If you can understand the double entendre of my article’s title, then you are as perverted as I am. Surely lets hang out;). If not, we got some work to do boo, but we will get there.
An interesting observation made recently by an old woman in my apartment building was that ‘Padash is always surrounded by men.’ Truer words have never been spoken. I will quote my dear friend Eva here with that dramatic wave of her bony hand ‘Oh but darling I do love men…even those that love men too.’ Apt! Hey, if the shoe fits… you buy a pair - especially if it’s on sale! We all know the entrance to my apartment is a revolving door for dark, rugged and handsome men that come and go as I please. My beck, my call. But even though I’m always surrounded by these 3-legged species, many of them are simply just my ‘girlfriends’. Guys who give better tips on men, shopping and sex than girls. How I suddenly found myself in this role of a quintessential ‘fruit fly’, I’m not exactly sure. But I always was an ardent fag hag, if you will! In fact, I was the pied piper of homos long before I even had a political stance on the matter. What can I say, men both gay and straight waft towards me like Meera to youtube. My coworker’s theory on the matter (dispensed conveniently during happy hour at G bar in Chelsea) is that some women are just born with a gay boy pheromone. Maybe it’s my breasts, my style, my brazen demeanor, the fact that I embrace sex instead of shying away from it or maybe its just a combination of all. But when I look at all the famous ‘fruit flies” in history: Madonna for the old gays, Lady Gaga for the youngins, Bette Midler for the dead gays, Rekha for the Indian gays and Madam Noor Jehan for the Paki ones, I’m quite flattered actually. An impressive list of some of the most powerful divas. Oh and lets not forget; I live in New York City where out of every eight men that smile at a woman on the street…only two of them want her number. The rest just want to know where she got that faaaaabulous blouse from! Snap, snap!
You’ve all heard of Dario but long before him, I had already earned a guerdon for being the Queen of queens. Many gays were befriended in college who gave me sex tutorials on perfecting various ‘jobs’. But even before them was a guy in high school I lovingly referred to as Peanut.
A-levels. Two years of such reckless experimentation and self-discovery. Sure they started off rocky but eventually became two very amazing years. After I returned home from my little stint in Karachi, my absence may have made my parent’s heart grow fonder. That or maybe I had truly matured in Ms. Nazo, Laila and Afsheen’s company. Needless to say, all of a sudden I had became the apple of my parent’s eye. In their defense, I had left Isloo looking like Alisha’s ghetto sidekick and returned home dressed as a Coaching Center Teacher - hair in a bun, kurta on the flesh. What parent wouldn’t sigh with relief at that! When it rains it pours, because a few weeks later, I got my O-level grades: 5 A’s, 2 B’s and a C. I was obviously focused on my restaurant napkin plan and thus these grades were only going to help my chances of running away by getting into a decent college abroad. Now, I just had to endure two more years in this country.
Always one to negotiate while my stock is up, I announced to my parents that I was not going to be returning to Froebel’s for my A-levels. Instead, I would spend my last two years at UCI (University College of Islamabad). Mama had already heard all the disgraceful tales of UCI’s scandal and moral decrepitude from other Aunties. Egregious sins like, no uniforms, spoilt rich brats, a liberal college atmosphere: exactly all the reasons, I wanted to go there for my A’s. In the end though, I won. The ‘rents had barely recovered from that trauma when I dropped the second bomb on them a couple of weeks later. I just returned home one evening with an audacious haircut: short, wild, frizzy, kinky curls that barely touched my shoulder. A picture of that hairstyle is on my facebook. Mama was livid when she saw what I had done to my beautiful hair but I was determined to start afresh for my A-levels. Going through my angry female rocker/goth phase, the new hairstyle was just what I needed to scare away the unwanted crowd.
The first day of A-levels at a new school. It was uncannily similar to how I felt two years ago entering the gates of the dreaded Froebel’s for my O’s. Back then, I didn’t fit in because I was a nobody, a loser in a braid from an all-girls school. This time the knots in my stomach tightened for the opposite reasons. My reputation as a heretic partier had already proceeded me. How much can change in two years! I was about to find out once again.
