The Monday Morning
By Yasmin Ahmed
Hannah’s hangover was no different from any other hangover she had had, except that it was happening in Mathieu’s bed.
Only after she noticed a silk sun pushing through the hot window did she recognize that it was not her damp bedroom. She shuffled around in the feather-stuffed blanket that he had brought just for her all the way from the other room, and buried her face into the pillow. Her first instinct was panic.
Did she embarrass herself last night?
Hannah patted herself to make sure: She still had all her clothes on.
Mathieu was waking up too. Hannah could see the hazel iris emerge from behind his eyelids.
“Hey,” she foggily mumbled back.
The music from her alarm clock sprang into the quiet of the room. Mathieu laughed, “How are you?”
“I think I’m hungover. Are you?”
“No, I didn’t drink that much.”
“You drank more than I did.”
“Yeah, but I’ve got Scottish blood.”
Hannah blinked and pushed a brown fringe away from her forehead. “Sometimes when I’m hungover,” she said, “I feel like I’m high on acid. Not totally tripping, but it reminds me of it. Like a layer has been peeled off of reality. Do you know what I mean?”
“Yeah I do.”
“You feel like that too?”
“No. I usually just feel bad.”
“I only feel bad in my right eye-ball. My stomach is fine, thank God.”
“Do you want an Advil?”
“No, I’m not into painkillers.”
“No no, it’s not necessary. I will live through this.”
Mathieu jumped out of bed and Hannah thought it was cute that his pyjama was green. He returned within 50 seconds with a strip of Advil and a glass of water. Hannah ran her finger over the strip. She felt the bump of each pill, and the cracks of the pills that weren’t there anymore. Advil was a drug she had never tried before.
Mathieu jumped back into bed and pulled her close to himself. She was enveloped in his softness. She asked, “Did you sleep well?”
“Are you working from home today?”
“I think so.”
“I wish I could.” She squirmed like a drugged worm, wondering if he could feel her butt against his dick.
Mathieu’s phone chirped by the window.
“You know,” he said as he scrolled through a touch-screen Samsung, “You’re going to have to know what’s going on in the news when I quit.”
“I know,” she whined. She hadn’t yet confessed that she thought politics were boring, but he had figured it out by now.
She asked, “Which news site do you follow?”
He sighed, “Well, it used to be Twitter.”
“Should we have sex?”
“I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
“But it’ll feel good,” she reasoned as she rubbed one foot on the other.
“It’s not gonna happen.”
“Are you horny when you are hungov–”
“Do you think it’s because your senses have no filter?”
“I think it’s because I feel so bad that I just want to feel good.”
“Do you think Twitter will come back?”
“It might,” but there were chunks of spiky pessimism in his sentence.
His phone chirped again, “It’s Nazli. Oh no!”
“Why did you say, ‘Oh no?’”
“Um. Because you said ‘Oh no?’”
“Why do you think I said, ‘Oh no?’”
“I said it because she texted that there are protests right now in Taksim and Kadiköy.”
Hannah groaned, “Why do you love this place?”
“You hear that guy?”
Hannah looked out the cobble-stone streets. A man with a cart yelled, “Muslukcuuuuuu,” with a sharp inflection at the end of it. “Muslukcuuuuuu.”
Mathieu said, “This guy shows up everyday close to 9 o’clock, without fail. You can’t find that anywhere else in the world.”
“You can find it in Pakistan.”
“Well, I love this city.”
“Who the hell needs a plumber at 9 am on a Monday?”
She shuffled closer into him. “You know, when I first moved here, I thought the government was so big and bad that the poor civilians had no choice but to stand up to protest. But now I realize that Turks actually love drama. They will find any feather of an excuse to protest. And this explains my mother’s temperament.”
Both tired from the speeches, and lay still with their eyes closed. Mathieu’s fingers found their way down her black t-shirt. He ran it over the smooth of her stomach. Hannah held down her lower lip with her upper teeth, careful not to moan. Deep exhalations through her nostrils. Mathieu stroked her stomach, once, twice, and on the third stroke, his finger touched the bottom curve of her breast. He quickly pulled out of there and pulled down on her shirt, like a schoolteacher smoothing a little girl’s skirt. “How’s your headache?” he asked.
