People (specifically, hippies) say that if you can visualise something, it can happen. I like to use this technique when I tell my flatmates I can sense the delivery man’s presence in our apartment block. For some reason, they rarely believe me.
Despite my continued insistence that I have extremely intuitive powers of perception, my ability to visualise my living situation in Dubai has never turned out quite how I imagined. Before moving to the UAE some two-and-a-half years ago, I saw myself living alone, in an apartment of my own. Since then, I have inhabited all manner of happy-to-extremely-unhappy communal living situations. I’ve lived with flatmates of pretty much every nationality, from the UK to Uzbekistan. I’ve lived through screaming matches over the A/C and shopping trolleys full of belongings in living rooms, while soon-to-be-homeless flatmates work out what to do with themselves.
Now, I think I’ve finally hit flatmate gold. I’m still yet to escape flat-sharing, but as of the past six months, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Somehow, we’ve reached a Zen-like state of mutual understanding and laid-back acceptance. Disagreements are limited to which takeaway (of two favourites, both on speed dial) should bring us manakish. It’s like the good bits of the Big Brother house; with less nudity, fewer cameras, and more baking, Karl Pilkington and tea.
The turning point was the decision to personalise the flat a little, and make it more like a ‘home’. With my fairly hard-line views on clutter and tack (including rugs, cushions and pretty much anything soft or decorative) disturbing the minimalist peace of the living room, all we could agree on was a house plant. And one painting. We have long-since acquired both, yet to date nobody has hung that painting – although it has been put to excellent effect as an amplifier for the TV. And I can’t remember the last time anyone watered the pot plant. But as the fern wilts, something else thrives. As the flat becomes friendlier, we no longer need a decorative indicator that this is ‘home’ – it just is.
However much I like my flatmates, by far everyone’s favourite (ex)resident is Ahmed. Something between a private joke and an imaginary friend, Ahmed is our fictional (and actually former)flatmate. Like Frank in Donnie Darko or Jimmy Stewart’s pal Harvey, Ahmed’s actual existence can only be verified by one current member of our home clan. For everyone else, he is a ghost and an urban legend that has become both scapegoat and social glue in the apartment. But honestly, I just wish he’d do some washing up once in a while.
Penelope Walsh is our Eating Out Editor. She’s heading home now to have chicken with Ahmed.