I gained 7 pounds during my 7-week adventure in Italy. I ate my way through the beautiful rustic country as clearly defined on my scale and through my pant buckle. As I arrived in my new city, San Francisco, I was rejuvenated and ready to approach the job hunt. You may not remember, since my Plaid to Prada posts have been a wee-bit sporadic over the months, but I was laid off from my dream career in Los Angeles before I decided to treat myself to an Eat, Pray, Love trip in Italy. My soul trip gave me more than perspective on myself. I realized, while I love the publishing world, my heart is set on writing. I ended up writing my entire first draft of my manuscript in Italy. I haven’t written, creatively, since I left my graduate program years prior. My journals were filled with my hopes, dreams, and often tear-stained pages, but my heart soars when I write creatively. I decided I needed a fresh start after my detox-vacation. Since I was in my late twenties, I’ve only experienced living in one city after my birth place of Cincinnati, therefore, I moved to San Francisco.
Continuing in my theme of going against the grain, I signed up for a creative writing class in the city. Many people filled up the rooms, wanting to learn how to code and I was the nerd still buying books from the corner bookstore. As usual, and to continue my column theme, there was a boy in class that caught my eye. Well, I caught his eye and didn’t know he even existed until he emailed me. I still never got the full story on how he got my email address.
“I love your hair and your writing,” he said. The email started off great! “I noticed you have an Arabic name. Are you Arab? I’m Hassan. My roots are Iraqi. I signed up for this class to level out my engineer brain. Would you like to go for a run sometime?“
After feeling all oiled up at the compliments, I was slightly offended he asked me out for a run. Was he trying to say I’m fat? After all, he is an engineer. That’s his life card for social awkwardness. I got over myself and my bulging belly and responded, “Thank you so much! I don’t know about a run.. but I’m open to coffee!“
The first phone conversation went well. After the first 15 minutes of accidentally interrupting one another, trying to politely decide whose turn it is to talk, once we both took a deep breath and relaxed into the conversation, it flowed like water. I was excited to have found a guy who was embracing his creativity. We had a date set for the upcoming weekend. Since I was new to the city, he was eager to take me to his favorite coffee spot in the Marina.
Because the Universe always provides me with impeccable timing, I got food poisoning the night before our date. I didn’t think the pale face, nauseated, sickly look would be cute to rock for the first date, so I tried cancelling. However, Hassan insisted on meeting, claiming his immune system is immortal from disease, “I’m Iraqi. We’re made of steel.” I continued pushing back, “I don’t know, Hassan,” I began. “I feel really gross and don’t think I will be feeling up for anything tomorrow night.“
“You should go straight to sleep. You just need to sleep this off. Come on, it’s just coffee in the evening. You’ll feel better by tomorrow. It’ll be chill, I promise.” Hassan suddenly found his confidence and his voice.
Typical San Francisco gloomy weather matched my mood. I gave myself a time limit. If I’m still feeling queasy in an hour in, I’ll bail. I decided to dress casual and wore minimal makeup. It took a few layers of concealer to hide the eye bags, but nothing Chanel couldn’t fix. As soon as I was about to walk out of my apartment, I realized I didn’t have the coffee shop’s name or address.
“Will you please send me the coffee shop name and/or address?” I texted Hassan.
“Just stop by my place. We’ll go together,” Hassan replied and included his address.
As soon as I opened the lobby doors, a cloud of smoke washed over me. The stench of marijuana was not helping my nausea. I climbed the stairs and held onto the railing to avoid any falls. We know how clumsy I get, especially around men. Of course, when I reached his door, the smoke was seeping out.
Oh great, I thought.
My first knock caused the door to open. Oh great, again, I thought to myself. He clearly has no concern for safety, leaving the door open. I walked in cautiously. I didn’t know what I was walking into. I saw five guys sprawled out on each couch, disheveled food trays on the floor, and the TV was on with what seemed to be a video game stalled. It was as if I stepped into a college dormitory.
