I have another entry to commit to the page and still the distance grows between the real and the looking-glass. It is time - somewhat perfunctorily - to further explore and, indeed, conclude those adventures experienced whilst inhabiting the Dunbar house. The afternoon sun shines brightly upon the echoes of laughter radiating forth from that time. To summon every glorious incident from those days would take far too much time; even a reasonable extent pushes the reasonable boundaries of my already saturated efforts. Thus it should suffice for me to outline but a handful of my personal highlights, from poker faces to plain-talking, with a liberal touch of 'rat' bridging the affair.
After an understandably hesitant initial week or so in the Dunbar house, becoming better acquainted with James and Ryan especially, though also with the quite different relationship inherent of actually living with Aja rather than simply meeting her sporadically in public coffee-houses, our little band had soon grown easy with one another, fashioning scenarios akin to that of the UBC block party described in my first entry to touch upon the Dunbar scene. In particular, we are all fans of drinking and of card-games, two very mutually inclusive pastimes. We would invite friends around for the evening to join in our frivolous, yet decidedly competitive, match-ups. The two most regular guests were Chris, a close companion to James and also a good friend to the rest of us, and John, Aja's quiet, dependable and magnanimous boyfriend. The sound of beer-caps popping mingled with the whisper of the cards as they were shuffled together, before being fanned out to suggest all manner of devices, both intelligent and otherwise. A favourite game involves the attempt to lose one's cards as swiftly as possible: the first to do so becomes 'president', the second 'vice-president'. Both are favoured, receiving the best two cards and single card respectably from the worst performing players, those finishing last and penultimately so. In return, these two losing players would receive the worst two cards and single card from the same characters, thus rather enhancing the better - or, perhaps, luckier - players, whilst diminishing those of the less fortunate (less able? Ahem) participants. Invariably, as was so often the case in any of our games, personal quarrels would soon become apparent, particularly those revolving around James and Ryan. These competitive skirmishes were, without exception, hilarious to witness: 'really, James? Really? You really think that card can beat me?' 'Just play Ry-guy, just play.' 'I don't know James...' 'Hmmm, unfortunate' (this last comment belonging to James, as he - inevitably - plays a card to triumph over that offered by Ryan mere moments before). 'What?! Unbelievable (sigh). Screw you, James, screw you.' All manner of other, more colourful, language could follow, accompanied by more drinking and more rounds, heralding remarkably similar patterns. Meanwhile, the rest of us, for the most part, remained content to play our own game, sit back and watch the fireworks ignite.
One such night had commenced along these lines, much like many others, however; upon this illustrious evening, we packed up our games early and took our shenanigans to the streets, along with our beer and consequent bravado (and yes, it is every bit as illegal to drink on the streets here as it is back home in dear 'ole Blighty). Tripping over the light fantastic, and each other, we boarded a bus destined for down-town and brought our efforts to the Gastown district, at one time a neglected, old part of the city, now rediscovered once more in a blaze of post-modern glory, to find itself the seat of chic bars, trendy restaurants and sultry night-clubs. After some light relief down a darkened alley and a couple of abortive attempts at gaining entry to some of the more note-worthy nocturnal offerings in the area, we found ourselves installed in 'The Blarney Stone', a neon-bathed mecca to many things Irish (which in North America, at least, almost always has the unfortunate mentality of high prices - how ironic: here was no exception). As is often the case, I had needed a deal of persuading to even join my motley crew on this little midnight sortie and swiftly decided that the most comfortable avenue would be for me to aquire a drink and then a seat from which I would be able to view the mayhem all about me. The rest of the group fragmented, each seeking their own enjoyment in the throng. Aja headed for the dance-floor, after purchasing both of us enough shooters to keep us occupied with the flame of the beast for a time; James was soon to follow, accompanied by Chris; Ryan wandered off to who knows where; finally, John ran into an old friend and spent much of the first half of the night deep in nostalgic conversation. I settled down to watch James prowl around the room, very much a hunter for the evening (I must give credit where it is due: James is a very accomplished gentleman when it comes to the ladies - I have no idea how, which must contribute significantly to my own abject, sporadic efforts). Chris found his way into a small, close group of dancers, much to the very apparent chagrin of those of the circle that shared his gender persuasion - indeed, I kept a close eye on this until becoming satisfied that nothing untoward seemed likely to transpire, especially if Chris continued to dance in the same vein as that which I beheld in that moment.
After some time, Ryan reappeared and we too now made our way, cautiously, out into the swirling mass of hands and feet, sweat and enthusiasm. We had little trouble finding Aja, or rather, she us: the dance-floor was not particularly spacious and she leapt around with such apparent energy and motivation that it seemed to my eye that she covered the area's entirety in but a foot-ful of bounds. Songs slipped by, time progressed as my ridiculous efforts to command my body to sway along with everyone else diminished. His conversation concluded, John joined us and with him James, who had decided upon a quiet evening it seemed. Finally, Chris extracted himself from the erstwhile embraces of a lovely young lady - I cannot imagine why - to join us for the final handful of numbers. It was at this point that we all became aware, almost simultaneously as I seem to recall, of a little activity on the dance-floor that was garnering rather a lot of attention. A couple of heavily intoxicated and apparently quite liberated girls had taken it upon themselves to conduct a decidedly steamy dance together, a dance that continued for the duration of the remaining songs and despite the incredibly obvious, invasive efforts of a large number of youthful Romeos who - perhaps understandably - were rather hot under the collar at such a sight (both actually and, I am sure, conjured within their minds as well). Alas, the girls seemed interested only in each others' company and so these fresh bucks were left empty-handed, voyeurs to the unfolding action. Label me a cynic by all means, but I was rather dismissive of this 'show': the girls were clearly having fun arousing such interest, but that this remained just that, a show, was equally obvious. As far as I could discern, they courted such attention deliberately, yet then appeared cold and aloof to the cat-calls and open invitations, distainful (and I cannot blame them, for the most part, when one saw the offers being proposed). Nonetheless, their act continued, in full display - Aja, upon moving in close to get some good pictures, was the only dancer afforded the opportunity to join in the fun, a proposal that she rather abruptly, rather alarmedly, turned down. We amused ourselves taking photographs and seeing out the final song before heading to the exit and a taxi-ride home.
