In 2011, Amnesty International UK asked supporters to throw tea parties in honor of their 50th anniversary. That the 50th anniversary was only a week after my own 25th birthday seemed like a fortunate coincidence: I decided I’d throw a joint birthday tea party for Amnesty and myself — a birthday AmnesTEA. I asked guests to come in tea party attire. My roommates and I made Earl Grey martinis, banana bread, gin cocktails, and cupcakes.
A dear friend of mine asked if he could bring two friends. I was wary not because I wanted to keep it small (Gemini), but because I was so thrilled with everyone adhering to the theme (Taurus cusp). My friend Rory, though, is very much a “more the merrier” chap and is known for bringing a rowdy entourage. He showed up with a Brazilian boy that my friends immediately flocked to. His other friend, he told me, would be along shortly.
An hour later, I was feeling pretty boozy. When the doorbell rang, I’d just pulled out the green tea Jello shots. I swung the door open — green tea Jello shots in one hand, G&T in the other — and was faced with a tall bearded man I’d never seen. He was holding a six-pack of some obscure European beer and wearing a black T-shirt that said “pure at heart” in hideous squiggly white thread.
“Who the fuck are you?!” I warmly greeted.
“I’m here for the BBQ?” the beard said.
I glared, hard.
“This isn’t a BBQ… it’s a TEA PARTY.”
“Wait, are you Australian? Ugh. Come in.”
My friend had just had her heart broken by a free-spirited Australian with a wandering eye, so without introducing myself, I dragged the hairy stranger into the kitchen.
“This is my friend Louise. She loves Australians. Look, Louise. He’s Australian!” With a push in Louise’s direction, I walked away, back to my own boyfriend.
As the guests were dwindling and my eyes were struggling to stay open, I retreated to my own bedroom and continued to eat cake in a reclining position, because I was 25 now. The Brazilian had disappeared into my flatmate’s room with a boy about thirty minutes prior. Rory announced that he was leaving and came to kiss me goodbye with the Australian in tow. Louise staggered in, grabbed him by the hand, and dragged him into my other flatmate’s bedroom. “Well,” I thought, “I guess my friends appreciate the boys Rory brought.”
About 45 seconds later, the Australian emerged looking dazed with his hand over his bleeding lip. “I think she bit me?” I fell asleep. The tea party had gone wild. In the morning, the Australian was gone.
Three months later, Rory invited me to a dinner party with a few close friends. A friend of his, a chef, would be cooking for us. I had split up from my boyfriend a week after my birthday party, and in that summer of 2011, I accepted every invitation I got on principle.
When I arrived and saw the chef, I froze: it was the Australian with the stupid T-shirt. I remembered how rude I’d been and the image of his bloody lip rushed to mind. I offered to call and invite my vampire girlfriend, perhaps as a diplomatic gesture. He said that he was fine and his lip had only just healed, so he’d rather not, thank you.
I sat on the counter and sipped red wine as he made moussaka. He told me about his travels, his plans, and his work. He hadn’t taken to London, he confessed, and I told him I’d be happy to facilitate a love affair with the city — he just hadn’t been to the right places, I was sure. After a crazy “quiet night in” dinner party, we all slept at Rory’s. Again, the Australian left before I woke up.
A few days later, riots exploded all over London. Buildings throughout the city were torched, shop windows were broken and goods stolen, and violence between rioters and police erupted as tension grew. (Incidentally, La Roux has just released “Uptight Downtown,” a boppy, synth-heavy portrayal of Londoners’ feelings during the riots. Is this our song now?). Shop owners were nailing boards to their windows as I walked home along Portobello Road. Kobi, the Australian, messaged me on Facebook to tell me how nice it was to meet me and see if the offer still stood to show him around the London that I loved. If it was important to me to date someone who read the news, clearly I should have bowed out at this point.
The news warned everyone to stay home and stay off public transport if possible. My local pub had posted a sign announcing that it would stay open until the police came and shut it down. Riots are scary if you’re cowering at home, I reasoned. Watching the news from the pub is an adventure! My flatmate and I ordered burgers and beers and waited to be told to leave. I messaged Kobi: I’d be sheltering in place at the pub, I told him. If he felt like chancing the journey, he was welcome to join.
To my surprise, he came. By the time he ordered a saccharine, syrupy California rosé because he wanted to have a glass from my home state, I was in love. My flatmate left. Kobi and I sat and chatted for hours.
As promised, the pub closed when the police arrived and warned of violence up the road. It wasn’t safe for Kobi to get home, so I asked if he wanted to stay over. He didn’t leave for five days.
He was going to work in Belgium for two months, and after days of dining, bike riding, movie marathon-ing, and cuddling, we were not ready to say goodbye. He was going to spend his last weekend in the UK on a road trip to the sea, and did I want to join him? My boss and friends wondered aloud if it was wise to fall so hard and fast for someone who didn’t live in the city, who wasn’t from my country, with whom I’d spent a total of a week. Of course it was unwise. Of course it was a gamble. Of course he could be a mass murderer. The next day we were driving to the coast.
We live in Melbourne, Australia now and a lot has happened in the years between then and now. I just had my 28th birthday, my first in Australia. I decided to host another AmnesTEA — it seemed only appropriate. This time we stayed up all night baking together. He tasted my flourless chocolate cake batter and told me it was the best he’d ever had. He asked my opinion on his lemon tart just to be diplomatic, because of course it was perfect.