“Um … I think I have the wrong apartment,” I back tracked towards the front door.
Emerging from the cloud of smoke was a male figure, “Hey, Jehan! Come on in,” Hassan called out to me. “These are my roommates.” Hassan reached out to grab my arm and he pulled me back into the main room.
“Your roommates?” I asked.
“Yeah. We’ve been buddies since freshman year at Stanford.“
“I take it your shirt was the souvenir?” Hassan’s ‘Stanford’ shirt was laced in holes and stains from God knows what.
“Here, come meet everyone,” Hassan pulled me into the room.
“Guys, this is Jehan, the girl I was telling you about.“
Dude #1 didn’t seem to have a sense of direction because he kept staring at the opposite side of the room. “Oh he-y. N-nice to meet you,” he said and plopped his head back onto the couch.
Dude #2 eyes kept darting back and forth, avoiding any eye contact with me.
Dude #3 was chugging water in the corner of room and staring at me like he had seen a ghost.
The rest of the guys did not move an inch. Their bodies were sunken into the sofa. You would have thought they came with the purchase of the furniture. After a few minutes of gazing the scene and being under the influence, unwillingly, I began to feel sick.
“Hassan,” I began.
“I’ll give you the tour! Ever since I bought the place, I haven’t had any females over. You’re the first one!“
“When did you move in?“
“Five years ago!“
“Were they all living with you for five years?“
“Yeah, they’re all in tech, too. Their start up is taking a while to launch, so I offered for them to crash here until they figure it out.” Hassan led me to his bedroom that he shares with Dude #3 and a Star Wars theme bunk bed. I wish I was kidding.
“Here, want some?” Hassan handed me a glass object.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“A bowl,‘ Hassan said matter of factually.
“Oh, no thanks. I’m not hungry.“
“No, a bowl for weed. Do you smoke?“
“Are you sure? You don’t have to be shy, I won’t judge you. We all smoke,” Hassan said.
“I’m not worried about you judging me. I don’t smoke.“
“Come on. You’re an American.“
“What does that have to do with anything?” I asked, curiosity was rising at this point.
“All American-Middle Easterners smoke and drink. You don’t have to put up a facade with me,” Hassan was believing himself with every word.
“Don’t drink or smoke and definitely not putting up any facade.“
“Are you like one of those hijabi wearing religious people?” worry glossed over Hassan’s eyes.
“Do I look like I’m wearing a higab?” My frustration was brewing. “Look, I’m really not feeling well. I’m going to head out.“
He offered me something that sounded like a girl’s name, Molly, but I refused. He then offered me another form of acetaminophen and, yet again, I refused. Right when I reached the front door, he shouted, “Wait! I really like you and want to get to know you!“
My shoulders dropped down, I let out a sigh and turned around. “I’m very flattered, thank you. I don’t think this is a good fit.” I gave him one of those, ‘I’m concerned, but not trying to give you too much emotion’ face. “I’ll see you in class,” I said.
“I’ll drop out!” Hassan said.
Dude #4 awoke from his coma and rubbed his eyes open, “Dude, what’s with all the yelling? Shit, I feel like we’re in a war zone.“
Dude #3 bolted for the bathroom.
Dude #1 suggested to Hassan, “Dude, just write her a poem. Chicks love that shit.” After feeling proud of himself for merely speaking, he literally patted himself on the back. Literally.
I touched my forehead with my right hand, I’m in a bad episode of Beavis and Butthead, I said to myself.
“Here ye! Here ye!” Dude #1 began reciting.
“OK, seriously I need to leave.” I walked out the apartment and rushed out of the building.
The entire time I was walking, he kept calling out for me eerily. I think he was hoping to recreate a scene from a romantic movie which ended up in a happily ever after. But that wasn’t going to happen.
Next week’s class, Hassan did not show up. But he did email me a poem that began with, “Here ye! Here ye!“