The following weeks saw our cavorting and conniving continue, both at the card-table and elsewhere. It had by now become known to us all that we were sharing our house with some unwanted guests and our worst suspicions were confirmed beyond any remaining doubt when, after arriving home particularly late from an especially brutal shift at the restaurant, I was in time to disturb a very large, very surprised rat, as it scuttled along the wooden flooring into our kitchen. Every bit as disconcerted by my much smaller companion, I cast about for some form of protection (I cannot lie - I definitely felt the need for some form of protection at this point), finally settling upon a large, plastic box-lid. Thus armed, I shuffled forth stealthily, confidently (in my mind at least) into the kitchen-space. Of course, in the minute or so that I had summoned the resolve to manage this, the rat had long since disappeared under some cabinet or other, leaving me alone with my beating heart, quailing courage and suspicions that every noise I might here from this moment forth would surely be that of some such furry rodent, coming back for me, in my bed, in my sleep... I shudder even now.
The reaction of the whole house was one of consternation and dismay: whilst no-one considered moving out, we were all deeply upset to have our suspicions confirmed so emphatically and also to learn that the rats were particularly partial to our food and food-preparation area (which makes perfect sense, of course). We took measures to rectify the matter immediately, getting in touch with our landlord and buying rat traps. After finding the hole through which the rats were, presumably, gaining entrance to our living-space, I took the additional precaution of boarding up this gap, hoping that I was indeed blocking the pestilence out and not in. One day soon thereafter, we were all sat around the communal table; all, that is, except Ryan, who was out that evening. Thus it was, dwelling both upon the rat situation and Ryan's absence, that the most glorious of practical jokes was formed. Taking a few chocolate chips from the cupboard, Aja microwaved them into soft blobs that she proceeded to mould into small, cylindrical pellets (oh yes). Heading upstairs, to Ryan's room, James discovered our dear friend's pride and joy, his MacBook, open upon his desk, an opened bag of pita bread next to it. Taking a pen, James poked holes in the plastic bag, taking care not to let any trace of the pen's ink mark the plastic in any way. Tearing off a little of the bread, James crushed it into tiny flakes and spread it over the desk and onto the welcoming laptop. To crown the deception, the chocolate pellets, by now cooled sufficiently, were added to the MacBook's surface as well. We retreated downstairs and awaited our friend's return.
The wait was a long one and Aja had retired to her bed by the time Ryan walked in through the front-door some time past midnight. Even James managed only a little small-talk before also excusing himself, leaving me alone at the communal table as Ryan headed upstairs to his room. At this point, we had very little time to wait. 'Oh... my... god...' A crack appeared at James' door, his eager face following. Heavy footsteps upon the stairs. 'Guys... you've gotta come see this.' 'Ryan? What is it mate, what's the matter?' (This from me, James was struggling to maintain even a straight face at this point). 'Just... you've gotta see this.' With a look of alarm creasing my features, I silently complied, bracing myself internally for the inevitable charade that lay ahead, upstairs. James and I trooped dutifully into Ryan's room and followed his outstretched finger to his desk. I allowed shock and a sense of disbelief to forge my face and voice, concentrating hard. I am not the greatest of actors, but fortunately, Ryan was far to concerned with what he imagined to have transpired in his room, in his personal sanctum, to put much effort into analyzing my (surely) rather expected reaction. I continued to offer up consoling remarks as Ryan trembled, voicing his feelings of violation, his fear and his absolute determination to move out of the house imminently. In fact, he was elaborating upon quite where it was that he would stay that night when James, who had remained rather quiet up until this point, approached the desk, bent forward and picked up one of the pellets. Ryan's protestations over the unfairness of the situation fell silent as James eyed the pellet, brought it up to his nose and smelt it, before finally popping it into his mouth, turning to offer Ryan a smirk and a large wink in the process. I cannot type what Ryan conjured up in his speech at this point: to do so would offend many readers' eyes, potentially cast Ryan in an unfairly negative light and certainly detract from his eloquence and conviction in cursing us all to hell. Suffice it to type that I did not get much sleep that night, my mind and at least one eye open to possible retaliation even before the dawning of a new day. Matters were not helped by the angry, muffled utterances that emitted from Ryan's room on a regular basis over the next hour or so. A coward to the end, I finally drifted off into a fitful sleep feeling enormously relieved that such magnificent duplicity had not held me as its target and rather honoured at having been privy to such a marvellous hoax. Just another day in our fabulous, utterly crazy house on the hill.
Best wishes to all!