I was drinking whiskey and smoking cigarette after cigarette in this lounge bar the other day. I didn’t pay any heed to the grotesque images on the packs. I already have corroded lungs with nicotine deposits that look like Styrofoam when you look at the X-rays. In a few years, they’ll be a deeper shade of grey with patches of brown like the ugly phlegm you spew out when you’re down with a terrible cold. I guess I stopped caring after a point in my life. I don’t know when it happened, but I’ve grown blissfully oblivious to bitter change and terrible circumstance. I’ll wake up only when it bites me in the arse. They had smooth jazz playing in the background, but it wasn’t loud. In fact, it was so faint that I could hear the drizzle outside. Rain slowly caressing the sidewalk and the cobblestones; forming shallow pools around them like little nooses. I saw her in the distance, smoking elegantly, which is a far cry from my continuous puffing and wheezing. She had side-swept hair and eyes both alluring and melancholic. A deep shade of brown that both packs a punch and retreats into some safe haven now and then. Now, I’m not the kind of guy who walks up to women in bars; mostly because I’m shy and though I try hard to project some veneer of extraversion, I’m deeply introspective and poke my head into the ground like an ostrich the moment conflict threatens me. I wonder how they do it sometimes: Televangelists like Benny Hinn with all their theatrics and flourishes. Pushing people down. And loudly, abrasively and aggressively praying in the wrong spirit. I’d shudder if you placed me in front of thousands of people and asked me to faith heal. I wouldn’t do it anyway. Even if you paid me millions. I have a moralistic bend, and that’s probably another flaw of mine. But this time, I walked up to her. She looked at me with my wavy hair and beard with a lopsided grin. She then bit her lower lip and as I watched her closely, the sensual lure she possessed aroused me. She was drinking absinthe, and I sat beside her, magnetically drawn by some invisible force. We talked, and our conversation drifted from the weather to cigarettes to metaphysics to sex. She ruminated and did it hard like me. It was a habitual thing that made us both self-loathe, and that wasn’t the only thing we had in common. I forget to remember or remember to forget all the depth and profundity because I had just one night with her. We’d decided that nonchalantly sometime during the course of the evening. We walked home to her apartment in the rain, and there we devoured each other with an untamable, animalistic lust. I remember tearing her clothes off and feeling each contour of her body and shivering and quivering and sighing and perhaps even sobbing. I knew what I had to do when the light crept through the curtains, and the songbirds sung their aubade though. I put my clothes on, walked to the slushy street and smoked a cigarette as I made my way home.
© Nitin Lalit Murali (2020)