Ceci n’est pas une Pipe

Note: Takes place a month after the move to Hawaii.

Zain doesn’t have the same relationship with his second language that I do with French. For one thing, it truly is a second language for him — he learned it after English, not simultaneously. His parents wanted their kids to fit in as much as possible, so they avoided speaking their mother tongue. After visiting relatives in Egypt when he was seven, Zain decided to study it on his own. Now, he’s fluent in both, but English is still his preferred vernacular. The major exceptions are ‘habibi,’ of course, and profanities. He says swearing in Arabic is just more fun.

I didn’t recognize the majority of the words that were flying out of the master bathroom doorway as I came in from my morning yoga. He must’ve been getting inventive.

“Zain?” I asked, walking closer to look through it. I frowned. He was laying on his back, wearing only his running shorts and sneakers, with his head and shoulders in the cabinet under the sink. “What are you doing?”

“Taking out the stopper so I can finally unclog this damn drain,” he said. “It’s driving me crazy. Ha! Got you, ya ibn el kalb.”

That one I knew. “What are you calling a son of a dog?”

“The bedan nut was stuck.”

I opened my mouth to ask him what nut, and his abs flexed as he shifted onto his side. I bit my bottom lip.

“Babe, can you hand me that pan?”


“The pan,” he repeated. “I want to put it under here in case water comes out when I unscrew this.”

There was sweat on his pectorals. From his run, probably. It wouldn’t surprise me if he’d come in to shower and decided to tackle the drain on a whim. It had been slow since we moved in, a month ago. We kept pushing it down our list of renovation projects. Today was supposed to be a well-deserved break, but he’s incapable of leaving a problem unsolved for long.

“Babe?” he asked, and I realized I hadn’t moved to get the pan he wanted. Flushing, I stepped over his legs and bent to retrieve it. When I turned back, he’d emerged from the cabinet and was looking at me with his eyes narrowed.

“What? Here.” I held out the pan and tried not to fidget.

He smirked. “You’re getting turned on.”

“No, I’m not,” I said, too quickly, and he snorted.

“Are so. You think you can hide anything in yoga pants?”

I glanced down and went a darker shade of red. Just my luck that my body’s reaction to his handyman skills would be stronger when I wasn’t wearing jeans.

Zain waggled his eyebrows. “Wanna see my plumber’s crack?”

“OH MY GODS, will you just take the pan?!”

Laughing, he leaned over to grab it and set it under the sink before sticking his head back into the cabinet. I carefully did not watch him this time.

A few seconds later, he whooped in triumph and came out, holding aloft a small metal rod that was stuck through a white plastic ball and a screw-on ring. “That’s the seal,” he explained, pointing to the ball. “This thing’s called the pivot rod. And this little doohickey that was giving me all the trouble is the pivot rod nut. Sounds dirty, doesn’t it?”

“Oh, shut up,” I grumbled as he got to his feet.

“Now I can remove the stopper.”

When he pulled it out, a mass of black gunk came with it.

“Eww!” I said. “What the hell is that?”

“I think it’s dead leaves and hair, mostly,” he said, leaning down to get a better look. I tried not to gag. “Another lovely present from the former owners.”

With a shudder, I walked around him towards the door. “I am no longer even the slightest bit turned on. I’m going to make breakfast.”

As I left, he called after me, “You know you just admitted you were turned on, though, right?”

Ya ibn el kalb, I thought.

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