Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The day a Princess died....

It was the day Versace died. The same day a girl kept up with the news to soothe her boredom and a young boy in the UK fell asleep on his suitcase with tears in his eyes.

Why Yes!

Gianni Versace had died. On an uneventful day, outside his mansion, after a morning walk. Just like that. Gunned down by an old flame, an old trick, an old friend – BBC, CNN, PTV. Years later on a trip to South Beach with Dario, I visited that mansion and sat in front of those steps. I tried to imagine where his silhouette was chalked in that summer of 1997.

The summer when he died. The summer after my O-levels. I had returned after a month in Karachi teaching English to underprivileged girls at a Coaching Center while receiving my own coaching in a staff-room by colleagues from Nazimabad who allowed me a glimpse into a world completely different from my own. The summer I had bid farewell to my first true friend; the person who helped me, taught me, shaped me, formed me and then when her work was complete, left me. It was the summer I lay around in constant boredom, sneaking cigarettes from my bedroom window and watching The Wonder Years and Chicago Hope on the Dish. Sometimes, I would lie down on floor cushions and re-read An American Brat by Bapsi Sidhwa for the sixth time. Skipping over the gratuitous parts about Benazir Bhutto but savoring the descriptions of Feroza’s move to the States; even harboring a slightly ludicrous crush on Manek. A book read, simply because it reaffirmed and motivated my plans for escape to a land called America. A plan, I had carefully concocted on a pizzeria napkin one day with the friend I had just bid farewell to in Karachi but never heard from again.
News that day was saturated with descriptions of a murderer on the loose. He had killed many, including….actually….especially the founder of a multi-million dollar fashion empire. Emphasis on million and dollars; my first lesson that it isn’t the actual crime but more the value of the victim’s name which makes the news. This name happened to be stitched on the denim that covered my ass. Yes, he had died that day.

That same day a young boy in England walked home with a lump in his throat. Although he lived for fashion and the men who created it, today it wasn’t this news that grieved him. He had never felt so alone, so helpless and so betrayed in his life. He had no one. The ones around him had all lied to him. A boy who had lost his mother earlier that year, so death was already all too familiar to him. He had begged and pleaded to stay in London after his mother’s death but had no choice. He was made to move to his father’s mansion in Islamabad. This summer was supposed to be the end of that punishment. The tormented few months of living in Pakistan were now past him, or so he had thought. A boy I had only briefly seen and once caustically smirked at with pity in Froebells. The insignificant new kid in school, the target of bullying. The ‘weird new Brit kid’ who masked his effeminacy in gothic garb, frilly black shirts and an arm full of black jelly bracelets. The bullies aped his accent and mocked his walk and I? I smirked along as a passerby before moving on. As BBC narrated their own facts of horror about Versace’s death, the boy cried some more. He had walked around London all day, riding the tube to all his favorite places and then ending up on a bench at Hyde Park where he rolled up a joint in solitude. Stoned and despondent, he walked back to the house where he had just discovered that he was a guest not a resident. He had wished for the latter. The house was owned by his mother’s close friend, referred to lovingly as ‘Auntie’. A woman he had, in his mind, already moved in with but he was now told that he had to go back. His father called, sometimes persuading him with babied affection and sometimes scolding him to ‘be realistic and act his age.’ Act like a man! A man! A man!

At the young age of 16, he discovered the harsh realities of life. His Auntie was there for him and her house was open to him to spend his holidays but she was not going to take the responsibility of adopting a friend’s teenage son. Those were improbable and fatuous fantasies of grieving child. So, he reacted like most teenagers. Instead of agreeing with the facts, he slammed doors and thundered at the only woman he thought was his friend.

‘You ditched me too…you’re all the same…I have no one…I want to die. I want to go to heaven and be with my mother!’

When he found out that Versace had died, he went for a walk. After a day of soul-searching he returned to Auntie’s house and came to terms with reality. Sure, he felt defeated. Three months in Pakistan had seemed interminable. Now that his prison sentence was finally over, he was being told that he had to go back. Not three months this time but two whole years.

Curled up on the sofa he surfed the television on for any developments in Versace’s death. Still no sign of Cunanan but strangers who claimed to know either the prey of the predator were stepping up for their own five minutes of airwave fame. As their hyperbolic tales droned in the background, he recounted his conversation with Auntie and wondered if had been unfair to her. After all, she had sat by his mother’s bed when she barely breathed and stayed there even when she had stopped. She had held his weeping face in her hands and brought him to her house. She never stopped him from smoking fags in her house as she finished her own pack grieving the loss of a friend. Sometimes, she even sat with him and shared her own despise for his father. Other times she became the cold and austere middle-man between the two during phone calls between Islamabad and London. When his father convinced him to leave everything behind and move to Pakistan, she promised the boy that he would return to London for the summer holidays. She would see to it! But the summer was ending. And he had to return to his father. She had no claim to him. Her words rang through his mind.
‘Its only two years…’
‘Think of it as an extended vacation…’
‘As soon as you get there, you can start applying to Unis in London and then you can come back here. No one can stop you then. You wont even need an Auntie to crash with…you will have your own place.’
‘Trust me it wont be that bad. You will live in a huge house with a pool and servants and…’
‘You don’t have to go back to that school…I will demand that your father enroll you into another school.’
‘I will make sure your father promises that even in those two years you will spend all your summer holidays here with me…I assure you.’

Wiping off his tears, he accepted his fate. Two years and then he could return. 24 months of putting up with the bullies, his father and the despicable new step-mom. After that, he could return back and never look back. A plan, albeit never charted on a napkin, but very similar to my own.

He would ask Auntie to relay one more demand. He would only move back if he could live in the pool house. It was his way of knowing that he wasn’t sharing a roof with the man he loathed and the woman who tried to replace his mother.

Slowly he walked over to his suitcases, which lay dejectedly in the corner. He began to pack…again. Throwing in his frilly shirts and picture frames, he eventually fell asleep on a suitcase. There were tears in his eyes.

It was now August. Back in Islamabad, a girl dreaded her return to her peers. She had enrolled in a new school called UCI. A decision she had made on her own. Her mother displayed her anger and disapproval in strange ways. And each time the girl was reminded of returning back to the dreaded walls enclosing despised peers, she reacted to her teenage angst by hardening her appearance some more. An angrier haircut, a meaner face, shirts and jeans ripped up to wear. And with every snip, scowl and tear a mother’s frown drooped lower and lower. That girl was I.

