Before the Fall

Hari had been three hours late for our first date. There had been no apology. There had been no hello, either. There was only a phone call that began “… before you start ranting at me, let me explain…” He instructed me to travel to Russell Square after making me wait so long, which I grudgingly did. When I got to the station, my phone rang. It was him. He was standing on the other side of the road, but I did not immediately see him. I saw two old men. He said the two old men were Indian, like him, and that he was the other Indian guy, implying I was race-blind. The two old men were both white. He had a hang-up about race that I never fully understood. When we first began talking after meeting online, he had said he wanted to talk to me on the telephone but said he hoped I didn’t mind his thick Indian accent. I said, “of course not”, while feeling very confused. If he was born in London, why would he have a thick Indian accent? When he did eventually telephone me, there was no Indian accent at all. I never mentioned it, and neither did he.

As I crossed the road to see him, I said to him “so you do really exist” and he snapped back “of course I do”. As we walked to an apartment, he had told me he was renting from a Russian millionaire, I lost my footing and fell, badly cutting my hands and legs. A passing couple stopped to check I was ok. He did nothing. Stone-cold sober and wearing flats, I had fallen on jagged concrete. It was like a million needles piercing my skin. It is a cliché when the man you are with won’t even help you up when you fall and are injured. We continued to make our way to the apartment, as I tried not to cry. Hari quietly carrying my bags, looking tense. My tights were torn, and my knuckles and knees were covered in blood. We walked up the stairs and entered the smallest, most beige, apartment, I had ever seen.

I asked Hari to “pour me a glass of anaesthetic”, indicating to the Merlot he had picked up from the supermarket, which he did. He said that because I was very clumsy, and he had paid £150 security deposit, he should be careful with the glass table, and placed a tea towel on it before setting down my champagne flute. I was not even slightly impressed. He then set about rolling himself a cigarette. We went out onto the balcony while he smoked. The balcony was tiny, like a large window ledge with a fence of high black bars around it. We both stood on that balcony with our bottoms pressed against the wall, while he smoked his cigarette. He had a thing where he would side-eye me, in a cheeky, mischievous, slightly suspicious way, then move his head quickly away. I asked him why he was giving me that look, pulling that face. He said, “I have news for you, there is no face, this is my face”.

Later, he leaned towards me, as we sat at that ugly glass table, and said “I would like that first kiss now”. I was sore and exhausted, and I started to laugh. A lot. He did not laugh at all. As our lips touched, the Merlot on an empty stomach hit me all at once, and the room began to spin. “Uh oh,” I said, running to the bathroom. The rest was a blur. I threw up at regular intervals after that. He tried to come into the bathroom, and I told him to leave, that he did not need to see this. He came in anyway and held my hair back while I threw up. He rubbed my back as I say on the bathroom floor, my arms hugging the toilet. After the Merlot storm had passed, I laid with my head tucked in the crook of his armpit as he fell asleep, snoring softly. When I eventually woke up early in the morning, hungover and embarrassed, I was face down in his armpit, which smelled a lot more fragrant than my breath.

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