His name is Alex Mohamed or Mohamed Alex; he doesn't seem to mind either or both or in any particular order. My height, short and curly grayish hair, trimmed beard, large, gray-rimmed glasses, Mohamed wears a Raiders windbreaker and holds a copy of an Isabelle Allende novel about Zorro. He is a man I met in a bookstore who, after some conversation about Zorro and our jobs, suggested I write about the best Friday I ever had. I thought, good idea, because I had one in mind; but even I get tired of writing about myself, so I said, "You first." "Oh, that's easy," he said in a British accent. "It was the weekend I got married. The night of my bachelor party and just two days before I slept with two different women on the same day."
"Sounds very good," I told him. Neither of us had anywhere pressing to go so we had time for his story -- mostly.
"I was in London in 1975. I think it was '75 because that was the year his book came out. Naipaul's. The book was Guerrillas, and I had written a review of it for the Islamic paper in London. It was a very good review, and it was a good book. Naipaul had not read [the review] yet, but he said he would read it over the weekend. He was very nice. I told him I was getting married, I'm sure. I remember him signing my book with something like, 'I haven't read your review yet but,' and then something pleasant and best wishes. I still have it. Then he said something comically threatening in case it was a bad review, and I told him I thought it was his best book. So, this Friday night started out very, very good because I met this great writer.
"This night was so hot, we, my friend Adam and another fellow, Bryce, started my bachelor party at this literary party on Fleet Street, I think. Maybe it was the party on Euston Road. I confuse two parties in memory. Anyway, it was for Naipaul and some other writers. Paul Threroux was there. We drank much good wine from Algeria. And then Bryce suggested we go to SoHo. We went to some clubs, we listened to Brian Auger. Do you know Brian Auger?"
"Jazz organ, yes."
"I was given a Mandrax. Do you know what that is?"
"A kind of Quaalude, I think."
"Similar. I got very woozy. We went to a restaurant where there was a beautiful belly dancer. Maybe we went to the restaurant first, because I remember the belly dancer was with us in Piccadilly where we heard Brian Auger." I did not correct him that he was supposed to be in Soho because my memories take on a similar inconsistency with time.
"I seemed to have lost a day. I remember little of our wedding, really; I was so hung over, and my bride was angry and her father also. We were married at his home near Sloane Square. I got drunk again at the wedding much too easily because I think I was still drunk. I was 25, and then it was possible. I do not drink very much nowadays. But the extraordinary thing about my wedding day was that I had awakened at my friend Adam's flat, and I had slept with the belly dancer whose name, I am ashamed to say, though I am smiling, I cannot remember. It was Sandra, maybe. I also remember her making a spaghetti luncheon, and it was the best spaghetti I've ever had.
"I made love to Sandra, or whomever, again that morning. The very morning of my wedding day. I have never done such a thing before. Never have I done anything like that. I felt both like a miserable sinner and quite a swinger at the same time. My wife never found out, of course, and she never will, which is why I gave you a phony name and you will not take my picture." He indicated my shoulder bag, which is technically a camera bag, though every time I use it as such another camera is stolen. I told him I had no camera.
"So, I have to ask..."
"Which was the better lover? I am tempted to say the belly dancer, but that may be just because of the exotic factor."
Mohamed or Alex or John Smith no longer reviews novels for "what amounted to minimum wage but a small fortune in review copies," but teaches literary criticism and Islamic literature in a rectangular state. His parents retired to San Diego and are British born. He says he still loves his wife.
"But if you had a chance for another Friday night like that, leading to a weekend like that? Would you do it?"
He does not hesitate: "No. It is enough that I have done it once. All that moral gerrymandering is a young man's game. Besides, I find myself thinking back on the spaghetti with more wistfulness."