A few miles from my house, the boy landed at Islamabad International airport. Eyes swollen and crimson with tears. In the backseat of a car driven by the man he cringed to call his father and besides him the woman who had replaced his mother. Long before her death. Once in secret but now in broad daylight. The boy’s only recollection of the girl with the new haircut and ripped jeans were of gossip. A rude girl who was rumored to run with a dangerous and morally depraved crowd. Who did drugs at parties and gave head in backseats. None of them were true…yet…but my appearance and my reputation urged otherwise. The boy still claimed to have been drawn to me and had even tried to befriend me. Unfortunately, I had been engaged in a similar charade of being unapproachable and unwelcoming. Besides a brief exchange of a cigarette on the roof of our old school, I had not responded warmly to any of his greetings.

When he arrived home from the airport that day, he claimed of a fictitious jetlag, and then immediately headed for the pool-house. When he switched the TV on, he was met with more unfortunate news of the summer. Princess Diana had died in a car crash.
‘Padash, I closed my eyes and cried more than I ever did all year….’ He told me a year later as he reminisced of that day.

The world gathered in front of their television sets. Local news tried to zoom in on Imran Khan and Jemima as they waltzed into the memorial. Unlike other girls, my crush on him had lasted only a week. Although the only person close to a heart-throb, his arrogance was quite a turn off. Afterwards, I grabbed my driver and rushed to Radio City to buy a cassette tape of Elton John’s song ‘Candle in the Wind.’ I played it over and over again in my room. For an odd reason, the voice more than the song gave me a strange boost of strength. As if it assured me that it was going to be ok. I was ready for my A-levels. Two more years of this hell-hole and that was it! Then, I could leave for good following my napkin plan. Finally live life on my own terms. I didn’t realize, that Elton John would not be the only homosexual Englishman to give me strength for the next two years.

The boy too watched Diana’s funeral in his room which he decided he was going to call, his ‘Flat’. He watched the service alone and then wept uncontrollably. He would later share with me that the lyric ‘Your candle burned out long ago but your legend never will’ was when he broke down and cried the most. The words finally served as closure to his mother’s death. Two years of this hell hole was all he had to suffer through. And then he could return back for good. Live life on his own terms.

So tell me dear readers. Where were you when Versace died? Where were you when Diana died. What do you remember most about that summer? And how has your life changed since then?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

I kissed a girl and I liked it!!!

…the taste of her Skoal stained chapped lips. She leaned over in the dimly lit bar while I kept my eyes fixed on the prize. A faded and oil-stained baseball cap perched clumsily on her forehead. Remnants of a mullet peeping from underneath the embroidered words ‘I Love BUSH’ as her lips parted to reveal a smile. And a missing tooth. A bottle of Heineken clutched in her hand, she moved her face inches from mine where I could count the axiomatic traces of a moustache on her upper lip, just days away from a full- fledged handlebar fit for a Chowkidaar. I gave her ensemble one last look: Birkenstocks on grubby feet and a gray tank-top underneath a stained red flannel shirt. Khaki shorts courtesy of Walmart contrasting with my black satin pants, courtesy of Marc Jacobs. Alas, I had no choice but to take the plunge. So I went for it and pressed my tender lips on Britney’s. Oh and by the way, if you haven’t guessed by now, this wasn’t the same-sex kiss that I had enjoyed. That one came a few minutes later. But lets rewind to a few hours earlier and how I even found myself in this situation.

Why Yes!

One night, Jenny, Julie and I decided that enough was enough. Tired of this boring and depressing turn that our lives had taken, we were going to treat ourselves to a night of unabashed clubbing. Just us! A fun girls night out like old times when life was carefree and exciting. Before emotionally unavailable boyfriends and just as emotionally unavailable futures. Junior year had been very difficult for all of us. While I constantly found myself sulking over a desultory relationship with a boy called Mustafa, Julie fretted about her future after graduation. She hoped desperately to score a job – any job - so she would not have to move back to Staten Island with her parents. To pay for the extra credits for next year, Jenny had picked up extra weekend shifts at the Blockbuster. Thus we barely ever saw her on the weekends now. Weekends which were often spent chasing after so-called boyfriends on the phone while Julie sat staring at her half-page resume ensconced between a thick Psychology textbook; a class she hoped she would pass on her third attempt.

So it was decided. That Saturday night we were all going dancing like we used to. I should mention here, that the only thing remotely similar to a club in our undergraduate lives was a dive bar called Aces, about a half hour away from campus. After paying a buck for a cover, you got the pleasure of enjoying a rickety dance floor, bad strobe light and an obese DJ who doubled as a bar-back. Yet, when I look back at my college years, it was a place that brought us all the joy we ever needed on a Saturday night. Memories of excitedly dressing up in skimpy clothes to tastefully show skin. Pre-gaming at the apartment to Julie’s Napster collection and then piling into my Mini Cooper to zoom out of our small campus town. Speeding on highways, dancing as we drove and then entering the exit for the closest excuse for a city. Bestowed the label of a metropolis only because it had a movie theater, a shopping mall, a bus system and two ‘dance clubs’.

Getting dressed for a night out at Aces was a memorable ritual among the three of us. Although we would commence the process in our own rooms, we would somehow end up convening together at the large full-length mirror by the staircase that had been picked up for 5 bucks at a garage sale. There, we would fight over our reflections, share make-up and ask for advice on shoes and tops. Plenty of times, entire outfits had to be revisited based on each other’s frowns.

We each had also our own designated roles for the night. Julie was in charge of picking the music as we got dressed and she gladly obliged with the interminable list of Pop hits on her Napster – later replaced by Limewire - to help us get pumped up for the evening. That night she blasted Missy Elliot’s ‘4 My People’ as we danced together while fluffing and patting our hair and faces. Jenny was always in charge of fixing us drinks for the pre-game and then sometimes, if we wouldn’t stop at a diner on our way home, she was also responsible for fixing us a post-dancing meal in the kitchen. I owned the car so obviously, I was the designated driver for the night but at the same time I was also responsible for attracting some old geezer with my cleavage to buy us all the first round of free drinks.

The bottom-boyz as we liked to refer to our downstairs neighbors, would be engaged in a similar ritual themselves. Usually we would run into them on our way out the door. In their tight tank-tops and tighter jeans, glow sticks between fingers and glitter on their faces; they too would be piling into their Yellow VW Bug to hit the gay bar which was conveniently located just a few blocks down from Aces. One of them liked to dress up as a woman when he went out dancing, and would often walk upstairs in his wigs and stilettos to borrow some of our makeup. Saturday nights was the only time this poor boy could escape the jocks and the bullies to sneak out into the dark in drag and we applauded his fortitude. I should probably add, that he is now a professional drag queen in Buffalo and even stayed at my apartment one year, when he came down for NY Pride.

Around 9pm, we rounded the troops. Last sips of mixed drinks, lip gloss smeared, ATM cards and IDs in back-pockets along with a dollar in our purses for the cover. With Missy’s song blasting from our windows, we swerved our bodies with the car. The light blue ray of the moon soaking our skin and tingling it with thrill. The usual knots of excitement and uncertainty in our stomach as we entered the city and parked our car outside the club. For once there was no talk of GREs, resumes, shifts, Mustafa or any other disconcerting topic that could remind us of reality. It was girls night out!