In my carefully picked outfit, I walked in. A baggy plaid men’s shirt, ripped jeans and a black leather trench coat. Not to mention the Peace sign around my neck to go with the rebel ensemble and a frown strategically placed on my face. Eyes that glared through every person as if one look would zap them down to ashes. Stepping in, I could immediately hear their gasps, stares and whispers.
‘Isn’t that the Padash chick…uff ho the druggie yaar….I heard she’s a dyke….tauba tauba, they say she’s not a virgin….hay baapray she looks so scary…My brother says she once overdosed on charas at Muddy’s…aray I tu heard she once drank so much at an ISI party they had to call ambulance na…” But when I would shoot them my deathly glare, they would shut-up immediately and shuffle nervously in their seats.
I had already decided that for the next two years, I was going to be as unfriendly as possible. What did I need friends for anyway? I could make plenty of those in college where I could tie Rakhees with a posse of freaks, hippies and sluts. That day, the entire incoming cohort was squeezed into one room for our first class. I had to walk all the way to the end for an empty seat, pushing past girls who flashed each other the ‘she’s a bitch’ look while boys exchanged a look that said ‘yeh kya cheez hay yaar’. I slumped down on the first empty seat, drooping all the way down in the chair with my fist covering most of my face and my curly locks curtaining my angry eyes. Numbed to the world around me, I already craved my next cigarette. Covertly, I surveyed the room and was pleasantly delighted that I didn’t recognize a single person from my old school. The few that walked in had been complete strangers, losers, wierdos and burnouts. Like the bizarre, sissy Brit who had joined my old school just a few months before our O-level exams. An effeminate thing who was often taunted by both boys and girls alike. When I had first laid eyes on him back in Froebels, I had smirked pitiably at the fact that he was the most peculiar thing I had ever seen. Completely oblivious that this feminine weirdo with a cockney accent would go on to become my closest friend in the world. Don’t you just love how life’s surprises work?
The sniggers and whispers were more pronounced and deliberate for his feminine walk and a forearm full of black jelly bracelets. He too looked around the room nervously searching for empty seats as every teen made sure the chair next to them was occupied. When he saw me, his eyes lit up for some reason. I reluctantly grabbed my bag off the chair with a groan. Just my luck; I would get stuck sitting next to the weird BBCD kid.
‘Ello!’ He greeted a little too enthusiastically as he sat down.
I barely nodded.
‘You’re Padash, ain it! We went to the same school, yeah?’ He continued in his girly British accent.
I had no desire of engaging in any tête-à-tête with this kid yet the boy was tenacious. Never once leaving my side the entire day and following me around like a puppy. As irked as that made me, I had involuntarily just spent my entire first day of school with this kid and there was nothing I could do to change that. When the seniors came to rag him in the common room, I offered him no support. Mostly because I wanted to avoid the nightmare myself. When he returned to my side distraught with eyes welled up in tears, we spoke nothing of the experience. Instead, he broke the awkward silence with ‘So…do you fancy the Spice Girls?!’ Pretty much, I came home from one of the worst first days of school, never wanting to return.
One day, as I came out of class, I noticed the senior boys taunting and mocking him with homophobic rants.
‘Aye Vilayatee Khussi idhar aa…’ they would screech when he walked by. Something in me just snapped and I turned to yell ‘Teray baap kee tarha chikna dikhta hay kya?’ They immediately transferred their vitriol for me with quips like ‘yaar is kee zabaan tu randyon say bhi buree hay’ but I didn’t care. I stood there with my bottle in front of my crotch screaming ‘shabaas beta, ab tum bhi pyaree see pussy ban gay dikhao?’. The boys eventually gave up and walked away moaning ‘Choro in kay moon naheen lagtay’.
The Brit boy rushed to give me a big hug soon after ‘Thanks so much for that.’
‘Don’t mention it!’
‘You’re my new best friend; I’m keeping you in my life forever.’ Great, I sighed sarcastically. I should have known. He wasn’t kidding!
