all trades abound. Vegetables, pyjamas, fake handbags, check. Home at last, he calls his Chinese-born-French girlfriend and greets her with a few lines he’s picked up from his colleague. Ed is a happy Londoner because he doesn’t have to lie about being culturally conscious when interviewed.

If you’re not bilingual, you’re probably biracial. Or maybe you’re a Briton through and through; it doesn’t matter. You’re not special for being different. Or perhaps you are- but so is everyone else.

But what about the rituals? What about tradition? Well, there’s Sunday Roast and Day Drinking and Drinking At All Times. Coffee and tea are not opposed. You’ll see friends, waiters, hobos, crouching with their smokes, men with stiff quiffs and absolutely no bins anywhere. The bins were my greatest disappointment; I will not be returning.

Just kidding. The weather determines all.

Catcrawling

I just locked myself in the shower with a fart. I let the water run along the grime on my skin from the oily glares of men on the streets of London, men on bikes risking their health insurance. Craning necks out of car windows- about to break. What a time to have small boobs!

Theres an inbuilt revulsion to lust in the eyes, uninvited. Intrusion, violation. So different from the relish under the hot, hungry eyes (like glowing coals) of the good looker across the bar. The ephemeral power in arresting his attention. No, the wolfish hoot of a predator makes me shrink. I lower my head, tail tucked behind my legs. I want to disappear so you can’t have me at all; not so much as a wispy silhouette.

Why can’t I wear my shorts, my body hugging skirt? Why must I wear turtlenecks in the summer? We brace not from the chill of night but from the assault: “nipples!” he bellows. “Wow you’re hot, where are you from?”, “Chinese!”, “Japan!”, “can I hang out with you guys?” A whistle. A scuffle and a greeting: “OII!” And when we walk away, we are “fucking rude”, lips tight, fist clenched. It could be worse. Boy, it could be much, much worse.