Said stood outside with a mock sign clung to his chest. My name was scribbled onto the piece of paper with an obvious attempt to try and keep the spelling correct. I smiled in relief to be out of the airport and to finally see the person who had been waiting for me, A young man 5’10” of medium build dark hair and tanned complexion. Beside him was an older man, whitened hair and significantly shorter, his look however, was as though the burdens of the world had hit him all at once. His face was of irritated relief when he saw me, Said’s was a smile to complement mine.
After greeting him, he laughed and handed me the sign as a momento while mentioning the difficulty he was having in spelling my name, “I wasn’t sure how to spell it,” he said. Jokingly I responded that one of the many attempts were perfect and we proceeded to the taxi.
The taxi was a small black motor complimented with a lick of white paint, it was an old eastern European car of comical fame. We squeezed ourselves into it and continued on the last leg of my journey, finally I was on my way to my new home for the next six weeks. Said tried to encourage some small talk out of me and for most of it I responded with smiles and short brief answers. With the night surrounding me, I couldn’t absorb too much of the scenery but it mattered little, lethargy was already creeping in alongside disinterest. I had been travelling for alot longer than anyone had anticipated and it was getting the better of me.
Finally I arrived at the building with relief, my travelling for the day was over! On entering there were stern glances followed by one person scuttling off into the kitchen, as if intending on not being seen. He was busy eating; time waits for no man we say in England, neither does food I say. Despite the stern looks I was adamant that I hadn’t moved into a hostile environment I smiled and greeted my new flat mates. Said introduced formally me to them and we sat down for an introductory chat. As I parked my bottom on the purple sofa, it sucked me in much closer than to the floor than I wanted to be and commenced with a little more small talk. I told them all about my episode in the airport if only for sympathy before moving on and discussing my studying arrangements.
Everything seemed to have been done right at the last, but it didn’t matter to me because I had somewhere to stay that night. The friend of a friend based in England had done a lot of work to get me into this building and as I appreciated those efforts immensely. He also prepared the classes for me and I became aware throughout our conversation that Said was not just an errand boy, but my teachers younger sibling. If he was my point of reference as a character witness for my teacher, then I was already delighted and anticipated our meeting.
I learnt a little later that the reason for the stern glances upon my entry were largely due to the fact that I was so much older than everyone else. One particular guy, in fact the person who narrated story to me, told me that he was worried that I may compel others to act with a little more maturity. I understand their inclination to act like children when doing their frat-style thing but I’m not the compelling type, so the reason for his worry was unfounded. On the contrary, I think if anything I actively encouraged them to nurture their child-like spirit from within themselves. My justification for that is that it’s a damn site better than acting like you’re some type of untouchable, connected gangster. In East London, I’ve seen way too many of these unwarranted claims to notoriety. In a time when people tend to liken themselves to animals, wouldn’t you much rather see someone being a bit of an ass rather than a dawg.
The apartment itself was a little dusty for my liking but I couldn’t gauge too much from the dim lighting. The yellow undertone of man-made lighting does little to compliment much at all but then neither does my incessant idealism. I wasn’t expecting the Burj al Arab, after all I wasn’t paying that kind of money but I did want relative comfort in parallel to what I’ve become accustomed to. If that includes a clean carpet, unstained furniture and a little customised feng shui, well so be it. I knew my slightly obsessive compulsion to clean and rearrange was going to be needed here.
The bathroom floor was laden with hair, not because I was living with a bunch of Neanderthals who were shedding hair faster than a Michael Bolton self-styled reinvention. It was because the cleaning apparatus, namely the mop had been around a little too long and was full of all manner of things. The tub hadn’t had a good clean in a while and its regular green colour was hidden behind the stains of dirt. I had, up until that point, ambitions of having a good soak in the tub to waste away all my pains from the journey. Obviously, my hope diminished after seeing ingrained dirt(makingingdi more emphatic).
The kitchen was like a grease factory, the walls, the sink, the cupboards and the cooker all attracted oil and fat with a magnetic affinity. The utensils piled into the sink for use when necessary, typical of a student flat. In fairness all my flat mates were fresh out of university so carrying those traits across was always going to happen. They didn’t exactly do much to combat the stereotypes and I mean that in the politest possible way, because they are absolutely golden.
That night a mattress was laid out for me in the three bedroom apartment. I was going to sleep in the living room right beside the purple sofa that worked more like a Venus Flytrap. Occupancy was already at its optimum of three; I had drawn the short straw but only until the next room had been vacated, that was to be two days later. Those two days out in the living room would have me curl up into a ball on the floor from sheer cold, but it wasn’t exclusive to the living room- the whole country experienced this amazing chill.