And boy we should have been careful what we wished for! Even when the disgruntled blondes in their hooker boots stalked angrily past us scowling ‘This is Bull-Crap’ we remained clueless. As far as we knew, it was 4 less hot girls at Aces to compete with. The woman checking IDs wasn’t the usual one and her glance of skepticism at our clearly expensive outfits baffled us but only slightly. Confidently, we marched into the club, peeling off our coats with the signature gusto that announced our arrival before making our way to our usual booth. Cigarettes lighted, first round of drinks ordered, we began to survey the land. Handsome men walking around but dressed in extremely casual clothes. I use the word ‘casual’ here as a euphemism for poor taste. Flannel numbers with sleeves rolled up, Leather jackets, Timberland boots, fitted caps cocked to the side and large White Fruit of the Loom T-shirts.
‘That one is cute!’ Julie pointed at a short white guy that resembled Eminem.
And we agreed that once his bail would be posted, he could very well be a contender for the evening’s company. But when the DJ kept playing KD Lang mixes and the bartender brought us a round of drinks with the disclosure ‘these are from the ladies on the far table’ we finally put two and two together. What we thought were handsome construction workers were actually butch women. Nervously we looked around the club again and saw tiny little humps bulging through the flannel and the white T-shirts. All the Eminems, Snoop Dogs and Kid Rocks in the place came with their own set of breasts. That’s when it dawned on us that we had decked up in our finest to go out clubbing on lesbian night. Not exactly what we had in mind when he had hoped for a girls night out!

‘Dyke night!’ The bartender informed us loudly over the shrill beats of a country song ‘Some lesbian softball convention in town so they booked this place for their social event. You should have checked our website.’
Who the heck checks a clubs website before they go out? Heck we didn’t even know the place HAD a website. As our bartender flashed us a sardonic smirk and walked away, we looked at each other and then broke into baffled hysterics.
‘I guess we have no choice but to make the most of it!’ I announced as I dug for a cigarette. ‘I mean we’re already here. Why not schmooze with the ladies!’
‘Hey…free drinks taste like free drinks no matter who buys them, boys or girls!’ Julie gave me a high five.
But Jenny wasn’t convinced. Tonight – just like any other night – she was on the hunt for a penis. Unfortunately, she wasn’t really going to have much luck there. Unless she was willing to settle for something that came with a strap.

The DJ was surprisingly good and we danced from our booth while graciously accepting all the free drinks being sent our way. Let me add that this isn’t the first time I have been around lesbians. I had plenty of gay friends in college but those girls were stylish intellectuals with sun-kissed skin and surfer bods who only dated feminist Women’s Studies majors. These hyper-masculine women with boots, mullets and missing teeth were a different breed altogether. These could make Chastity Bono seem like a beauty pageant contestant! Still we tried to make the most of the evening. Mustafa texted me to inquire about my night and was more than amused when I informed him of the fiasco which we were now attempting to salvage.

At around midnight, Julie disclosed to us that she had been making eye contact with a gorgeous – and hopefully biological - male across the bar.
The only man in the club that night was a good-looking Hispanic dude that looked like he was from of a Reggaeton music video. Just the way Julie liked them. Tatted up, a wife beater, a perfectly trimmed goatee and a body which could only have been sculpted in the recreated gyms of penitentiaries around the world. Of course, we agreed he was delicious.
‘Some more liquid courage and then I’m making my way over there to holler at him real quick!’ Julie announced ‘Padash quick flirt with some more Lesbos for free drinks!’
I guess I wasn’t working hard enough!

When Julie finally downed her next drink and made her way over to Papi Chulo, Jenny leaned over to me.
‘I feel really bad.’ She whispered.
‘I think he was actually making eye contact with me.’ She explained.
‘You sure?’ I asked.
‘Pretty certain. We always flirt at Aces…we have been doing it for years. He even hit me up once on yahoo chat.’
I didn’t know what was more disturbing. The fact that my best-friend had not informed Julie of this little tidbit or that she frequented chat-rooms on Yahoo. I mean who did that!
‘Why didn’t you tell her?’ I asked her pointedly.
‘I didn’t wanna come across as arrogant and she seemed so hell bent…I just felt terrible…’
‘Yeah but we’re friends…you could have saved her the embarrassment…oh wait look.’ Across the bar I could see the man write his number down on a piece of paper and hand it over to our Puerto Rican girl ‘Looks like she got her some digits after all.’
Jenny didn’t reply. This all seemed sort of shady but Jenny had always been my best friend and much closer to me than Julie so I decided not to push it any further. Still, I thought…girl code should be followed, especially at a lesbian club of all places.

Julie’s walk back to us wasn’t nearly as intrepid and seductive as before. Sliding back into the booth, she dropped the chit of paper in Jenny’s lap.
‘He’s all yours Chica…’ She sighed ‘Turns out he was actually interested in you.’
Jenny feigned shock and I guess Julie was dumb enough to believe it.

For the next few awkward minutes, Jenny sat fidgeting with the number in her hand while Julie stared straight into the flashy lights of the discotheque. I just kept my head down and continued to reply to Mustafa’s intermittent texts.

‘I’m gonna go get a drink’ Julie announced and then walked away to the bar. I figured she needed the time alone. So far, girls night out wasn’t turning out the way we had planned.
‘I’ll be right back.’ A few minutes later, Jenny too grabbed her purse and slid out of the booth.
I was glad that Jenny was going to go talk to Julie because she was already dealing with a lot these days.

The bartender brought over another drink to the table and informed me that it was another complimentary gift from the ‘lady’ in the baseball cap. I thought it was quite ironic that the manliest specimen at the club was being referred to as a lady but who am I to judge…or turn down a free drink. I held up the glass in gratitude and smiled back. Then I immediately looked away before she got any ideas. When I searched the crowd for my friends, I saw Jenny engaged in a flirty conversation with Papi while Julie was ignoring the sight by dancing alone, head lowered, eyes closed, swinging her hair from side to side. Ouch! I guess that’s not who Jenny went to talk to!

‘Hey what’s shaking Mama Sita…COMO ES STAAA.’
Great! I gritted my teeth and looked up at the source of this pathetic salutation. Baseball cap ‘lady’ had made her way over and then slid comfortably beside me in our booth. Then, before I could even conjure up a reply to Martina Navratilova’s stunt double, she added ‘I LOOOOVE Mexican women.’ Flashing a big, libidinous smile. And oh yes….there were definitely some teeth missing!