“I forgot about it. It’s totally gone.”
“See? Aren’t drugs wonderful?”
Hannah chuckled in surrender.
Hannah saw another set of keys hung by the doors upon entering her house. It was the pink keychain with a picture of London on one side, which meant her roommate was home. Roommate had a short, rectangular body, with tight pants and fake blonde hair. She was a full-time teacher at a private school that made her wear heels. She didn’t drink enough water and smoked too many cigarettes.
Hannah had come to recognize through her own body language whether she liked someone or not. Her roommate was lingering in the kitchen, and Hannah felt her chest cringe. Her breathing became more deliberate and steady, her posture drooped so as not to overpower. The word “Sorry” hung at the edge of her lower lip, waiting to be dropped.
“Hello,” Hannah’s voice was low, already apologetic for its presence.
Roommate moved back and forth in the kitchen with a purposeful speed. “Bang” went the incompetent cupboard. “Slap” went the soles of her foot against the floor. When Roommate opened the fridge, Hannah eyed her slim, long eggplant on the bottom shelf, a new wrinkle running along it. She had many dreams for it, but they would have to wait. Despite the smallness of Roommate’s body, there was room for no one else in the kitchen.
In her room, Hannah logged onto Facebook, and saw a picture of Elselie. Hannah knew that the photograph was a lie. Only last week, Elselie had confessed to her that things with Charles were not going so well. So why were they here, lip-locked between twinkling Christmas lights, friends and shot-glasses in the background?
She brushed away her disappointment.
Just then, Roommate rapped on the door, “Hannah!” Hannah sprung out of bed to open the door, but Roommate beat her to it. “Was it you who put the tiny tea-saucer by the bathroom sink?”
“Oh, um. Yeah, I’m sorry. I just needed a little thing to put the soap bar on, so that the counter doesn’t get all sticky.”
“Well, I need to get this back into the kitchen, we are already short on tea plates.”
“Yah sure, no problem,” Hannah said as fast as she could. The doorbell buzzed. Hannah said, “It’s May!” and rushed to the door as Roommate tightened her lips.
“Come on,” Hannah waved towards her room.
“Hi Roommate!” May said, in her bright orange voice.
“How are you?”
Roommate responded in perfect Oxford English, “Fine, thanks. And you?”
“I’m great! How’s school going?”
Hannah rubbed May’s hand with her finger, “Come come. I need to show you something.”
Once they were back in the bedroom, May asked, “What was it you wanted to show me?”
“Of course, nothing! Why do you have to make small talk with her? You don’t want to, she doesn’t want to, I don’t want you to. It annoys everybody.”
“I’m sorry. I guess I just don’t like unpleasantness.”
“Ugh, she has pissed me off three times in the past 24 hours. And for 20 of those hours, I wasn’t even here.”
“What did she do?”
“Last night, I was cooking dinner and she marched in and snapped on the exhaust, and then snapped at me, ‘Please remember to turn on the exhaust.’ I think it has something to do with her superior attitude towards my brown-people food. Yesterday, I made some ice-tea, and I pour the rest into this cylindrical container and put it in the fridge. Today, she texts me to say not to put it in that container again. Turns out it’s not a container at all, but a manual chopper. She said Roommate2 was ‘very angry’ that I used her manual chopper to store my ice-tea, that I must never use it to store anything again, and especially not tea because it would stain it, even though the goddamn cherry tea was the same colour as the container!”
“Chopper! ‘Very Angry.’ Then when I came home, she was unhappy about the fucking tea-saucer, cuz I was using it to hold that soap we stole from the Cappadocia hotel.”
“Yes! She said that we were running out of tea-saucers…We have more goddamn tea-cups than tea-saucers! How in the world are we running out?”
Just then Roommate rapped on the door. Hannah whispered hotly, “What did I do this time?”
When she opened the door, Roommate was standing there with a tray of food.