Eventually the boy and I became good friends and began to hang out all the time. I nicknamed him Peanut much later but the epithet was perfect for this scrawny male who was not only girly but wore flashy clothes and jewelry. We were both the freaks of the school in a way and didn’t mind it. He was so gregarious though that he quickly became popular. A favorite among girls. Suddenly we were both not only a part of the ‘popular clique’ but began to really enjoy high school. After lunch at Arizona Grill one day, I was dropping Peanut home when he invited me inside to hang out. He lived in one of the most enormous houses in the area – even though everyone in our school woke up in mammoth houses –his lifestyle was completely different. When we walked in with our bags slung over our shoulders, he instructed the guard that I was his best-friend and was allowed to come to the house and use the pool even when he wasn’t at home. It was amusing watching my little Peanut scurry around his massive kingdom ordering the army of servants around. In the driveway was an empty Pajero with the AC on.
‘Dag, Tina’s home, she’s usually gone before I get home.’ He frowned his face at the running car.
‘Whose Tina?’ I asked.
‘My father’s wife.”
‘So she’s your mother then?’ I smirked.
‘Tina is NOT my mother!’ Peanut spun around with scorn ‘I only had one mother and she’s dead. Tina’s the biotch, my dad left my dying mother for.’
‘Got it!’ I nodded and followed him inside the mansion.
As expected, a young and slender beauty with bleached hair, a caked face, colored contacts and a sleeveless shirt stood at the kitchen counter smoking a menthol and punching digits on the cordless phone.
‘Hello sweetheart’ she smiled ‘How was school? Is that a new friend?’
She seemed nice but since my loyalties were with Peanut who remained cold, I too stayed formal.
‘Is it hot outside?’ She asked as she took a puff of her cigarette.’
‘It is but your chariot is well air conditioned by now. You can head off to your high tea.’ Peanut replied sarcastically.
‘She didn’t seem THAT bad.’ I joked once she left.
‘She’s probably heavily medicated. Wakes up at 2 and has menthol and Pinot Grigio for breakfast.’ Peanut pulled two bottles of coke from the fridge and then added ‘Come see my favorite room in the house.’
As I followed my petite little friend through endless hallways and baroque staircases, we finally arrived at a gaudy room with a long and extremely well stocked bar.
‘Cocktail Hour!’ He declared flamboyantly as he grabbed ice-cubes and a bottle of Vodka from the shelf.
‘This is insane! Wont your father find out?’
‘The only thing the three of us have in common in this house is our love for alcohol. Besides we rarely cross paths for weeks. I actually live in the Annex, I call it my Flat. When I first moved here, I would add water to the Vodka bottles so no one found out but now I don’t even bother. What will you have?’
‘I don’t really drink.’ I shrugged ‘Contrary to popular belief, I have only had a few sips of alcohol.’
‘Well you do now honey’ he giggled ‘Come let me show you the pool and my Flat.’
We walked outside to a private area draped entirely in bougainvilleas. In the middle was a lagoon styled swimming pool surrounded by rockery, plastic chaise longues and beach umbrellas. I was in resort brochure heaven! Peanut’s ‘Flat’ was right next to the pool too. He had argued with his father that he wanted his private space and after his mother’s death, mostly all his demands were met. Peanut later told me that he had not wanted to leave London. When he did, he placed several conditions on his father who acquiesced mostly out of guilt. As we sat on his bed that afternoon listening to Spice Girls, we sipped our Coke and Vodka and surfed through his stack of Sugar magazines. We talked about our lives and our plans. Born and raised in Neasden, he had lived a happy life till his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. His father who was taking over the family business in Islamabad, traveled back and forth often. After his mother passed way, his father moved to Islamabad and immediately married a bimbo called Tina. Peanut was convinced that Tina had been a mistress long before his mother’s death and refused to become his father’s excuse of ‘only wanting a second wife to take care of his son.’ Even though he had relented and moved to Islamabad, he had vowed to never forgive his father nor accept his second wife. Peanut happened to be a very talented artist too. Much to his father’s chagrin, he had no interest in running the family business. Often discouraged for his passion for subjects like art his father instead wanted his only son to study business. The few times they ever crossed paths in the house, it would be the main cause for their contention. Just like myself, Peanut too had a well crafted plan for escape. His just wasn’t charted out on a restaurant napkin with a friend who was now missing. Like me, he too was tolerating two years in this country before he could move back to London. There he would live with friends in Soho and draw nudes for a living. I was one of the only girls in the entire school who had seen his artwork. Understandably, he kept his drawings hidden – especially from his father – because they were mostly male nudes and homoerotic sketches. Still, his work was mesmerizing and I always encouraged this amazing talent.