I spent the next hour talking to ‘Lady Baba’ whose name was actually Britney! Really? Somehow that name would not have been my first guess for this female Sasquatch seated besides me scratching her stubble. But, to be truly fair, she did make for interesting company and as we made flirtatious jabs at each other, I figured if nothing else she was good for practicing my flirting skills.
‘By the way’ I replied to one of her pickup lines ‘I’m not gay.’
‘I know’ she replied ‘And I only date straight girls.’
She may have even winked and flicked her cigarette at that point. I was reminded of Ajab Gul in a ‘Swaad A gya Badshao’ Embassy cigarette commercial.
‘So…I see you’re a republican eh?’ I frowned at one point as I noticed the words ‘I Love Bush’ embroidered on her baseball cap.
‘What makes you think that?’
I pointed at her cap with disapproval.
‘Sweetie, who says I’m talking about the President!’
‘Oh’ I silently mouthed with my lips.
‘You can have it if you want it?’
‘You can have it if you want, you know!’
‘Excuse me?’
‘I’m talking about the cap…but it will cost you?’
‘Oh really?’ I already suspected the answer.
‘A kiss!’
To this, I couldn’t help but emit a loud cackle.
‘Hey’ she held her hands up ‘Don’t knock it till you try it!’
‘That’s ok…you see I’m from Pakistan. I’m pretty sure by now that I’m not a fan of the Bush.’
‘They don’t have lesbians in Pakistan?’
‘Oh they do….we have plenty of lesbians…we just don’t allow republicans.’
‘I guess that means I still have a chance?’
I had to give it to her. This country western biker chick was good. Smooth even! Heck, I could take a few pointers from her.

I didn’t realize how much time had passed till the bartender announced last call. As was tradition at Aces, the DJ always ended his set with an extremely mushy love song at the end. His words – and we almost knew them by heart by now – were always:
‘Alright good peeps…its that time…time to say goodnight. So this one goes our to all the lovely couples in here tonight….But if you’re single grab the new friend you just made…hey this may even be your last chance to get the courage and make that final plea for that person you have been eyeing all night… go ahead, ask them for a last dance.’

Luckily, my new friend had informed me earlier that she wasn’t much of a dancer. I’m pretty sure its harder to bust a move in Birkenstocks than Manolos! Whitney Houston’s beautiful voice spread across the club, and women all over coalesced to slow dance with each other to her song ‘My love is your love’. Heads buried safely on each other’s shoulders and arms wrapped around waists; they moved side to side with true affection. It was actually quite sweet to watch them. Love was truly never supposed to be confined to boundaries.

I even saw Jenny and her Papi amongst the crowd. His strong, inked arms holding the back of her waist with such delicacy as if he was holding a petite and fragile doll. Her beautiful face next to his, cheeks brushing against each other and that tender sight brought another rush of endearing emotions through me. But then I looked over at Julie, who had walked away from the dance floor. Quietly leaning against the bar, she watched with eyes that narrated envy, longing, sadness and fear. All at the same time.

‘Lets do it!’ I spun around towards Britney almost shocking her.
‘Excuse me?’
‘You got a deal…5 minutes…no tongue…’
‘I was only joking…’
‘Are you backing out now?’
She was almost cute as she blushed. ‘I guess you are a Republican after all…’
‘I like to think of it more as experimentation.’ I winked and leaned over.

That was when I could almost taste the Skoal on her chapped lips. As she leaned over in the dimly lit bar. My eyes fixed on the faded and oil-stained baseball cap. Remnants of her mullet peeping from underneath the words ‘I Love BUSH’. A smile, a missing tooth. Traces of a moustache on her upper lips, just a few days away from a fully fledged Chowkidar handlebar. And as I described earlier, just like that, I took the plunge and pressed my lips on Britney’s. Oh and this still wasn’t the same-sex kiss that inspired the title of this column. As I mentioned earlier, that one came shortly after!


Pushing my hair inside the cap, I made my way across the bar to where Julie stood by herself. I mimicked a masculine walk as I went up to her. Scratching my crotch and then tapping her on her shoulder, I deepened my voice, ‘Hey shorty…I couldn’t help but notice you from across the bar…don’t really know if you play for my team but would you be kind enough to give me the pleasure of this last dance.’
I think I may have even spat on the floor but hey, a little overacting never hurt anybody.
Julie stared at me with her mouth agape for a few seconds, truly speechless. I will never forget the smile which then spread across her face as she shook her head with disbelief. ‘You are crazy’ she smirked and then accepted my hand ‘And I would love to!’
I gently kissed her hand – still taking my role very seriously - and then with a ‘You wont regret it Madam’ I led her to the middle of the dance floor where I cupped her waist with my hands and asked her to lay her head on my shoulder.

That song seemed interminable but it didn’t matter. The moment felt good, as we held each other close and slow danced. I could even feel a tear escape my eye, because just like her, I too was petrified of the future. Our perfect life of dwelling in a campus bubble was slowly coming to an end. We had no idea what lay next for us. So, we held each other closer and tighter. That night, I realized how much I was going to miss Julie. I had never been as close to her as I had been to Jenny but somewhere along the way, she had turned from being a third-wheel in our group to one of my closest friends. Now I couldn’t even imagine what life would be like after she would graduate and leave.
‘Thanks’ she looked up at me with tears in her eyes not shocked to see some in mine too.
‘No sweat’ I winked.
‘I’m scared.’
‘It will all be ok.’
‘Rejection hurts…’ she shared as she glanced over at Jenny and her Papi passionately French kissing on the other end.
I searched for something to say before Julie completed her sentence.
‘I found out today that I didn’t get the internship in DC that I had applied for. I had such high hopes for it too.’
‘I’m sorry…’ I wiped a tear from her cheek. It was the most intimate we had ever been.
‘Its ok…like I said, rejection hurts…’
‘But we might as well learn to deal with it now…something tells me it will always play a part in our lives….even the best of us…’
‘I guess that’s exactly what I need to remember before stepping out into the real world…’

And then, Julie did something which neither of us were expecting. She leaned closer and gently pressed her lips against mine. I kissed her right back. It felt like the right and natural thing to do. There was nothing sexual or even romantic about that kiss. It was simply a kiss between two friends that knew and acknowledged the depth of our friendship and how much it meant to us. How much the two of us were going to miss each other.

It wasn’t till we heard all the women around us applauding when we were slightly embarrassed by what had just occurred. We began to sheepishly giggle as Jenny made her way towards us with her Papi in tow.
‘You freaks!’ She exclaimed.
‘Hey…do at Rome as the Romans do!’ I laughed.
‘I’ll grab our coats,’ her man offered as he took her coat ticket.
I waited till he walked away before I asked ‘So I guess you’re not coming home with us tonight?’
‘No…he said he’ll drive me home tomorrow morning. I’ll just meet up with you guys at Brunch or if I’m late I’ll just see you at work!’
‘Well be safe, love.’ I hugged her.

