So when I was a teenager, my family moved to Lahore, Pakistan. The reasons behind this, are complicated and numerous, so i wont really go into them, but to make a long story short, at my new school, i threw myself into some extra curricular activities such as theatre and literature societies.
I met a boy there, and this is a story about me and him, specifically about one time I came back for a friends wedding, and I decided to go see him.
We decided to get some hashish, and head to the haunt of our teenage years – a theatre in the middle of the city, called Alhamara :
Now you have a setting, and a stage, I’ll let the story begin :
“What exactly is it that you are trying to do?” I asked, teasing the tobacco out of the cigarette with my forefinger and thumb.
“My plan is simple – you’ve been away too long, forgotten what life is really like. So I simply thought id re-introduce you too it”, he said with a smirk on his face.
“Oh and you thought road acrobatics would be the perfect place to start did you?” the tobacco fell on to the paper, crisp and crumbling, all the moisture having been torched out of it beforehand.
“Now, now don’t pretend you liked all the order and rules whilst in London. Stop at red,” he said as he zoomed passed a red traffic light. “Go at green”, he growled coming to abrupt stop at another busy intersection, the air loud with horns of the busses and cars behind him.”Don’t tell me you didn’t miss any of this”, he waved his hand across the road where as if on cue, a white horse crossed the road, pulling a pumpkin shaped, golden gilded carriage, closely followed by a herd of soon to be sacrificial goats.
“Of course I have”, digging in to my pockets, I pulled out my keychain, which had a mini nail cutter attached to it. I prised out the small file which had been folded into its body and stuck a small ball of hash on its tip. “I’ve missed it all, the noise, the crowds, the chaos!” finding the lighter from somewhere in the dashboard, I set the ball of hash aflame, inhaling the acrid, sweet smelling smoke deeply. “Hell, I’ve even missed the pollution”, I say opening the window, letting the warm air flood in, pushing the cool air that was flowing out of the air-conditioning vents away, towards my feet
“Hah, he’s talking to me about pollution, as he rolls a joint”, he said, raising his eyes upwards,
“The heavens are ready to burst forth, spread their plenti…”
“Cut, the poetic crap, Saan, I’ve had enough of it while I was away”, the once solid ball of hash had begin to crumble into tiny pieces, and I started to mix it in with the tobacco. “Three years of it infact, and now, I would like nothing more but talk and share the easy things in life”
“Like a good joint?” he asked with a single eyebrow raised into an arch, looking straight ahead. He knew I was looking.
“Like a good joint!” I said, laughing to no one in particular, while refilling the empty shell with its new mixture.
“You know, no one makes a joint like you in the whole of Lahore right?” his eyes looking straight ahead onto the road.
“Yeah, yeah that’s what they all say”
“Two things – firstly, it’s not a lie; you must have been taught by professionals or something and…”
“Hang on a minute, professionals did you say? What do you think I’ve been raised in a den of drug users and perverts?”
“Well not perverts, your mums quite cool actually”
“Oh, you’re so not getting one of the best joints in town now..And the second thing?”
“Who else have you been making joints for exactly?”
“Oooh is that the slightest hint of jealousy I detect there?”
“Nope, just plain curiosity “
“No one, but myself really, everyone I know is too good to indulge. I’m nearly done with this one by the way”, I said to him, as I filled the last of the tobacco to the now bursting joint.
“And we are nearly there. Excited?” he said as made the final turn into the theatre.
“Excited? I’m more than that. Are you sure they will let us in?” I asked whilst looking eagerly out the window.
“I have that all sorted out”, he grabbed his wallet and took out a 500 rupee note.
“I should have known better than to ask” I say smirking.
“Are you implying I come from a family that bribes and cheats its way to the top?” he asked, with a mocking tone creeping into his voice.
“Well, not cheats, but your mums pretty cool actually”
We both started laughing as we drove into the car park of the theatre. The night guards were more than happy to let us in; once we waved the money in front of their eyes that is. They were used to Saans face- he was a regular. Me, however, they had forgotten. It had been three years after all. Memories fade in times much shorter.
The sun had set on the drive in. It was set to be a fine summer’s night, even with the humidity. A horn blared in the distance. Probably a very angry driver, trying to get through a yellow light.
“I’ll race you to the top,” he said as he began running round the building towards the entrance.
“Right,” it had been three years since I had last been here, I wanted to savour my return, not rush it.
The heat never touched this place for some reason. It could have been midday, with the sun shining freely without a cover of clouds to absorb its rays. The heat never touched this place at all. It was as if the red brick covering deflected all of the light and threw it back into the air – heating the atmosphere around it.
The theatre itself was built in the shape of a perfect circle, hiding within it, two indoor stages, and a third outdoor stage, the largest of them all, open to the sky. That’s where we were going.
