Furqan paid his deposit, got his keys and dragged his luggage towards his goal – the room he would call home for the next six months. He wasn’t all happy about choosing this job, but it gave him the access to one of best libraries in the world and he was willing to travel the other side of the planet to dig in their archives.
Arriving in the middle of the night with nothing more than a suitcase he had with him in the plane wasn’t quite what he’d hoped though. The flight attendant had given him statistics about how normal it was, but he found nothing normal in loosing half of his clothes and some of his personal belongings. Her assuring smile had turned into grimace of boredom when he asked the arrival time for his.
This wasn’t what he wanted to concentrate on right now. The lady in the front desk had been nice enough to wish him good night and he planned to have it. Sleep in a soft bed, alone, between 4 walls, a floor and a ceiling. No sitting or crunching his backbone against uncomfortable chair.
But it seemed that even such simple bliss was far fetched hope. He wasn’t close to door yet, when he heard someone yelling from the flat. He knew apartment houses had walls thin as paper, but this was ridiculously loud and he sensed his mood slide down the hill.
He tried the door, it wasn’t locked. He went inside and put his heavier bag down while taking in the staggering emptiness of the apartment. It echoed in there, turning the tiny lobby into one very cold space.
He flipped his eyes down on the lips of an older man with worn yellow shirt hiding his beer belly and dirty slippers from last century.
He forced his eyes back up and let his bag rustle down on the side before he reached his hand out.
“Hi, I’m Furqan, new flat-mate.”
The man snorted and Furqan felt familiar insult dragging down his spine.
“New flat-mate.” He repeated grimly, replacing the warmth with matching cold of the hall. “I just arrived.”
“I know nothing of a new flat-mate!”
The door behind him flung shut and the gush of wind blew through his jean jacket. He could honestly say he was lost now. Had he said something wrong? Had he mistaken the door?
Just as he was rethinking of his position, he saw another head popping out from the kitchen and far friendlier face took a good look at him.
“Hi, I’m Anton.” He reached his right hand around the corner and while he was shaking his, the rest of the body followed.
“Hi, I’m Furqan.”
He was sure he was the one the yellow shirt was yelling at. Though, he was far calmer than one would expect from someone in the middle of strife. He was taller and leaner, with real teacher’s look – modern slightly wrinkled striped shirt, worn jeans that didn’t stand much out, well cared hair combed over his head and thin framed glasses.
Anton shook his head.
“No, his having a fit over some… doesn’t matter. Come on in, your room is the one straight ahead.”
He picked up his bag, but was still weary enough to bring out explanation from his new flat mate.
“It’s how he is. Come in, he’ll be back soon. We weren’t expecting you to arrive so soon.”
That made sense, he thought grimly.
“Sure. I’ll make place for tea…” he smiled eerily, glancing over his shoulder. The kitchen table was under staggering height of papers and few handbooks. “You’d want some?”
“I wouldn’t say no.”
He nodded and followed the given direction to his room. It was simple, plain looking room, but well equipped and smelled nice, no stuffed feeling and he liked it.
After he had his luggage pinpointed next to his bed, he had plenty of time to check others out and he joined with Anton in the kitchen.
He had cleaned the kitchen table in the meanwhile and had searched out few cups, teabags and sugar.
“This’ our kitchen,” he explained with swift of his hand to integrated kitchen in the corner, the huge round table, some yellow stools and middle sized fridge, “the bathroom is there,” he showed to the door right next to Furqan’s bedroom, “toilet,” the last closed door on the left, “and that’s it. No more space.”
There was plenty of room, but he sounded sad saying it.
“There’s of cores Roshan.” He pointed at the door closest to the kitchen and leaned closer, explaining fast: “If he’s in, kit…”
The front door opened and Anton’s lips shut. He frowned harsh for a moment, then blinked and looked friendly again.