Julie and I drove home together loudly singing along to slow jams. In a weird way we were glad that Jenny had gone home with the guy. When we walked inside our apartment, we were both starving. Most nights, we would stop at the local Dennys for breakfast on the way home but when we were too tired or too broke we settled on our stash of Ramen Noodles, Pop Tarts and Mac N Cheese on the couch before bed.
‘I’ll throw something together really quick!’ Julie made her way towards the kitchen.
I clicked on the TV and announced ‘Awesome, Real Sex is on HBO….perfect way to an end the night!’ The simple pleasures in life!

When I stepped out of my room after changing into an XL tie-dye T-shirt that a hippie guy had left in my room one night, I couldn’t help but notice the delicious aroma wafting from the kitchen.
‘Phish?’ Julie gave me a lopsided smile as she read the logo on my T-shirt.
‘I figured it was appropriate considering our night. By the way, what smells so good?’
To this, Julie revealed two plates of freshly backed pancakes and handed one to me. ‘Come on, lets watch old naked people on HBO!’
‘Oh my’ I was pleasantly surprised ‘I wasn’t expecting this feast.’
‘Why not!’ Julie winked ‘Didn’t you know I spoil those I bring home with me.’
‘Well then I could get used to this lover’

We sat on the couch and inhaled our pancakes while watching back to back episodes of Real Sex followed by Taxicab Confessions. And then somewhere along the way, we fell asleep on the same couch with our heads on each others shoulders. Yes, dear readers, as you had hoped, this column ends with me sleeping with another woman. But probably not in the way you had imagined. I woke up the next day to the 7th missed call on my cell phone. I figured it was Jenny, but it was actually a number I didn’t recognize. It didn’t matter because the time on my cell reminded me that I was late to work. I jumped up and immediately dashed to brush my teeth.
‘Who the hell keeps calling you?’ Julie asked sleepily as she stretched out on the couch ‘Is Jenny Ok?’
So, while brushing my teeth I decided to check my voicemail. It went something like this.

‘Hey…umm…I cant even pronounce your name but this is Britney from last night. I think you should know that you’re a BIG slut. You should be ashamed of yourself. I spent the entire night buying you drinks and then right after you kiss me you go off and start making out with some other chick on the dance floor. How could you be such a whore! We hadn’t even kissed for 5 minutes before I turn around and you’re kissing some other chick. And then you try to lie and tell me you’re straight! I want you to know I was really hurt. Don’t ever try to call me, you just lost your chance to be with the best thing that could have ever happened to you. And by the way, I want my cap back….’

‘Who was it?’ Julie asked with her eyes still closed and too drowsy to care.
‘Long story’ I laughed ‘I’ll explain at dinner.’
With that I picked up the ‘I Love Bush’ cap from the floor and placed it on my head.
‘Don’t tell me you’re wearing that to work?’ Julie asked.
‘Why not!’ I laughed and walked out the door.

Sure, I got plenty of puzzled looks from my friends and colleagues at the library but it was an inside joke, they would never understand. Even Jenny did a double take when she walked in 30 minutes late looking like the night before.
‘I don’t even wanna know.’ She rolled her eyes as she sat down next to me with tired eyes and a Starbucks cup.’
‘Oh yes you do…’ I laughed!
‘Well we do have a five hour shift before dinner…you go first.’
‘Sure’ I replied as I pulled out my cell-phone ‘But first, I want you to listen to this voicemail.’

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Love, Unconditional!!!

On a bus home from a weekend in DC. Partying with bureaucrats on Capitol Hill and non-profiteers in Columbia Heights. A city full of ambitious and powerful strangers. Strangers who once become friends and then became family. Yes, I’m mostly talking about Eva and her family of munchkins. Actually, earlier today I was at Eva’s legendary brunch of mimosas, cigarettes and a shared joint before I headed off to Union Station to catch this bus. It was there that Josh – recovering from a failed love affair with his personal trainer - asked a very insightful question.

‘So do you guys really think that there is such a thing as unconditional love? I mean do we ever really find such a thing in a partner?’

Eva’s reply, on the other hand, was even wiser than the question.

‘Of course my dear…the problem just is that we waste our time looking for it in the wrong places. Places where we think it should be when the entire time it was probably right before our very eyes. Food for thought, munchkins!’

Now, as I look out through the mammoth windows of my orange Bolt Bus at cars that whiz past me on the beltway, I’m still slightly tipsy from Eva’s mimosas but even more from her words. Maybe because I am reminded of a similar epiphany I had myself a just a few years ago!

Why Yes!

They say life is beautiful when you’re in love. Ever loved someone with uncertainty of whether it was requited or not? Then you know that its more torture and angst than rainbows and mistletoes. And that my friends was exactly how I felt when I returned to college after my semester in New York and a winter break in Islamabad. I had left a carefree heartbreaker and returned a dazed soul madly in love with a boy called Mustafa. Life just wasn’t the same anymore. Sure I was getting ready to become a senior and still had a year of carefree existence in front of me but for some reason I had committed the cardinal sin of hedonism. I had fallen in love! Fuel to this blasphemous fire, my tight female clique (Jenny, Julie and myself) no longer seemed as tight nor as knitted any more. Life was changing before our very own eyes and there was nothing we could do to prevent that. The entire campus once knew us as a trio of close friends who always got what we wanted and then disposed of what we got bored with. Now, wedged between the three of us was an awkward and unexplainable wall. Initially I blamed the fact that I had been away for an entire semester. The time apart had probably erected this strange barricade. One that would hopefully erode with time. On the other hand, I couldn’t blame them either. Love had managed to turn me into a stranger even to myself, I could only wonder how alien I appeared to my friends.

Getting back to rainbows and mistletoes for a second. Mustafa and I were only a few states apart, so a long-distance relationship seemed possible. Instead of going to Philly to visit Khala 1 on my breaks, I could visit Mustafa at Rutgers. On the other hand, he often drove to cities close to my college town to spend the weekends with me. Weekends I desperately looked forward to but weekends which never quite lived up to the romantic fantasies I had hoped for.

Honestly, this whole being in love phenomenon was completely new and confusing to me. I was literally willing to do anything for this man. He reciprocated by reminding me of the fact that we had slept together before we even had a proper date. And that he had never dated a girl so westernized and liberal as myself. And for once I resented this boldness and independence of mine. Then again, before me, the boy had been engaged to my cousin Sakina and that girl was as innocent and prudish as they came. Soon I found myself apologizing for the same independence and nonchalance that I had always been so proud of. Shoot, I even tried to change myself to become that nice and decent girl for him. What can I say, situations change us. And for the first time in my life I found myself envying Sakina and her purity when in the past she had been the most insignificant part of my life.