“Hey, here’s some soup I made. And Hannah, I know you wouldn’t want this meat but thought May might like this,” and she handed her a plate of fresh kebabs, glistening in brown and purple.
“Wow,” Hannah said as she took the orange bowls of lentil soups off of her, “Thank you, Roommate. That’s really so thoughtful of you.”
“No problem. And there’s more on the stove if you want extras.”
“We probably will,” they mumbled as they slurped the soup; Thick, glowing, with a hint of lemon. She closed the door behind her.
“… And then she goes and does something nice like this and I’m not allowed to be annoyed anymore. Anyway, enough about her. I have some gossip for you.” Hannah said.
“Gossip!” May’s green eyes twinkled.
“Mathieu and I slept together last night.”
“No no, but it wasn’t like that. We just shared a bed and cuddled. It was almost as if, as long as we did not kiss or touch any genitalia, we could pretend it’s platonic. But really, I was so wet that when I went into the bathroom to pee afterwards, I pulled down my undies my pussy juice stretched from it like aloe-vera jel.”
“Wow, that’s so healthy. How did it even happen?!”
“God, I don’t know! One minute, I was poking my head into the empty buses, next I am barefoot in his bathroom, using his toothbrush. And in between, I am wondering how I’ll get home, he’s urging me to stay out for one more beer, and I’m asking him whether he’d rather understand the concept of time or the concept of sex, discussions about the size of the universe, then we make some new friends with the people beside us. I think before sleep, I touch my lips with his while in bed. And when he doesn’t do anything, neither do I.”
“Hannah, you’re so bad,” May’s eyes gleam with mischief, “Why is it more fun to do something forbidden?”
“I think because, it makes you feel free, more than anything. His girlfriend even texted while I was there this morning.”
May gasped, “Well if you guys weren’t ‘doing anything,’ did he tell her whom he was with?”
“No. In fact, he asked me not to tell anyone.”
“But you’re telling me.”
Their laughter echoed across the white-tiled apartment.
“I have a question to ask you,” Hannah said, “But you have to promise that if you don’t like the question, you must forget that I asked.”
She took a deep breath in. “Nevermind.”
“Aw come on, don’t do that.”
“Nah, it was a really trivial question.”
“Is it one of your hypothetical questions? ‘If my cat and May’s cat were both falling off a cliff, which one would you save?’”
“Hahaha! You could say.”
“So, come on.”
“Let’s get another one,” Mathieu said.
“Ugh, fine, can we go in though? My feet are cold.”
“You always say, ‘Only one drink,’” Hannah pretend-grumbled as she pulled a Camel out of the pack, “And we end up buying a pack halfway through our third beer.” The rain droned on over the tin ceiling above them. Besiktas fans chanted in the streets behind them. The sky had darkened by late afternoon.
“You would never get this kind of enthusiasm in the UK.”
“Are you going to see the match?”
“Nah. I got work to do.”
“Okay. The same for you?”
Hannah knocked on the window and got the waitress’s attention. She communicated with her fingers: another beer, another mulled wine. The waitress smiled, and they both gave each other’s a thumbs-up. The waitress reminded her of a young actress, but she couldn’t place a finger on it.
Hannah said, “She’s so beautiful.”
“Yes very.” He lit his cigarette and handed her the lighter.
Hannah felt a slight twinge of jealousy, but brushed it off. She was happy that she was the one who said it first, and the fact that she and the waitress both had an oval face and caramel skin was somewhat of a consolation prize.
Mathieu asked, “So why aren’t you writing these days?”
Hannah sighed, “I don’t know. Why should I?”
“Well, aren’t you a writer?”
“Oh, come now.”
“It’s just so difficult. I feel that every sentence I type is trivial.”
“Well,” he took another deep drag of his cigarette, “What do you care about?”
“I don’t think so,” she admitted. “I just feel so little joy in it anymore, you know? I’m constantly self-conscious, and I feel that anything less of a masterpiece is a waste of my time.”
“Ah, but that attitude is exactly what would paralyze you.”
“That’s exactly how I feel. Like I am trapped under a veil of self-consciousness.”
“Why you gotta be so dramatic all the time?”