Down the tunnel-like slope of an entrance we went, made to accommodate any sets that could simply be slid through to the main stage, to a secret door at the bottom of it that led to backstage of the theatre. The sun never touched this place, and the air was as cool as a winter night.
“Remember when we first found this?” I asked my hand slowly trailing across the rough walls.
“Of course I do, it was my first play!” he said, “You would sneak off in the middle of rehearsals and miss your scenes. Then the director would get mad and we would all have to look for you”
“Hah, well you guys never found me anyway, and I was never that late for my scenes.” we had entered the sunlight again, climbing up the steep stairs , shaped out of marble and stone, giving off the heat they had absorbed during the day.
“Well I always knew where you were”, he bounded up the stairs, two at a time, he reached the top and turned back to look at me.
“That’s only because I showed you how to get here” I said, “You would have never found it without me”
“Oh please, it’s a huge door right next to the stage entrance! Not like I wouldn’t have noticed it anyway” he said as he sat down on platform at the top, his knees drawn up his chest.
“If you say so…If I recall correctly, you thought It was just another part of the wall”
“Okay, okay I give in, just get up here and light the joint”
I ran up the last few steps and joined him on the platform, sitting down cross legged, and my back to his back, and lit the joint. The hash burned sweetly in the night air, mingling perfectly with the tobacco. I took three deep drags and passed it on to him.
“Still honouring the time-old tradition of three drags and pass I see” he said as I passed the joint to him.
“I have manners unlike some people I know” I said as I smacked the back of his head.
“I’ll ignore whatever it is you are trying to imply there, like the gentleman I am”. He said, as I started laughing. “And boy, this hash is the good stuff if it’s working in three puffs”
Slowly but surely my head began to lighten, worries peeled themselves away, and retreated to a corner in my brain. Not some deep, dark hidden recess of it, from where they rarely come out, but an area for rest, a sanctuary of sorts. They would return later, but for now, they knew I wasn’t going to pay much attention to them.
“How have you been?” he asked, shifting onto his side, his head propped up by a hand underneath it. He inhaled the smoke deeply, holding it in.
“Have we not been talking about how I’ve been?” I asked watching him. His legs curled up behind him. “Or has it been a one way conversation?”
“No, no I’ve been listening, but it seems you’re not telling me all”, a second pull on the joint, and the smoke flowed out of his nose, falling against his lips. “You’ve been telling me what you have been doing, how that makes you feel, what people say, do, hear. It’s you I want to hear about”. A third pull and he looked right into my eyes “That’s all you haven’t told me about”
I almost snatched the joint away, but he willingly handed it over. “Me? Personally and truthfully?”
“I haven’t been good. I’ve talked and entertained, I’ve walked and breathed. But it’s what I do; it’s what I do to get by”
“Not good”, he said “Why do you do that to yourself?” He reached out for the joint, and I handed it back, even though I hadn’t even had third drag.
”You’re breaking the circle” I said.
“Your broke your promise” he said
“What promise? “ I asked, my voice wavering slightly.
“Last time you were here…You promised us… I mean me that you would keep yourself happy”
“You want me to be happy? By myself?” the thoughts began to eagerly creep their way out of their little corner. I snatched the joint back from him and inhaled deeply, pulling the smoke deep into my lungs. “What does it matter to you anyway?”
“Well, it’s obvious you don’t care for yourself. Someones got to do it for you”, he shifted onto his back with his hands behind his head.
“You cared once, a long time ago”
“What makes you think I ever stopped?”
“Amongst other things, the fact that you stopped talking to me”
“Do you have to be so sarcastic every time you talk?”
“It’s a defence mechanism, or so you told me last time we met”
“That was three years ago. And I thought we had patched things up before we left”
“Exactly, you thought you had patched things up. I was just happy you were talking to me again.”
“Let me rephrase that then, I thought I had patched things up”
“Yes you did”
I sat there and looked around.
“Look, I don’t care what people think”
“I don’t. I just didn’t think…”
“Bullshit”, I stubbed out the joint, cutting him off.
“Let me finish…please”
“Oh, please, go on”
“Your wit always amused me… Anyway, as I was saying, I don’t care what people think. But I do care about what they say.Thoughts can’t hurt you. Actions and words can”
Leaning back, I find the wall has grown strangely comfortable, and the sound of the passing traffic strangely soothing.
“And, so I stopped, looked around and evaluated my situation”, he said, giving his surroundings a wave “Found it necessary to continue, despite everything”
“Everything? Hardly anyone knew!” I said slightly irritated.
“Exactly why I didn’t stop, but it was too late. You were leaving the next week”
“Big decision” I said
“Big choice” he said, rubbing his eyes.
Choices, I thought. “Were there many others?
“Oh a whole army…” he said slightly sarcastically, “Anyhow, I’m glad your back”, and with that he started rolling another joint.
“So am I” I said, and lay down on my back, put my hands behind my head and looked up to the stars.