‘I’m sorry Mustafa’ I found myself apologizing one day ‘If you have a problem with me going to this crush party, I wont go!’

‘It’s really your decision Padash. I don’t care. Its something you have always done so why stop now…’

Ugh, I hate it when men lay guilt trips on us. ‘Yes but that was when I was single….look if you don’t approve of it, I wont go. I’m really trying to be who you want me to be.’

‘You should be yourself…don’t worry about me.’ He said with his usual tone of disappointment.

Crush parties were a greek-life norm in my college. Harmless dance parties, that would often take place a few weeks before a fraternity or a sorority formal dance. The concept behind it was from old college traditions when women were shy and men had to try hard to get laid. So, if someone had a crush on a person on campus, they would send them an invite to a crush party. If he/she showed up, that’s when you would ask them to be your date to the upcoming formal. But these days, such antiquated traditions were rarely followed. Crush parties had now became just another excuse to get drunk and dance with your friends at a local pub.

One morning as I was getting ready for class, my sorority sisters burst through my door with excitement over a crush invite in their hands. Apparently, it had been slipped under the door for me and the cause of excitement was merely because it was the fraternity that Baseball Chris was a member of. Ok so now you’re probably wondering who Baseball Chris is? Well he was easily one of the hottest guys on campus if not the world, DUH! A close, carbon copy of Chris Klein. Apart from possessing the most perfect tan even in December, he was also the proud owner of a perfectly chiseled body thanks to his coach’s rigorous gym routine. An endearing personality of a shy gentleman to match and Chris Klein was then sent to Earth. No surprise that the entire female population on campus had once harbored a crush on him but our luck, he had always been dating his high-school sweetheart ever since he set foot on campus. The Mina Suvari to our American Pie crush; she was the stereotypical blonde bimbo cheerleader, attending massage school near their hometown. To make matters worse, he was painstakingly loyal to her.

But that was all about to change! Rumor had it, that over winter break, Baseball Chris had broken up with his high-school sweetheart and was now on the hunt for a date to the Spring Formal. Sure, the idea was mildly intriguing but at the same time, as probable as finding princess parking in Manhattan on New Years Eve. (A weekend I will vow never to stay in the City for).

‘So word on campus is that you got an anonymous invite to the fraternity crush party?’ Julie asked me as the two of us lunched alone one day.

‘Yeah…I don’t know what the big deal is! We get invited to these parties all the time…’

‘Well YOU get invited to these parties all the time. I haven’t been to a crush party in ages let alone ever been asked to a formal in the four years I have been here. These sheltered frat boys aren’t really trying to take a curvaceous Puerto Rican chick from Staten Island to their formals. Let’s be honest!’

‘That’s not true…’

‘And secondly…many people are wondering if it’s from Baseball Chris… it would be nice to get asked out by the hottest guy on campus. A guy who I wouldn’t mind even getting herpes from.’

‘First of all that’s disgusting and secondly I seriously and highly doubt it’s him!’

‘Dag girl…this Mustafa guy has turned you into such a Negative Nancy!’

‘I’m just saying being invited to crush parties and formals isn’t all that its crapped up to be. Maybe back in the eighteenth century when potential hookups were referred to as gentlemen callers.’

‘Well maybe not for you princess…but I would love to know for myself. Face it, we may be best friends and all but your world is completely different from ours. Our hood-rat lives of shoplifting pale in comparison to your privileged upbringing and daddy’s credit cards. Your popularity in college with white people, your Barbie doll sorority sisters and your entourage of male admirers of every race…no wonder Jenny said that she felt un-pretty around you and that its not always fun to live in your shadows.’

‘Wait…Jenny said what?’

‘Nothing.’ Julie realized that she may have divulged too much.

‘Julie…you have to tell me!’

‘Look don’t tell her I told you…but…’

‘What did she say?’

‘Well…we became pretty close while you were in New York and once after clubbing we had one of those deep discussions over Ramen Noodles and she said…just…that she preferred going out with me because when she went out with you…she always found herself on the sidelines watching you get showered with compliments.’

I had never imagined that Jenny had felt this way. If she did, I would have preferred that she would tell me about it herself. Needles to say, after that dinner conversation, things between Jenny and I became even more tense. How can you just go back to being best friends after that? After learning that your company was never really enjoyed but in fact resented. Maybe I should have just spoken to her about it but hindsight is 20/20. We just didn’t talk much for the next few days.

The night of the crush party ended up being a lot of fun. My sorority sisters and I were having a blast on the dance floor and it was just nice to be hanging out with another crowd besides Jenny and Julie. When I broke away from my friends to grab a drink at the bar, I found myself face to face with a perfect Adonis who had suddenly blocked my way on purpose. Ladies and gentleman, meet Baseball Chris.

‘I was hoping you would make it.’ He continued to flash his dreamy smile.

‘Wait…that was you….?’
And yes dear readers it was. When I told him I couldn’t attend the formal with him because I was seeing someone else, he displayed some disappointment. Then he suavely assured me that it would be nothing more than a platonic evening between two friends.

Although I declined his request, the campus immediately became abuzz with news that Baseball Chris had asked me out to the Spring Formal. The problem with small liberal arts colleges is that they can be such close replicas of high schools.

Baseball Chris insisted that if I changed my mind, even at the last minute he would be at my doorstep in minutes. Sure this sounded a little too romantic for a ‘friendly evening between friends but hey I’m a girl and we cant help but swoon over such attention. The gay boys who lived in the apartment below us were also throwing a house-party that weekend so Jenny and Julie were going to be attending that. My only plans for that Saturday evening were to talk to Mustafa on the phone till we fell asleep. But when that night arrived he told me that we couldn’t do our usual late night talks. He had some big take-home exam to complete on Sunday and was going to bed early. Surprisingly, he even insisted that I go out with my friends and attend the formal because he trusted me. As soon as we hung up, the phone rang again and it was Baseball Chris asking me one last time if I had changed my mind. Finally, I relented and true to his words, he was at my doorstep within the next hour. I didn’t really go the extra mile to get dolled up that night. I had no reason to. I blow-dried my hair, parted them in the middle and threw on a white dress. Still, when I stepped out Chris greeted me with a bouquet of roses and then proceeded to chant like a mantra that I looked ‘absolutely stunning.’

The formal turned out to be quite a pleasant affair. Walking in with Baseball Chris had its perks and he remained a gentleman all night. If he treated all his female friends this way, one could only imagine the display of chivalry he saved for his girlfriends. As the night winded down, Chris offered to walk me home. Something most frat boys never did, especially for dates of the platonic kind. The walk home was fun as we bounced through topics of first impressions, our classes and our plans and dreams after graduation. When we arrived at my doorstep, I could hear an interminable remix of King of the Castle blasting inside. Although I invited Chris in to attend my neighbor’s house-party, he insisted on heading to bed because of an early morning workout. When we leaned in to hug each other, Chris suddenly took the liberty of pressing his lips on to mine. I immediately pulled away.

