3. The Tenant of the Rat Family.
'How can you still hide your keys under the flower pot outside? Do you really think people are stupid?' I shouted as I slammed the door shut behind me.
'Oy, are you out or something?' I yelled, though this time I got a reply.
'Shut up and make me some coffee and breakfast or something – I'll be out in a sec anyway.' Hearing Nohad's voice, even when she is annoyingly demanding, brought a welcome smile. Her house was a mess as always – clothes had forgotten what living in the wardrobe felt like and the carpet hadn't been stepped on in a long time thanks to the many layers of books, medical journals and food packets – mostly empty. I tried walking through the piles without disturbing the peace on the floor while picking up the empty wrappers. Leukodystrophies, cardiac myopathy, hallux – did she really need to learn about her head, heart and her big toe at the same time?
'Why can't I hear kitchen noises? Clank some metal together, will you?'
'Make your own food, I have better things in life to achieve than work on my culinary skills.' I worked quietly in the kitchen till I heard the bathroom door click.
'Coming from you, it might just be too hard to believe', she said as she pulled a face while tying her wet hair up into a bun. 'Did you throw your phone out of that window again? I tried calling you but had a pleasant talk with someone else instead who I suspect to be a very jolly tramp about his nocturnal habits and his troubles sleeping in the cold. Charming fellow.'
'I can imagine. What does he have to complain about though? He has a free life with an anonymous existence – what more does he want?'
Nohad stretched and yawned before she sank onto the sofa - 'I don't know, maybe I should call him up from time to time. He seemed kind of lonely.'
These were the times that I really wished she would never graduate from medical school. I am selfish – sharing this wildly friendly person with vulnerable patients might reduce the time I can enjoy her quirks. As a person, she was highly entertaining – I would question boredom's effect on people around her. As a friend though, I would rather keep her for myself and sharing privileges with a wandering tramp was a little disconcerting. I needed a change of subject.
'Where do you keep your passports, by the way?'
'In the cabinet, below the sink. I am secretly hoping the rats eat it so I don't need to go back home for the holidays.'
'You have rats?'
'You mind if I burn them?' I asked as I walked over to the cabinet.
Nohad strained herself to look up a little from the sofa.
'The rats? Very much so – I have come to become very fond of them. I could name them but I just can't figure out whether they are boys or girls.'
'How hard is it? Grab them and take a peak. But I meant your passport.' I said as I opened the cabinet and quickly took her passport out.
'Nohad Omaar. 23 years old. Born in Stockholm, Sweden. Nice picture by the way. Big forehead caution.'
'Its a sign of cleverness, thanks. It increases my chances of being related to Einstein even.'
'A Somalian-Swedish woman of colour related to a Caucasian scientist... well if you can talk to your rats, I guess anything is possible.'
'I don't talk to them. Other than the occasional exchange of pleasantries and season's greetings.'
I smiled while I kept looking for the box of matches between the mess in the kitchen.
'Oh come on! Don't burn it – it will stink this house up. If you really don't want me to go home for the holidays, just throw it out of the window. I bet another tramp will hit it lucky.'
I didn't mind really. As long as both are passports were away, there was no way I could return to Seoul. No bridesmaid and no bride – my wedding sounded perfect.
'Odd! Throwing stuff out of windows is oddly liberating' I said as I dropped the stuff down from the first floor flat. Brushing the imaginary fairy dust from my shoulders, I sauntered to the kitchen.
'Eggs, bacon or baked beans from a tin? I'll let you choose today – special treat.'
'Make them all and we'll call in a breakfast gourmet.'
'Seriously, all you do is read those boring journals or eat and occasionally bathe. I think you may soon need to ring life up.'
'Weird you say it while all you do on a Monday afternoon is work out and cook gourmet meals for your friend' she murmured as she slowly retreated into the book.
'I will have you know that...' What would have been a somewhat witty comeback was interrupted by the doorbell.
My joking exclamation though was pretty genuine for my friend. 'Weird, I haven't heard that bell since Christmas when Zech surprised us... who do you think it is?'
'Maybe, its the rat family, complaining about this mess' I said as I dodged a pile of papers to get to the door unharmed.
Two passports stared at me at the open door. One I had recently acquainted myself with, the other was mine.
I looked up to see a familiar face.
'You haven't changed a bit – but you won't believe the luck I've had with raining passports today. I can narrate in the plane maybe?' He gleamed a smile, a smile I've seen many times and smiled along with.
But today, he was an unwelcome face.