Evenings in Paradise

The joint was burning out at a blazing speed as he took suffocating long drags, the smoke from which burnt everything along the way – at least whatever was left. In one final exhale he let go of the smoke, caressing it slowly with his lips, as it curled up densely towards his nostrils for that final take. It’s been 20 years but the streets still reek of those fucked up memories of freedom and utopia. That’s how they seemed now that he was 45 and wishing he was dead at 25. The last two decades of his life rushed by in a haze of the sweet smoke drowned in copious amounts of whiskey – and on good days, beer. He looked at all that happened in these years and realized that it was but a mere time lapse. Deep inside he was still that free-wheeling, rubber burning itinerant he was at 25 and that’s how he always wanted to be. But he was trapped.

A million dreams escaped him when life took that fuckin’ turn several years ago. All the hopelessness and wanderlust was taken away in one rash decision. All that remained now was this life of ruin and confined to this city he always loved. Night after night a part of his will died. He had surrendered to this life of worldly and material success but lost his conscience and his dreams in the cruel bargain. He’d lived his life on dreams spun by Kerouac and a world seen through the eyes of Bukowski.

*****

It’s time to roll another joint and finally strangle this evening to death. It’s a weekend and like the several hundred weekends that have wobbled by me, I am sitting at my den among these junkies. Some of them are familiar because I have been seeing them since several years. The faces are familiar but here nobody talks. That’s always been an unwritten rule ever since I chanced upon this place in my usual stoned walk in the evenings. Most of the junkies have forgotten the difference between the god-gifted plant and chemicals. I had always vowed never to touch these chemicals – because, after all, it’s made by men. This place is a broken house which was probably once ravished by an old Indian family. What once was the living room is now our den filled with smoke and the wretched smell of the ‘chemicals’. The light is enough for the junkies to find their veins and for me to grind my plant with tobacco. It’s not far from my home, but it’s beyond the reach of the ‘civilized’ and ‘mature’ world that began engulfing me several years ago.

*****

His wife sits at home and waits for him to come back so that she can take care of him yet again. They don’t talk much anymore. They never did after those first two years when he was still young and had a zest for life. It all went downhill after that. Nowadays, it was just brief sentences exchanged out of necessity rather than want. She hated the man he had become and he hated the wife she didn’t turn out to be.

*****

It’s late at night and I’m still reeling in the smoke of that last joint. I hear the incessant drops of rain trying to pry open the fuckin’ roof and steal our last Shangri-la. The dampness is felt in the room. The chemical junkies have all passed out, yet again and I have the perfect solace among this crowd. The phone rings. I fumble the switches and try to answer in the most straight voice I can conjure. It’s the wife – the only connection I have left with the world. It’s time, I think.

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