In the haze of orange and strawberry flavoured smoke, in a shisha café hidden between the residential towers of Khalidya, Blackberry Bill looks up from his BB and asks ‘Have you ever spoken to a black person?’ followed by billowing smoke. Yet again his BB provides him with the ammunition to attack my South African heritage (the chorus of “I’ve never met a nice South African” playing softly in my subconscious as if it’s partaking in the mockery). This is customary in our almost daily gathering to satisfy our fruit flavoured smoking addiction. The rest of the of group laugh and each contribute a their own jibes.
Scatological Umer goes off on a tangent wondering if there are pedo-necrophiliacs out there. We all shudder. He laughs. The smoke swirls over the centre of the table as the Serious Syrian complains, “Re Seriously! There’s too much smoke here! It’s affecting my health”. We all laugh and blow smoke in his face, apart from Angelic Amir. He’s not smoking. He never does. He just drinks banana milkshake and wonders why he hangs out with Scatological Umer who has corrupted him with horrible, horrible words..
This and other café’s scattered across the city became the gathering place where we would talk an infinite deal of nothing and indulge in our passion (otherwise known as an addiction) of smoking shisha. Let me introduce my fellow active and passive addicts;
First there is Blackberry Bill. A lawyer. We were introduced by a mutual friend in London before my move to Abu Dhabi. He moved to the city a few months after I did. Already a fan of the fruit flavoured Arabic pipe of death before his arrival in the city and his affection for said pipe increased exponentially after his arrival. Always armed with his trusty Blackberry which spews jibes about South Africans being racist.
Then there is Scatological Umer. Trained as lawyers as well. We were introduced by Blackberry Bill a couple of days after moving to Abu Dhabi to work as a paralegal for the same company as Blackberry Bill. Our first meeting, saw him fall flat on his face (figuratively of course) after trying to chat up some girls at the adjacent table, though he persisted to pester them until we had to call him back to save himself from further embarrassment. For that he gained my eternal respect. He is armed with a level of inappropriateness I’ve never before experienced (the image of him making monkey noises in the ear of a female colleague is forever etched into my brain!). Also a fan of the Pipe of Death, though not as much as an appreciator (otherwise known as an addict) as myself and Bill.
Angelic Amir is another lawyer introduced to us by Blackberry Bill. Arrived roughly the same time as Bill and Umer and became a permanent fixture at our shisha table, however he did not enjoy nor had he tried the Pipe of Death which was beyond my understanding. I call him Angelic as he is one of the nicest, calm, chilled out people I have ever met! Though, the scatologist made it his priority to corrupt the mind of our friend and one can say he achieved part of his goal as towards the end of Amir’s stay, as his response to seeing a woman, was grunting. The guilt of turning into this beast will forever haunt me.
A less permanent fixture at the table was the Serious Syrian. His hypochondriac tendencies had him convinced his lungs would explode if he spent sustained amounts of time in an enclosed space where smoking the Pipe of Death was allowed.
Six months after their arrival, Blackberry Bill and Angelic Amir returned to London, though their place at the table had to be quickly replaced. Fortunately, the person who replaced Bill at the office also become his replacement around the shisha table. He was Fervently French Flo. How we allowed a French person to penetrate the circle of trust is beyond me. Convinced that every girl introduced to him was actually a sacrificial gift for him, he quickly gained our affection in a strange way and officially became a permanent fixture at our gatherings.
There were also cameo appearance by others, though the one who stand out is Rambunctious Ren. An Australian by birth with delusions about being Italian. Like the scatologist, his levels of inappropriateness are mind boggling (I shudder when I think of what he said about Anne Franke!)
The collection of individuals turned what could have been a mundane existence between the towers of sprouting city, into an experience which will be remembered with fondness.