I had just ambled my way up from the platform at the Place des Arts Metro station and was waiting for the bus in the warmth just inside the double-glazed glass doors, peering at the snow-laden outside. That’s when the rather runty fellow with the somewhat shifty eyes and definitely shifty gait had inched over to me.
“Haven’t we met?” he asked, smiling.
I would’ve remembered if we had, though not for the reasons so often vomited forth by Messrs. Mills and Boon. He was about my height, so not very tall, especially for a North American male. His hair was a mess of mousy curls, with just a hint of winter dandruff; his moustache was, well, barely the beginning of one, and his smile revealed a gap between his front teeth that I could imagine shoving a sizable toothpick through. But I truly am not a lookist so I smiled back.
“I don’t think so.”
“Are you sure?”
“Isn’t your name Lucia? We met in Toronto.”
“I’ve never been to Toronto.”
“But your name is Lucia?”
“Nope.” Still smiling.
“But you’re Italian right?”
I have some English blood but no Italian as far as I’m aware.
His shifty eyes widened. “Really? You don’t look it.”
I got that a lot in Montreal. A hairdresser once even said she thought all Pakistanis were ‘dark and ugly’, which perhaps should’ve boosted my ego a little but only made me grumpy. I didn’t go back to her again.
“Well, you’re very pretty. No, sexy… so sexy…”
Ah! There it was! My first pick-up in a strange land. Not knowing quite how to respond, I just let out an odd spluttering sound from my nose and started out the door. (The bus had just pooshed! in).
“So tell me about your country.”
There were no vacant seats on the bus so I had to stand alongside him.
“Well, it’s next to India.” (I found that it was necessary at that time to point this out to most goras; at least us Pakis don’t have to do that anymore). “It’s very hot there most of the year, so I’m finding it hard to get used to the cold.” I emitted what I hoped was a sweet, guileless, utterly babe-in-the-woods kind of chuckle.
“Uh huh, uh huh… Wanna fuck?”
At once my mind raced back to the countless instances when I had encountered the desi version of this back in the land of the pure. Of course, our sheedas had almost always shown enough restraint to not be so direct. The most I had had to endure were the kissy noises or the ubiquitous singing of the filmi song. Friends had not always been so lucky to get ‘decent’ ‘eve-teasers’. One had been pinched in Liberty Market while out shopping for bangles on the eve of Eid. Unfortunately for the pincher, said friend was hardly the shrinking violet type and she chased him down and slapped him in front of the suitably impressed crowd. Another friend, equally, if not more, plucky, was felt up through her open car window while stopped at a red light. Her tormentor thought he would make a smooth getaway on his Kawasaki but had obviously forgotten that Lahori traffic can trip up even the most slippery of folk. He zoomed off after extracting his hand but was stopped dead when the cars up ahead refused to budge for no apparent reason. Meanwhile, my friend roared up in her Alto, rammed straight into him and then drove off without a glance backwards.
But that was back home. This was the First World, the civilized world. I had never created a fuss back there, for that is what we are tacitly taught to do, and I certainly didn’t want to be a self-righteous, hysterical touch-me-not here.
“So, wanna fuck?”
The seat just to the left of me was now empty.
“Uh, no thank you” I said cheerfully, and sat down.
It was a long ride home.