David Dabydeen


Whenever he came to my room, he no longer scrutinized the wallpaper or floor for evidence of stains and dirt. What used to be quick, hostile visits, ameloriated only by my handing over the rent, became leisurely affairs: Mr Ali, face drawn, eyes softened with grief, sitting on my bed talking endlessly about his family. The thickness of his accent and his frequent lapses into Urdu meant it was difficult to follow him, but I was a model of patience, listening intently, nodding sympathetically, breaking out with the odd apostrophe as if his suffering was also mine. Although largely bored by his stories, I affected an interest since it put him under an obligation to me. For the first time I had some control over him, so that I could negotiate late payment of the rent because I had spent some of it on food or a book that week.



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