‘Wanna go for a swim?’ He asked me for the very first time that day as I took a sex quiz in Cosmo.
‘In what?’ I replied.
‘Wear one of Tina’s swimsuits…that drunk wont ever notice. Its not like anyone can see us either, Tina swims naked all the time.’
The next minute we were diving into the pool and then lying in the sun drinking our liquor and discussing our respective plans to escape the boredom of our current lives.
‘Two more years of this hell hole…’ he looked at me stretching on his chaise.
‘…and then we move abroad and live life on our terms!’ I replied. These became our words of comfort throughout our A-levels.
Peanut and I spent several such afternoons for the next two years. Spice Girls in the background, reading sex articles in Sugar or his mothers Cosmo in his Flat. On the weekends we went to dance parties and burned the floor with our moves. ‘Lick it’ by 20 fingers was our song and we would go ballistic when the DJ played it. After the parties, we would end up back at his place for nightcaps and after-hour swims. Poolside conversations would last till sunrise while my parents thought I was sleeping over at a female friend’s house.
‘Guess what!’ he exclaimed one morning in school ‘There is a peephole in the servant quarters. They have probably been masturbating to you and Tina all along…they are so getting fired.”
‘Don’t’ I stopped him ‘A few sneak peeks never hurt anybody; it’s the least I can do for our overworked labor force.’
I never told Peanut that often when swimming by myself, I would catch his father secretly watching me from his bedroom window. He detested his father enough and for some odd reason, the thought of the servants looking at me never made me as uncomfortable as his father did. Peanut’s recalcitrance on defying his father’s wishes to pursue business were also rooted in his vengeance to spite his father’s machismo. It would break my heart when he would cry in my lap after a heated argument with his father.
Although Peanut couldn’t wait to move back to London, my plans were to move to America and track down Alisha in New York. (Today I have only partly succeeded in my plan)
‘Two more years of this hell hole…’ one would say.
‘And then we move abroad…’
‘And live life on our terms!’
As fun and carefree as our high school lives were, they were never devoid of problems and complications. Even though, Peanut and I had become the popular kids, it was all just a front. I was easily vexed by the insipid rich debs, I was forced to call my friends. But in high school when you find yourself lucky enough to gain membership into the popular crowd, you conform. Funny how we did so while bragging about being nonconformist teenage rebels. Peanut was also the only friend from school whom I introduced to Afia. They hated each other immediately! Afia was a little crass with expressing her patronizing bemusement at Peanut’s effeminate nature.
‘Yaar Padash, yeh kya hijree cheez hay yaar.’ She commented later and I had to put her in her place.
On the other hand (maybe because Peanut sensed her ignorance) he treated her in a very elitist and stuck-up way, constantly belittling her and calling attention to her middle-class existence. They were both bitches (my friends after all) so would often hit each other where it hurt. There is much more to Peanut and Afia’s rivalry which I will save for a later column.
When Peanut finally came out to me while smoking pot by the pool one afternoon, the revelation came as no surprise.
‘Padash I like penis’ he tried to be direct.
‘You like peanuts?’ I misunderstood him.
We spent the next hour in hysterics and were more amused by the joke to even care about his confession. Truly it didn’t matter. In fact not only was the moment, the reason for his nickname but it became a running joke amongst us. We would ask girls in school if they liked peanuts and laugh hysterically when they would reply with statements like
‘Buhat’ or ‘Kuch achay hotay hain or kuch buhat sakht’ or ‘Haan na sardyon may heater kay saath tu peanuts ka maza hee alag hay’ or ‘Achhay baray walay pasand hain jo Abu Pindi say latay hain.’ And my all-time favorite ‘Yaar may tu dewanee huun….koi ghar may peanut bachta naheen jab may hotee hun, sab kha jatee hun.’ Poor girls.
