I am an unwanted guest. The kind that eats noisily, rummages constantly in the fridge and takes forever in the shower. I leave near empty coffee mugs on the side table stained with the sticky, obstinate residue that will be hard to wash out. I listen to music others may not appreciate, and relish loud tamizh films with lashings of violence and tears. I leave the newspaper mangled and dismembered. The first page in the bedroom, the sports section spread out under my glistening umbrella, Inzamam catching the drops of water that slide off the edge.
The rightful owners stare at me dispassionately from the walls and cosy nooks they have occupied for over a year, unable to voice what they really think of this intrusion. Perhaps I should have given them more notice. Given them the chance to say no and make excuses. Instead I have steamrolled in to their home without even bothering to wipe my feet at the front door.
I would like to tell them to carry on as they were. ‘Don’t mind. I’ll just sit here in the corner and help myself to some of this vanilla tea cake. Sorry – was that the last piece?’ In an effort to redeem myself, I do the dishes. Pick up the dry cleaning. Go for long walks to give them some time away from me. And whisper disapprovingly behind my back.
I get a chance to meet the other house guest. I try to strike up a conversation with the snail on the window ledge. But he refuses to come out and say hello. I try after a few hours. But he just won’t budge. Literally. I stroke his bumpy, patterned shell. ‘No wonder they like you. You’re harmless, sitting in the same spot all day long. Not giving anyone any trouble. Making no demands. Is that why you won’t talk to me? Don’t want to jeopardise the high esteem in which they hold you?’
His stubborn silence enrages me, and with a vicious yank I dislodge him from his spot in the sunshine and toss him in to the garden.
I settle down in the sofa with a mug of coffee. They’ll just have to get used to me being around.