A4 invited me to a party last Friday. I asked the ex to come. The ex said no, I’m going to Milan.
The ex is making maximum use of the no-visa restrictions of a British Passport and is jetting off on weekends, like a diva.
Switzerland this week, Milan the next.
“Why don’t you come?” the ex says.
Completely forgetting the miserable amount of hoops I need to jump through just to get my Indian ass a visa. The ex has mentally wiped out ever being an Indian. The ex is now some Tory type. Tweed jackets with elbow patches. (Although I’ve always been fond of the English country-gentile look. It must be some post-colonial hangover)
A4 claims the ex must be fictional (because they haven’t met yet). Apparently Leo and I seem like a couple, because he is, like, all up in my Facebook. (That sounds dirtier than it is.)
So I asked Leo if he wanted to come.
Leo said he was already invited. (How irritating)
But had another party to go to first. (How doubly irritating)
I was hoping to drag him with me as a buffer for my social ineptness. But that Leo fellow is always bloody double-booking and then he always shows up 2 hours later than he said he would. Like some goddamn social butterfly. He is totally unreliable. Has he no sensitivity to people who are socially stupid?
I arrived at A4’s posh place fashionably late. I decided to buffer myself by going to Astrid’s (photographer/designer/pig butcher) birthday party in a pub down the road called the Island Queen.
I really like the sound of this pub. It conjures up visions of tropical warmth, pirates on a beachy coast, a white cockatoo, and perhaps some elements of camp; jolly gays, dolled up Trannies.
Unfortunately it’s a pretty standard little pub, albeit with very beautifully painted plants and flowers on the huge mirrors lining the walls. The tropical warmth was provided by a cosy fire-place. Catholic boy was there among other artists. Catholic boy says he needs to go to confession. He’s done a bad thing. He’s sinner. If he dies he might go to purgatory. He’s Irish so I can never tell if he’s joking or not. Deep down I think he means it. He calls me a heathen and asks me how my fire god is doing these days.
I really miss college when I hang out with arty types. I think we (ex-MA’s) should organize a crit in a digital space. At least in a digital space people are more willing to flame. Without a strong tutor , face-to-face crits can descend into namby-pamby back-patting or tip-toeing around a sensitive issue. What use is that? You have to be honest and sometimes that’s means you have to be harsh. I miss the tearing apart of some poor victim in a crit. I’m sorry I just do. Some crits you could just smell the blood in the water.
Then I left to go to the academic party at about 10 pm. I had forgotten how rowdy Camden was, I must be getting old. People falling about all over the place. That’s always been my memory of Camden. People falling about all over the place.
I finally got to A4’s place, to find A4, in a comedy afro, have a full-blown bust-up with an irate neighbor.
A party friend, fortunately not in a comedy wig, was backing A4 up forcefully.
I catch the end of a sentence
“…if you just come in for a moment you’ll see the music isn’t loud at all…”
irate neighbour was saying quite rudely,
“…well if you can’t abide by the rules of this estate then you should go and live somewhere else!”
(at 10:20pm. Not late and it was not loud, really.)
A4 responds angrily
“well it’s not actually loud and if you come in you can hear it, but we have already said we’ll turn it down…”
A4’s party friend is still forcefully backing her up. Good moral support that guy, because irate neighbor is being an absolute twat.
Irate neighbor isn’t having any of it. He says something rude and despotic again, then rolls his eyes in his fat face, sneers and stalks off.
A4 looks mad as hell, even in a comedy afro, and storms off back into the flat.
I feel very nervous now.
Turns out A4 has the unluckiest flat position in the entire building. In-between the estate manager’s flat and some other building bureaucratic lame-o. They both complain to the landlord. The landlord calls to complain. A4 is very angry. She is abusing sneering irate estate manager left right and center.
The next day A4 finds out walls are paper-thin. Irate estate manager probably heard it all. The landlord calls to fight again.
What a nonsense.
I’ve never been to a more civilized academic gathering in my life. If someone had stood up to give us a lecture on ‘insert long-winded academic subject here that involves reading books in 3 other languages’ I wouldn’t have been surprised.
A4 has a unique introduction strategy.
She pulls someone up and says
“designer – designer. You’re introduced now.”
She grabs someone else
“Jamnabai – Jamnabai”
Introduction over. Like pulling off a band-aid.
This Jamnabai girl says she remembers me (she might have been lying). I have no recollection of her at all. I forget to lie (what’s the point? I’ll just forget about her again). She seems offended. (It’s been over 10 years, I can’t remember people I didn’t even know after 10 years.)
A4 seems to collect PhD people. The room is crammed with doctorates. I chat to an Irishman on the balcony and he speaks fluent Hindi, Sanskrit and perhaps Urdu. He is, of course, a PhD student. Everyone at this party is a PhD student or already has one.
Do you think there’s PhD envy? When I see someone who has made some amazing thing I am filled with bile and envy and rage. Do you think the have-not PhD’s were envious of the haves? It’s a philosophical question. Maybe I should do a PhD on PhD’s to answer it.
There’s also a very tall, attractive PhD Indian on the balcony smoking, with a diamond nose ring and an American accent, studying Urdu short stories. Everyone seems to speak Urdu on this balcony. Even the firangis.
I begin grow a complex. Forget Urdu and Sanskrit. I failed Hindi 4 years in a row. I considered my ICSE passing grade nothing short of a miracle. (My U.P. tutor helped a lot)
This fat, pan-chewing, U.P.-ite (This is a different teacher from my U.P tutor. All hindi teachers are from U.P.) of a Hindi teacher called Shukla once threw me out of class just for speaking badly and stammering. As if throwing me out would improve me.
“You. Stand up.”
I stand up. I’m looking at his red-dyed mouth and yellow teeth. I’m terrified.
“You are house rep?”
“Get out of my class”
He didn’t approve of a house rep who spoke hindi badly.
Out of A4’s collection of PhD friends Leo and I know one each, to A4’s amazement. How the hell can losers like us know PhDs?
Leo and I are academic whores. We totally have our own collection going. Him more than me.
But I have a garden. (PhD’s love a garden. Fact.)
The party ends at about 2, I make a move to kick ourselves out. We are so useless we’re the last to leave. Leo showed up so late the party was pretty much canned. I take a cab home and drop Leo off.
Dan and another academic walk home in the freezing cold. All that studying must have addled their brains. It wasn’t snowing then but it was still absolutely freezing.
I get home, and sit in front of the heater, rolling.
I take it to bed, but fall asleep with it clutched in my hand, unsmoked. At 4 a.m. I finally give it up and just go to sleep.