[Editor’s Note : Every week we will be publishing one chapter from Ansh Das’s book, The Memory Of A Face. Needless to say, we are super excited! Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9, Chapter 10, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, Chapter 13, Chapter 14, Chapter 15 & Chapter 16]
Shortly before 3 p.m., the cab pulled up in front of a building that didn’t look well-maintained from outside. Patches of black mould covered the white paint on the outer walls. Some of the windows needed repairing.
Diano paid the driver and walked up the steps towards the main entrance. He dialed Andy’s number. Andy said he’d be downstairs in a moment. Diano was surprised the building had a security guard.
“So nice to see you again.” Andy walked out of the lift lobby towards him. “Come on in.”
Diano smiled and followed Andy into the waiting lift. “How’s the packing going?”
“I just started but feel tired already. Ha-ha. There isn’t much to pack. Just clothes and some household stuff.”
“Do you have any furniture to move too?” Diano asked.
“No. I just used whatever furniture the landlord gave me. It’s a relief in a way.”
“Yes, it is. Can’t imagine how we’d have managed to sort that out today.”
They got off on the third floor and turned right. Andy opened an outer metal door and they stepped inside. A huge shoe rack stood against the wall to their left. Diano started taking off his shoes but Andy stopped him.
“Don’t bother. Just wipe them on the doormat.”
Andy opened another door. The interior of the flat resembled an office rather than a home. Andy turned left and walked along a short corridor that had the kitchen and a washroom on one side and two rooms on the other. As they passed one of the rooms, Diano heard laughter and conversation. He could make out three different voices.
Andy’s room was at the end of the corridor. As soon as they got in, Andy turned around and closed the door. The room had two huge chairs, a bed and a table, all covered with clothes. There were some bottles of water on the dirty floor. There was a laptop beside a lamp on the table. The air-con was switched on in full blast making the room feel like a damp cold freezer. Diano picked up the remote and changed it to fan mode.
“Okay, so where are the boxes?” Diano asked.
“What are we going to pack your stuff into?”
“I have two big suitcases. The rest has to go into those.” Andy pointed at a few large shopping bags lying on the floor under the table.
“Let’s get started then.” Diano picked up a jacket from the bed.
Andy went out of the room and returned with more designer wear, which he proceeded to pile up on the bed. He brought in two huge suitcases and placed them on the floor. Diano got busy folding the clothes and stacking them into the suitcases. When he was done, he had trouble closing them. It worked only after Andy stood on the lids one after the other. Some of the winter garments were thick and had to go into the shopping bags. The lamp and the laptop went into a backpack along with other electronic gadgets.
“Are we done now?” Diano asked.
“Still have the shoes!” Andy sighed.
“Go get them,” laughed Diano.
Andy returned with at least ten pairs.
“Do you need them all?”
“Yes. I can’t live without them!”
They packed the shoes into two layers of shopping bags so that the rain wouldn’t get to them. When everything had been packed, they sat down on the bed and drank some water.
“How do we move them to the new place? Do you have a friend with a van?” Diano asked.
“I don’t think we can fit all the bags into one cab. The suitcases are too big to go into the boot.”
“Do you think we should do two trips or should we just split and travel in two cabs?” Andy asked.
“Hmm. I think it’s a waste of time coming back for a second round. Let’s try to put them into one cab. If the driver says he can’t, we’ll take a second one.” He looked out of the window. “The rain is slowing down; let’s leave as soon as possible.”
Andy went to get the deposit back from his landlord, who was playing mahjong with his friends in the other room. The landlord came out to inspect the room, to see whether Andy had damaged anything. His friends stared at Diano suspiciously. Andy didn’t bother to introduce them.
By the time they had the bags lined up at the entrance on the ground floor, it had stopped raining. The cab driver was ready to carry everything on a single trip for extra money. The suitcases were too large for the boot and so he tied a cord to keep the lid down. He covered the exposed bits of the suitcases using a sheet of plastic as protection against the rain. Diano and Andy piled the rest of the bags into the backseat and squeezed in from either side. It was an uncomfortable ride but at least they didn’t need to hire another cab.
Andy had called his new flatmate beforehand. When the cab arrived at the new place, Andy’s new flatmate, Samuel, was there with two of his friends to help them unload. Andy paid the driver and they carried the stuff up the staircase to the third floor. The short building had no lifts. A few families shared the third floor. There were rooms on one side of the verandah and an open courtyard roof on the other. The new place was at the far end of the floor, right beside the washrooms.
Samuel opened the door and they stepped into a big studio. Andy thanked Samuel and his friends for their help. The trio left for afternoon tea. Andy and Diano decided to stay back and unpack instead.