“Haha. Do you think writing is fun?”
“Yes, I mean. Do you enjoy it?”
“Well, I suppose it’s work, and you can’t expect work to be fun. Work has to be fulfilling.”
“Can we change the subject now?”
“Sure. So what was that question you wanted to ask me?”
“Nevermind. So how does it feel to be engaged!”
The waitress with the dark skin and beige blouse brings over their drinks.
“Thank you. Yeah, it feels alright. A bit of a hassle, really. I have to meet Nazli’s relatives all the time.”
“You don’t have to.”
“I kind of do. They are helping out with the wedding, so it would be rude not to.”
“Are you excited about the marriage?”
“Yeah,” he sipped his beer and rolled his eyeballs upwards and towards the right, as people do when they are trying to remember something. “Could say I’m excited.”
“Is Peter bringing another girl?”
“I told you, he can’t. He’d have to have let me know by now. People can’t come in unless they’re on the guest-list.”
“Alright, but can you let me know if he does. I really need to be prepared if he’s going to dangle another woman in front of me.”
“Okay, okay. So, what was that question you were gonna ask me?”
“I’m really cold. When can we go inside?”
“Let’s finish this drink and head in. Look, the rain looks so cool from this angle.”
“Let me see?” Hannah moved over to his side of the table and pulled a chair.
“You’re gonna take a picture of it?”
The sky was a rusty orange-black. Ambitious patio-settlers smoked hookah and drank red tea from tulip cups. Neon pink and cyan light bounced cobble-stone street, gleaming darkly with rain-water.
Mathieu checked out her photo, “Wow. That looks really great actually. Too bad the rain didn’t come out too well.”
“Yeah, I don’t know how to fix that.”
Hannah took a deep breath. “Alright. So I’m gonna ask my question now.”
As it usually happens when Hannah is about to confront a difficult situation, her mind split in two. One half exited her body and hovered over it. She watched the rest of her body move, she heard sound in the form of words come out of her mouth, though through no will of her own. It was as if her movements as speech were directed by an internal hand-puppet.
“Before you get married, do you want to go on a little trip with me one of these weekends?”
Suddenly all the voices were muffled by the rain.
“Huh? Could you repeat?”
Hannah re-placed herself in front of him, across the table. “I asked: Before the date of your wedding, and before you get too busy with weddingy stuff, do you want to go on a little weekend trip with me somewhere? As lovers?”
Mathieu shook his head ever so slowly, his eyes confused and squinting. “No.”
“Alright then. That’s all I needed to know.” Hannah took a long sip from her green clay cup.
“I’m very touched that you asked me. But it would ruin everything.”
“No one would know. It would be a kind of last-minute exploration before you sealed the deal, you know. We could go, have this experience, then come back home and never speak of it again.”
Mathieu thought for half a minute, “Okay, you know how men, on their bachelor’s night, go out with their friends and have sex with prostitutes.”
“I’m not a prostitute.”
“I know I know. Look, that’s not at all what I meant. I just mean, it would be a crummy thing to do.”
“It would. But only in a certain societal context. Don’t get me wrong, I like Nazli! This has nothing to do with her – okay I know this sounds bad – but really this is no offence to her, it doesn’t make any statement about your relationship. I just know – we’ve always had chemistry, and we both wonder what it’d be like to kiss each other. We have great rapport. I didn’t want it to go unexplored. Well, at least I thought I’d try. Anyway, as you promised, let’s forget I asked.”
Hannah sipped her cup. Mathieu took a gulp of his beer. “Did you actually think I was going to say ‘yes?’”
Hannah smiled too, “No. But if there was any time to ask, it would be now. Anyway, I’m glad you said no. I would have probably freaked out and changed my mind myself.”
“You must understand, I’m really in love with Nazli.”
“I know. I think I just wanted to feel beautiful.”
“What does that have anything to do with anything?”
Hannah couldn’t explain.
Mathieu offered, “Another one?”
“Mathieu! We arrived here at 2. And now it’s 7. It’s Monday tomorrow.”
“I know, but you’ve delivered such a shock to the system.”