‘Chris…I have a boyfriend.’ I reminded him.

‘I know, I know. I’m so sorry.’ He began to apologize profusely ‘Its just that I have always had the biggest crush on you since freshman year. It was just my bad luck that I was always committed to my girlfriend but now that she and I have broken up, I knew I couldn’t graduate without asking you out.’

‘That’s very sweet of you Chris…but I really am in love…’

‘Well…then he’s a damn lucky guy and I hope he knows it.’ Chris was obviously embarrassed and after a quick peck on my forehead he was gone.

A bit flushed at the turn of events myself, I entered the apartment only to be greeted by my male neighbor and Julie. She was in jeans and he was in a sequin dress.

‘Girl….we saw it all from the window….I know you didn’t just turn down Baseball Chris.’ They both chorused.

‘I don’t know…I guess I am a monogamous chick after all…’

‘Eww…who are you and what have you done with Padash.’ The boy laughed.

‘Anyway, what did I miss? How’s the party?’ I changed the subject.

‘Well…we may have an overnight guest upstairs’ Julie informed me ‘Jenny has been making out with Shane for over an hour.’

‘No way!’ I exclaimed. Shane was our football quarterback. A tall African American guy with a body built like a house. He had always flirted with Jenny who had since played hard to get but we all knew she had more than a slight crush on him herself. I guess tonight was the night she was going to break him off a piece and I was happy for her. A little bit of sex would do her good and release all that bitterness she had built up inside of her.

After grabbing a drink, I ran into Jenny and Shane on the patio, huddled in a drunken, lip-locked embrace. She didn’t seem too responsive to my ‘hellos’ but instead chose to dangle Shane around like a conquest. I looked past it because I knew she was drunk. I smoked my cigarette while the gay boys gathered around me asking for every detail about Chris’s anatomy as if I was returning from an orgy instead of a frat formal.

As the night rolled into morning, people got drunker. The song, King of the Castle remained on repeat at the party for hours but everyone was so inebriated and stoned that no one cared nor noticed. Julie too was about to leave the party with Hector the Molester who had undoubtedly received that guerdon for being the college’s infamous perv who often preyed on drunk girls. According to his victims, he was terrible in bed on top of that. Naturally when I saw Julie exit with Hector, I rushed to at least make sure that she wasn’t going to regret her decision later.

‘Let me get laid bitch’ Julie snapped ‘You can’t have all the men in this world. Let us get lucky every now and then.’

Once again, a harsh and caustic remark from a dear friend and once again I ignored it. These were my best friends and I had to remember they were belligerently drunk. As I stood on the patio watching Julie walk away with the college’s worst lay, I was jolted back to reality by the incessant ringing of my cell phone. A smile spread across my face when I noticed Mustafa’s number on the caller ID. Since I had been having a pretty heavy night, he was exactly who I needed. A sweet gesture from a boyfriend whom I loved and wanted nothing more than to talk to for the rest of the night.

‘I’m so glad its you darling.’ I answered with a sigh.

But the voice on the other end didn’t greet me back. In fact, it didn’t acknowledge me at all. I heard Mustafa but only his grunts and his moans, no words. Fused in with grunts and moans of another female. A sound all too familiar, the sound of sex. As I stood there listening to the man I loved, making love to another woman when he was supposed to be asleep, I realized that eventually I would have to switch off my phone. I did just that. What else could I have done? To this day, I will never forget how utterly alone I felt at that moment. A best friend mad at me for reasons beyond my control. Another close friend rudely departed from me. And now, the man whom I believed was the one…had just trampled over my heart.

I returned to the party petrified with shock and dismay. The song ‘King of the Castle’ was now beginning to aggravate me to no end as I desperately searched for my purse. Just my luck that I walked into the room where Shane was hunched over on a couch making out with Jenny. It wasn’t rare for us girls to walk into each other in compromising positions. In fact, we often walked into each other having sex and just responded with quick apologies and a ‘just grabbing my chemistry book…don’t mind me…carry on.’ But when a blonde girl peeped from underneath Shane’s large, athletic body, I was overcome with more shock.

‘Where’s Jenny?’ I demanded immediately.

‘I think your friends a little upset at me…you see she went to the bathroom and then I met umm…this fine lady here…what’s your name honey?’ He turned to the blonde as he slurred his words.

‘Shane you make me sick!’ I yelled as I stormed out.

I searched all over the party for Jenny. I figured she needed me as much as I needed her so it was time to put our differences aside and comfort each other like the good friends we were supposed to be. Eventually, I found her upstairs in our apartment. Standing with equanimity by her bed, silk PJs falling gracefully on her skin as she calmly hummed a Sade tune and smeared lotion on her perfect black skin.

‘Jenny…there you are!’ I entered her room flustered and out of breath.

‘You need to talk to me?’ She replied calmly.

‘Yes…I came as soon as I…’

‘Let me guess…you have a problem you want to discuss…’

‘Not exactly….’

‘A problem like…lets see…one of the hottest guys on campus asked you to a frat formal and then just came on to you…I’m sorry Padash but that doesn’t sound like much of a problem to me. Don’t you get it…I don’t have time to listen to this crap anymore. If these are problems I would kill to have them myself…’

‘No Jenny I came to see if you were ok…’

‘Why wouldn’t I be?’



‘I just saw Shane kissing another girl…he really doesn’t deserve you anyway…’

‘Wait, you saw that?’ Jenny’s expression instantly changed.


‘Great!’ Just fan-effing-tabulous!’ Jenny threw her arms up in despair and plopped down on her bed.

I sat down beside her and placed my hand on her shoulder. We had been best friends for years and this was the first time I had ever seen Jenny cry. She just wasn’t the type to shed tears. A strong woman, who always remained calm when the rest of us would panic. A stoic who had immigrated with her family from Sudan and then grew up tough as nails in the housing projects of Compton. A girl who went from getting initiation tattoos for one of the worst street gangs on the West Coast to getting scholarships on her own to a prestigious liberal arts college on the East Coast. A mentor I had learned a lot from.

‘Its ok babe…he’s not worth your tears’

‘Don’t you get it Padash, I’m not crying because he ditched me for another girl’ Jenny blew up at me through loud sobs ‘I’m crying because you saw it happen. You weren’t supposed to see that!

‘Why …. I don’t get it.’

‘Because….I don’t want to look weak in front of you anymore. Just another effing night when you come home with problems like how you have such a great boyfriend who you met like a Hollywood chick flick and how Baseball Chris is now trying to woo you! I’m sick and tired of your world Padash. You’re not supposed to see me like this….you’re not supposed to see me weak….I cant be defeated in front of you one more night….’

