I really liked the idea of this week’s Daily Post Weekly Writing Challenge: to tell your readers about a character in your life. This fits in really well with something I’ve been trying to do more of this year, and that’s to appreciate all the wonderful things in life. Things I have, things I do, things I still want to try.
So, for this post, the person I’d like to introduce is my best friend of 10 years, Riz.
When I arrived at University in 2002, I was assigned a room in the house from hell. OK, so I was warm and dry, but there were bars on the windows and 11 hard-drinking she-devils occupying the other rooms in the house. They got up at 3pm and carried on boozing, screaming and crying until the same time twelve hours later. I, meanwhile, was doing a degree in Translation and Interpreting Studies, which involved 8am lectures on German grammar.
After a week, I’d had more than enough. I put in for an urgent transfer and, after three more weeks of orange-faced, vodka-steeped hell, I was offered a room in Eddie Colman Court – a block of flats overlooking the delightful Salford Precinct. When I arrived, the flat was clean. And quiet! And there were no cotton wool balls with old eyeliner on them strewn across the floor! And, from the corner room, came a noise. The theme tune to Friends, followed by:
And so this was my first encounter with the then podiatry student, now qualified midwife who would become my unlikely best friend.
The roots of our friendship took hold in those few months, but when Riz decided that, actually, nice clean “foo-foos” were preferable to horny old feet, she transferred to another University to study midwifery. I carried on where I was, spending two years in Salford, my third year in Paris and Cologne, and one more back in Salford. My stays in Paris, which I adored and Cologne, which I hated beyond words, were punctuated by letters from Riz, her frankly atrocious hand-writing filling me in on all the gossip. When my parents split up during the winter I spent in Paris, she was on the other end of a letter to offer sympathy. When my relationship with my mother deteriorated to breaking point, she was fiercely protective of me but always fair.
When I graduated and decided to pack up and move to China, she was there to tell me it was a stupid idea and give me a going-away present. When I came back, riddled with food poisoning, flat broke, and carrying my tail firmly between my legs, she nodded once and carried on like nothing had happened. Same thing when I moved to Berlin for a year. She’s been a constant.
When I met the man who’s now my husband, she offered more caution than she’d done before. As an Indian Muslim, she had a good insight into the reaction I was likely to get from my (Pakistani Muslim) husband’s parents if and when they finally found out about me. Three years later, when the shit did hit the fan, she was there again, walking me through the logistics of a Muslim wedding, and advising me on the ins and outs of a Muslim family. I was next to her when she got married, and she returned the favour to me. She keeps all her prayers, she’s taught me how to do wudu and ghusl, and I’m so used to seeing her tucked up on the prayer mat we keep in the corner of our spare room, it’s almost passé.
She’s seen me cry my heart out, I’ve seen her laugh until she screeched that she was going to wet herself. And, thanks to an unfortunate incident with a Moroccan Bath, a very cold tiled slab, and a gigantic, loofah-wielding woman called Rose, we’ve seen one another butt naked. When I told her to look at the floor, she was quiet for about a minute, then said, “Ahhh, man….I got bored of looking at the floor!”
She’s a pain in the bum. She conveniently forgets the “working” in my “working from home”, and consistently phones me on her way to work so I can keep her company. She’s had my cheesecake pan for the best part of a year, and now chastises me that, “Ahhh maaaan, you didn’t remind me!”. She thinks nothing of asking me to hold the wheel while she’s doing 80mph on the motorway and needs to redo her headscarf, she’s a bossy madame, and you can tell when she’s hungry because she gets really grumpy.
She loves taking pictures of herself and sending them to me for a verdict (always underwhelming) on that day’s make-up. I can never tell the difference, and she never really minds. I’m 5’2″ and she makes me look like Godzilla. I dress in browns, rusts, taupes and greys; she likes pink and frills. And pink frills.
It’s pretty simple, really. She’s tiny, noisy, bossy, naughty, cheeky and stubborn. And wonderful. Mostly just really, annoyingly wonderful.