After a refreshing evening shower at the communal shower, wrapped in my towel, the lingering scent of Lifebuoy soap clung to my skin as I stepped out into the corridor. The apartment block’s fluorescent lights hummed overhead, glowing the tiles. Bashir, the tall and imposing building manager, appeared before me with a glint in his eye.
As he boomed, “Hello, Ceyloni boy!” the echoes reverberated off the white walls, and he waved me down with a flamboyant flourish. His grey salwar kameez, resembling a flowing robe, billowed with each gesture. His hair was a mismatched patchwork of brown and white as if someone had spilled bleach on his head, but his moustache was a solid block of black, so dark that it seemed to defy reality.
“You are a good boy,” he declared with a widening smile, resonating like a cryptic incantation. Softly, he whispered, “Come to my office. I have something special for you — Maybe I can allocate an executive apartment.”
I was not so sure about this proposition. I loved my room and my roommates. I was curious by the prospect of an executive room of my own, for I had no experience living in one nor lived in one. I always lived in shared spaces, shared bedrooms at home, school dormitories and a shared room with my friends. The promise of having my apartment exclusively for me promised a better life; I was tempted by the allure of this mysterious proposition, blissfully ignorant of the potential pitfalls that may await me.
Bashir was the one who allocated the rooms in the apartment block for the workers. He had promised me an executive room, which was supposed to be bigger and better than the shared rooms I was used to.
The next day was my day off. I navigated the concrete corridors to Bashir’s office. The distant hum of conversation and stereo sounds from my friends’ rooms created a symphony of ambient sounds.
“Come to my room in Block A, Room No 113, I will show you what an executive room looks like. Come in half-hour.”
When I arrived at room No 113, the door revealed a spacious sanctuary. The air inside carried the scent of tea and dust, hinting at a history hidden within the walls. A dim lamp on the desk illuminated scattered files and folders, each one whispering tales of the apartment block’s records.
Bashir gestured for me to sit on his bed, covered in a white sheet.
“You know what?” he remarked, his fingers gripping my arm firmly. “Your English is much better than your perfume,” he added, his touch sending a shiver down my spine. His fingers traced the contours of my right arm, creating a tactile dance that left me surprised, bewildered and uneasy.
A sudden shock jolted through me, raising questions that lingered in the air like the scent of uncertainty. Was my bottle of perfume, Old Spice, not so good? Or was there a deeper game at play? His eyes, now fixated on my legs, the building manager left me grappling with the enigma of his unclear motives.
Swiftly, I stood up, the cool breeze from the open window carrying the scent of the outside world. I felt fear and disgust as I realised what he was trying to do. I pulled away from his grip and ran out of the room, slamming the door behind me. I felt like I needed another shower to wash away his touch and words. Fleeing to the room of my friend Ahmed, I vowed never to look Bashir in the eye again, escaping the shadows of that unwanted encounter in his room.
Ahmed was shocked and angry when I told him the story of what had nearly happened a few minutes ago. Laughingly, Ahmed, the permanent optimist, said he was glad I was safe.
I never trusted Bashir again, avoiding him as much as possible. I was happy with my room and my roommates, and I realised that an executive apartment was not worth the risk.
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