My world almost slipped from underneath my feet as I heard her words spurt out with scorn through a swollen face which turned even more crimson. Tears streaming down her cheeks as the smell of liquor engulfed her frame. There was nothing I could say in return. In all my life, I had only thought of Jenny as one of my closest friends. Now I stood there and watched her yell and scream at me for reasons unbeknownst to me. Weak? Defeated? By me? Her best friend? Tears escaped my own eyes as I quietly backed out of her room, speechless.

‘Am I not right Padash…wasn’t that the problem you wanted to speak to me about?’ She pressed further as I took my steps back.

‘No! It wasn’t.’ I replied quietly.

‘Then what?’

‘I just found out that Mustafa’s cheating on me.’

No other words were exchanged between us that night. Just awkward silence and locked doors. I cried myself to a night of terrible sleep while the muffled dance music and laughter from the downstairs party continued to waft upstairs till the wee hours of the morning.

I woke up late the next afternoon. Just in time to shower and rush off to my work-study shift at the Library. Unfortunately, Sundays were the day Jenny and I worked together – a schedule we had once carefully picked out. Now I cursed myself for it. Jenny was already there when I arrived. Her nose buried in a textbook as she toyed with a highlighter. I too quietly peeled off my book-bag and settled on a stool beside her.

‘Nice sweatshirt.’ Jenny attempted a conversation.

‘Thanks.’ I replied as I reached for my own textbook and highlighter.

We were both wearing our comfy college sweatshirts which we often wore together. They were our dance troupe sweatshirts and the troupe was something that Jenny and I had once excitedly signed up for. It was our ticket to all-expense-paid trips to other cities and around the country’s colleges. We would room together in motels and then, escaping the coach’s eye, we would sneak out to local clubs and bars to party with the denizens. Today, it was almost sad that these same sweatshirts were being used to break the unexpected ice that had frozen over us in just a night.

An hour passed before Jenny jumped off her stool and requested the other girl on the shift to cover for us as we took a smoke break. I wasn’t really interested but she insisted that I join her. Our backs against the wall, we sat on the floor behind the library and lit up our cigarettes before staring out in two different directions.

‘Listen…Padash…about last night…I’m really sorry…I don’t even know what came out of my mouth…I was just very drunk and…’

‘Jenny please’ I stopped her ‘The least you can do is own up to what you said. Don’t hide behind alcohol. If it came out of your mouth then it was always there, buried in your mind somewhere. Just admit to your words and stop making silly excuses.’

That wasn’t all that I said. I also told her that I had no idea she ever felt that way about our friendship. That the words ‘weak’ and ‘defeat’ should never be used when it came to good friends. I had always hoped for nothing but the best for her. How I had always looked up to her. In fact, she had been far from ‘weak’ to me, but it was actually her strength that drew me to her. She quietly listened to every word with succinct nods.

‘Sometimes in our lives Padash we become our own worst enemies…I just let my insecurities take over me…I’m sorry.’ She whispered.

‘Its ok.’ I sat there tracing odd sketches on the ground with my cigarette butt.

‘And…and…I really am sorry about Mustafa.’

‘So am I.’

‘I had no idea that he could…’

‘Well now you know. Guess what, my life isn’t as beautiful and perfect as the world thinks it is. I get rejected and hurt just like everyone else.’

‘You really loved him didn’t you?’

‘Sad part is I still do.’


I shrugged ‘It hurts…a LOT.’

‘So what happens next?’

‘I have no clue.” I shrugged again “I really wish I knew…but I don’t.’

‘Are you going to break up with him?’

‘I don’t know.’ I thought for a while, ‘Probably not.’

‘But you will confront him about it wont you?’

I shook my head again. ‘Honestly, I don’t know if I’ll even do that.’

‘Padash you can’t be serious?’

‘The funny thing is Jenny, I actually am.’


‘I hate this person that I’m becoming. The person he has turned me into. I don’t even feel like the same Padash anymore….I just feel soo…sooo weak.’

‘Stop it.’ Jenny smirked ‘You sound like me last night.’

‘I feel defeated.’ I decided to tease her some more.

‘Hey watch it…that’s my best friend you’re talking about!’

We laughed for the next few minutes and just like that we were friends again.

Once my shift ended, I arrived at the dining hall where Julie was already waiting for us on a table. Our traditional Sunday dinners.

‘I don’t wanna talk about it!’ She laughed as I sat down next to her with my tray of food.

‘Hey I tried to warn you about Hector the Molestor but…’

‘Yeah…I should have listened!’ Julie winked ‘By the way, is Jenny not joining us for dinner?’

‘She’s running late…we made up earlier today…long story.’

‘Good. I shouldn’t have told you what she said while you were in New York…it seemed to have really messed things up between you guys.’

‘I’m glad you did. I needed to know.’

‘If it makes you feel any better, I resented her for the comment as much as you did. Can you realize how I must have felt when Jenny said that? That she enjoys hanging out with me instead of you because she doesn’t feel less pretty and like she’s in your shadows. So what does that make me? The bottom end of our friendship food chain? Even girls that develop inferiority complexes can feel better standing next to me…’

‘Julie…that’s not true!’

‘No it is…and I thought about Jenny’s words the same way you did. But I guess envy is an inevitable emotion among girlfriends.’

I didn’t try to sugarcoat my replies. ‘So I guess the more important question is…where do we go from here?’

‘Accept some realities and then move on.’ Julie smiled.

Jenny eventually joined us for dinner and after a brief bout of an awkward silence Julie raised her glass ‘So chicas….spill the beans...the end to yet another crazy weekend in our lives…and I want details!’

The dining hall of our dorm echoed in the familiar warmth of camaraderie’s din. Inhabitants on every table talked to each other about the weekend while setting their differences aside. The jocks on one table laughing loudly and belching about which chick they ‘hit’ and ‘tapped’. The cheerleaders and sorority girls giggling over gossip about each other. The Goths too laughing awkwardly through carefully painted frowns in black lipstick. The gay boys laughing loudly on the other end sharing their own carnal tales of debauchery set in bathhouses and dance clubs. The international students in their corner recounting their weekends with broken accents. And just like them…the three of us sat on our own table…laughing, giggling and sharing details about Chris’s attempted kiss and his revelation of love. About Shane’s sloppy kisses and how Jenny was more than disappointed by what she felt between his legs. About Julie’s terrible night with Hector the Molester who insisted on singing along to a UB40 CD while having sex.

At one point, Jenny reached over and grabbed my hand ‘Baby, you’re an amazing person…just remember…there are people out there who deserve you…who will provide us with unconditional love.’

‘Actually’ I smiled as I squeezed not just her hand but Julie’s as well ‘I don’t know about you guys, but I may have already found them both.’