They heard him far before he made it around the thin wall that kept the kitchen and the tiny hall apart and he had the need to start drinking from his cup. The sound coming under his slippers reminded Furqan the sandpaper scratching glass and it raised the hair back on his neck.
“That stupid boy!” started Roshan immediately and swayed his hand around. “He says it doesn’t matter when new ones come! They can come at any time!”
Anton winced and turned to stare at the wall uncomfortably, he on the other hand didn’t know how to respond at all.
He continued. “How can I make any plans if people have no respect for punctuation and come as they please, huh? Two days early! It’s outrageous!”
He had seen immediately that the man was eccentric, but he had never met anyone that out of touch with reality.
“I couldn’t get the tickets for tomorrow.” He said calmly, sensing suddenly that it had been the wrong move. Why was he explaining himself to this man? Who was he?
“Then you should’ve started planning earlier!”
“Didn’t know I got the scholarship before two weeks.” His voice fell an octave, but Roshan’s rose just as much.
“Then booked the tickets when you applied! These days you can always cancel if you don’t need them!”
Even Anton’s eyebrows growled upwards and he looked right at him. They exchanged looks of common understanding and rather answering Roshan’s demands he raised the cup instead, but noticed then that there was nothing in besides the dry teabag.
Anton jumped up and went for the water that had finished its boiling only seconds ago and returned to fill the cup Furqan was still holding.
“This is very inconsiderate of you! What if you’d arrived when I was sleeping? You could’ve waked me up! I am very sensitive to such behavior! If I wake up, I can’t fall asleep, you know!”
“The…” Furqan started, but before he got to his thought, Anton’s voice interrupted.
“DON’T go there.”
The warning was sheer and hidden immediately behind the mug with writings like “coffee” and “tea” highlighting the possibilities the clay would withstand.
He hadn’t noticed before, but Anton looked tired. His Mediterranean complexion showed dark circles under his otherwise fresh face. It was close to two in the night already and even he wanted nothing more than a good night sleep after his eventful day.
He took a deep breath. “I’ll keep it in mind next time I come.” He said instead of all the foul ideas boiling up from his throat, but Roshan was already pass judging him and was filling his lungs to holler at Anton instead. He raised his fat finger, pointing it straight at his thin figure.
“You already woke me up! With that constant tapping against the table’s metallic leg!”
Furqan immediately stopped his tapping fingers and closed them in damped fist.
“I already apologizes, Rosh!” Anton said calmly and placed the cup on the counter behind him. “Good night,” he said to them both, before turning to him. “Welcome to town! We need fresh blood here now and again.”
He nodded for response and watched him walk straight to his room and closing the door with quiet thud, leaving them to stare right at each other. Looking at the old man, he wasn’t sure if his younger colleague had been joking or warning him. He didn’t look like bloodsucker, but the calculative eyes bellowing at him in silence made him raise his fences up faster than he usually did with new people.
“Good night!” said Roshan with same malice and walked past him, closing the door firmly and leaving him now alone in the kitchen.
Though he was tired, he spent the next six minutes still wondering what he’d just witnessed. His sleepiness was gone for the moment and he used it to finish his tea. Everything had fallen quiet, leaving only ventilation which whined in the walls. It was loud, but right now he welcomed the sound. It reminded him of home in the old farmhouse and the day his parents had brought home the top class engineering – the ventilation. It had made similar noise, but instead of the cold he felt heat.
“Damn,” he swore, unbuttoning his jacket. He had expected north to be much colder when he dressed for traveling. Now he was sweating through his only good black jacket. He freed himself from the sleeves before standing and taking it to the open closet he’d seen in the entry.
After that he walked right in his room, scoffed off his boots and tossed himself on the bed.
He can deal with making the bed tomorrow, he said to himself, right now he was going to enjoy the wonderful horizontal paradise he’d got his hands on. Not even the ceiling light he’d forgotten to switch off earlier couldn’t make him rise again, he just gallantly covered his eyes with one of his hands and dozed off.