It is a cold Tuesday evening, I’m hanging out with my girlfriends, Rita and Lydia, at a local joint. Just a few drinks on our table, but we are having fun. A lot of girl talk, loud laughter, you know, basically what girls do when together. The the waiter brings a couple more drinks to our table. We are surprised. We hadn’t ordered any more drinks. So we inquire watsup. ‘You have a crush on us or something?’ Rita says. The waiter turns and looks behind him, at a table directly opposite ours, and we see four men with turbans nodding. We collectively don’t know them, so each one of us in a moment looks at the other, trying to figure out who amongst us has benefited us this favor. None.
Rita, already tipsy, smiles back at them, and we shuffle back our concentration to our previous conversation. We are trying to make some more girl talk, but it’s not working. In our individual minds, we are bothered. It is not that we never get guys randomly send drinks over to our table, but this just feels different. None of us knows any of them. Their faces do not even look distantly familiar. Why would strangers just buy you drinks? Ok, they like one of you, or more interestingly, all of you, and they’d like you to join them, so they are kinda trying to buy you over. Reasonable. The drinks have been brought, let’s wait for the cliche follow up action.
Thirty minutes. Nothing happens. No one comes to say hi or anything. Lydia protests our previous agreement, ‘At least let’s just join them, only this once. Next time if it happens again we’ll say no. We never know. We should risk…’ We had unanimously agreed to turn down their offer if they should come asking for company, in return of the drinks. But Lydia, she is stubborn. She is ever taking a new risk that she hopes turns out to be an exciting adventure to her ultimate destiny. Maybe she is right. Maybe not. And when it’s 50/50 for me, I’d rather not.
One hour is gone by. Two hours. We are about to chuck, it’s already 9pm and sleep is beckoning. There are classes and assignments and tens of people to meet the following day, so it would only be fair to ourselves if we rest our heads early. It is not like we are in a business meeting discussing how to make more money anyway, though we ought to be. Times are tough. ‘I’ll be right back! Two minutes.’ Lydia says, and off she is to the ladies’. Rita downs the last bit of her drink, and looks up excitedly at me. Then one of them stands up, and walks towards the gents, which is just next to the ladies. He doesn’t go in. He stands at the door, scrolling through his phone. At a glance, you could be fooled that that is exactly what he is up to, but we’ve seen this before, it’s not good. Our senses alert, Rita and I fix our eyes on him. He quickly glances our way, then back to his phone. We won’t bulge, we watching you nigger. We got our eyes on you.
Another one comes over to our table, and comfortably sandwiches himself between Rita and I. ‘Hey ladies, you good?’ Rita nods, and turns her gaze back at the dude at the washroom door. I concentrate on our newest interest. ‘So, what’s the charge?’ I know exactly what he is talking about, but am suddenly so enraged at his question that I can’t find the correct words to express myself. He just proved our fears right. I stare at him, you know, like you would stare at a waiter serving you food you’ve just seen him sneeze into. WTF??? Worse, he stares right back, like, b!tch please, I don’t have the whole night. I am slowly getting more worked up than I had envisioned. I am suprised at myself. At how something we had all so clearly foreseen within the first hour actually is happening, and that I am mad. I am in fact angrier at myself for predicting the unfolding of this episode, but sitting there with stupid Lydia ‘Madam RiskTaker’, and patiently waiting for the bullshit to happen. Eff me.
Lydia is at the washroom door. She looks worked up. The man is talking to her. She is throwing her hands up and down, shaking her head. She slumps backwards into the door, regains her balance, and starts furiously gesturing. I am already so pissed at myself and at the idiot sitting next to me that I really don’t have any more negative energy to use on Lydia’s situation. I just watch, my teeth dug deep and hard into my lips.
The guy next to me touches my arm, and whispers, ’15 is good? I am really in a hurry. The bouncer said there’s a room downstairs.’
‘I am NOT what you think’
‘Then why did you make us think you were?’
‘How?’ I am totally bewildered.
‘The drinks. Where we come from if you don’t trade you send back the drinks. Else you pay for them.’
Rita is now paying us some attention. Lydia and the other guy are apparently having a conversation, not a verbal war any more. I know I don’t have any money on me. I am certain none of the other girls carried extra cash with them. But my pride, oh my pride, ‘We will pay for the drinks, if that is what it takes to show we do not sell sex’, I affirm, confidently.
‘You don’t sell, then give us for free. We wouldn’t mind’
He is smiling. He thinks it is funny. Rita slightly opens her mouth to say something, then changes her mind.
‘Just so you know girls, you really don’t have many options here. It is either we pay for it or you give for free. No push and pull. Your friend at the door is gone, you want to see her again, then make the right choice-‘
True to his words, Lydia and the other guy are not at the door. Rita, like a flash of lightening, shoots out of her seat and races across the room towards the exit. Panic. Acting fast on my instincts, I quickly stand up as well, ready to follow suit. A hand grips my arm and my left foot hits an object that seems to have intentionally blocked my movement. I stare at the guy. I am literally fuming. In an instant, my anger is replaced by an intense sense of fear and confusion. In his left hand, just a little under the table, he is holding a gun.
To be continued..