I decided that Peanut’s sexuality was completely unimportant to me. I loved him so much I didn’t care if he dropped the soap on purpose. During our senior year, after my failed relationship with Akbar (whom he despised) we were studying for our SATs when Peanut disclosed to me that he was having an affair with a married man. A very influential and well-known one at that. Even I was shocked when he told me who it was. I warned him about the risks and didn’t want him to get his heart broken but Peanut was once again only doing it because the man was his father’s macho hunting buddy/business colleague. Luckily Peanut never got caught. I wasn’t one to judge though because when I began an affair with a married politician shortly after, Peanut and Afia were the only people who knew and neither of them judged. Sometimes the tables would turn on us. One day we both got home from school to find the entire furniture in the living room tossed and smashed. Tina sat bawling on the bottom of the stairs, disheveled because she had just discovered her husband was having an affair. Maybe even multiple ones. I would sympathize with Peanut at those moments and knew that he needed a friend more than ever yet his reactions would baffle me. With a cigarette and a drink, he would shrug and say ‘Such is life…not my headache…we are moving abroad!’
Peanut was my date to our farewell. Why wouldn’t I pick the best man in my life to be my date! The one who told me I was beautiful long before the world noticed. When I arrived at his house, he looked as handsome as ever in a black suit, rocking a pink shirt way before pink ever became the new black! As scrawny as he was…he looked dapper and I knew that one day he would make a man very happy. Peanut had not only picked out my dress for the evening but he did my hair and my makeup in his Flat. A complete makeover, with my hair straightened and my curves hugging the black Rizwan Beyg dress in all the right places. He helped me notice my beauty for the very first time that night. Before we headed off to our Farewell, we had a celebratory drink on his bed where we had spent the deepest, darkest and most intimate moments of our past two years. Watching porn, getting stoned, getting drunk, discussing our teenage affairs with adulterous men, his repulse for his father and my wish to find Alisha someday. I reminded him of the time we both fell asleep on his bed. We woke up and giggled because we had literally ‘just slept together.’
‘Oh no, I just slept with a woman!’ He would joke!
‘Oh no, I just slept with a gay guy.’ I would retort back.
As we drank our drinks in his flat, we were happy that our dreams were within our reach. An exciting time in our lives, I had gotten accepted to a small yet extremely progressive liberal arts college in the States. I could barely study for my A’s as I waited for my I20 and counted the days to my escape. Peanut held his glass up to toast to some good news too.
‘I got an offer from St. Martins! One of the best art schools in the world!’
I screamed louder than ever and he just could not stop snickering.
We partied hard that night. The after-party was at Peanut’s pool. Even after everyone left and the remaining few were passed out around the pool, Peanut and I stayed up smoking, drinking and talking as the sun rose above our heads. We were finally doing it! We were finally leaving! All those moments when after a fight with his father, he would grab his passport and threaten to run back to London, I would arrive and talk him out of it.
‘Just marry me…you can get British citizenship and run away with me!’ he would plead. And as tempting as it sounded the voice of reason would often prevail. That night once again we fell asleep in each other’s arms. The servants probably watched. Maybe his father did too, but I assume his father would smile at the vision. Honestly, I had begun to like the old man. He congratulated and sent Peanut off to art school with his blessings.
We left for our colleges shortly after. I was in a small-town in the States and Peanut was in London. For the most part, we immediately began to live the lives we had dreamt of. Clubbing, sex, independence and no rules; we emailed each other every detail. When we came home for the holidays, we were back at his Flat partying like high schoolers. I had lost all my weight and Peanut had transformed from a skinny kid to a beefed up muscle stud. We were not only happy but looked sexier than ever. We even met up around the world. Since he always had a penchant for older men; all expense paid lavish trips were the norm. I even reaped some of those benefits. The summer I spent a week with a friend in Paris, Peanut was in Nice shacked up with the owner of a winery. He came down to visit me and we went dancing at Banana Café. When Jenny and I went to Cancun for spring break, we actually stayed in the luxury suite where he was staying with his new Real Estate developer boyfriend.
We are both nearing our 30s now. I’m settled in New York and he still lives in London. This time his ‘flat’ is an actual apartment in chic Soho. Six-pack, biceps, pecs…the boy has a body for days and truly a heartbreaker. Single as far as I know, but men come and go in his life like parking tickets. We remain as close as ever. He has an amazing relationship with his father now whom he eventually grew to love. Most of our high school friends are now just a square on our facebook friends lists. A lot of them fat, married, and popping babies in suburban hell. But for Peanut and I, our lives are just beginning. We look good, we feel great and I can dial his number this very moment and scream.
‘We did it Peanut!’
To which he would reply ‘Yes love, we’re living abroad…’
‘Living life on our terms…’