Friday, October 27, 2006

To The Hotel California

On a dark, desert highway, cool wind in my hair…

Our final school exams were over, and we were all now officially grown up. Some of us were headed for colleges in the United States, others would remain in India. We would be heading in different directions – engineering, medical, commerce, arts, law or whatever else. And so we needed a chance to celebrate.

I’ve always been a bit of a coward at trying things, you know. Not in the conventional sense because I’m not afraid of mice or bullies or any of those things. Just afraid of trying new things, new habits and such like. Not very keen on venturing beyond ‘familiar territory’. That’s why I’ve never been out with my friends too often. I’ve always just been slightly afraid of landing myself in trouble. They booze, and they fag. Some of them have experimented. I’m better out of it, I’ve always thought to myself.

But now we were all drifting away - neighbours, friends and confidantes of several years. So I decided to break a few personal rules. I mean, if not with my best friends, then who with?

So we went out one night. A small pub in the outskirts was chosen for my initiation. Plenty of room anytime you go there, they said.

And I was thinking to myself, this could be heaven or this could be hell…

It was as they said, not too big and not too crowded. The lights were dimmed. The air was thick with the smoke, wafting lazily across, confident of its dominion of this empire. The smells of different liquors, all yet unidentifiable to me, blended in to concoct a heady and dizzying atmosphere within the four walls.

We walked over to the bar, and sat up on the stools; they were at their ease, while I sat gingerly, tingling within myself, muddled between my shivers of hesitation and the forced determination which wanted me to not back down yet again.

The bartender brought us our drinks. There was some furtive whispering amongst my friends. The bartender was called again, and asked to bring the ‘other stuff’ too.

Guys, don’t you think we’re going a bit too far now?

Relax bro. You’re with friends. We wont let anything happen to you.

Our drinks came back to us. I looked at it closely. It was colourless, almost like water. Except for the bubbles shooting up from the bottom, and the feel of a viscous presence that came from it.

We counted in unison to 3, and banged the glasses loudly together, laughing all the while. We drank it in one long shot.

Such a lovely place, such a lovely face…

The morning after was a daze. I couldn’t remember anything from the last night. It seemed good to not remember. Just the memory of happiness that I got from thinking of that night was sufficient. I wanted to go again.

I went back with friends again the next time. And just as before, I didn’t remember anything the day after. Nothing except the sure feeling of happiness. It was like my own periods of blissful amnesia. The next day would be a fresh battle, with the remains of the previous day wiped away in the night. There was no fretting, no need to think of studies or exams or peer pressure. And we were all together in it, weren’t we? For our own reasons or for the same.

Some dance to remember, some dance to forget.

We experimented later on. It was more of an adventure to do that, than just plain drinking. I’d heard the world ‘bliss’ innumerable times before in my life. Now I could say I knew what it meant. The world was a daze; its problems were insignificant. The world itself was insignificant. All that mattered was you. And you were blissful. Unaware, uncaring, and free. Time went on, with frequent visits turning into daily trips.

And still those voices are calling from far away. Wake you up in the middle of the night, just to hear them say…

I never knew I was this deep in it, till the night before the semester examinations. Like every other student who gave a damn, I’d been studying night and day for the past three weeks. I had not stepped outdoors for food, paid any social calls, or even gone to the pub. And the night before the examinations, I couldn’t sleep.

At first I thought it was the tension of the examinations, and I forced myself to sleeping. But the feeling of restlessness and constant nagging came back again and again night after night. It fought me constantly, catching me sometimes when I was off my guard. I’d quash it then indiscriminately, chiding myself for being unnecessarily nervous. Then suddenly one night I saw what it was. I needed my drink.

So I went back for it. As I sat on my now familiar stool, and ordered the ‘usual’, I felt a knot loosen in me. The same feeling of quiet peace and ignorant bliss returned, even stronger and better than I had expected it to be.

I woke up the next morning and above and over everything else, the one thought that involuntarily emerged to consume me said – I’m addicted. It took me a few moments to realize what I was saying. I was still half-asleep, and my head ached of course from the previous night. Then when it finally sunk in, I didn’t how to react. It can’t be, I thought. Not me. How can it be me? I don’t do this. And even if I am starting to get addicted to this, I can get out if I try. Its me after all. I don’t get into such things. It cant be me.

Bring your alibis…We are all just prisoners here, of our own device.

I forbid myself from going back. Every night, I fought the urge. I will stay clean henceforth, I said to myself. I bought books on it, and every lifestyle magazine. But I couldn’t read any of them. Drugs and alcohol kill you from the inside, they said. They consume you, leaving behind nothing but a mere remnant of what was once inside.

It made me feel unclean. How could I read it? I felt sick of myself. I felt repulsed whenever I looked at the mirror. I grew more and more restless every day. And surely I couldn’t tell anyone. How could I tell them? It disgusted me as it is. What would their reactions be like?

Stab it with their steely knives, but they just cant kill the beast…

Days went by, and I fell deeper in my darkness. I couldn’t quell the desire. How could I get out of it? What could I possibly do? I’d lost the energy to fight on. I couldn’t bear to face another day. There was only one solution I could see. My one path. To forget it all. To wake up the next day and not need to remember anything past. It was all I could do, to preserve my sanity. What else can I do?

I went back. I sat again in my old stool. The bartender came up to me. He brought with him my old order. I saw it in his eyes. He was just doing his job I could see, and he said nothing. I picked up my drink, and began to drain it. The familiar calm returned. I looked around me, at the others. They too came back everyday. Against their will, against their better selves, they came.

You can check out any time you like,

But you can never leave!

----------------------------

Note: The work above is of pure fiction. My tribute to the greatest song ever.

9 comments:

vipul said...

Work Of Pure Fiction, I'm Surprised ....

zlata said...

yay :-D

sans pareil said...

Neat stuff. Something like this at Pendemonium and trust you me, you'd have won by a mile.

Jackal said...

Mindbloggling, I mean, mlindboggling, or rather, mindboggling.
Keep writing, young man. You have descended on mother earth to become a creative writer, over everything else.

Anonymous said...

i agree with the above comments :p

Anonymous said...

u still haven't replied to ur comments...grrr

Confused & Baffled said...

@vipul: yes vipul. yes. work of pure, unadulterated fiction. something you cannot say for yourself i believe.

@jackal: well, thanks. wonder if i know who you are. but thats one of the best compliments iv got in a long time. thanks a bunch.

@kyra: finally my arch supporter is back. and she's a little stuck over my replies. oh well, nice to have you agree too.

Anonymous said...

uh..yeah

kyra said...

i dont know why i felt like reading this again, nish.
one of your finest...
i'm surprised all over again