by Abhinav Kukreja
Let me teach you how it’s done, kid. You wipe that look off your face. You spend a minute in front of the mirror. You clean up. You make sure the door of the bathroom is locked, and you laugh.
You laugh like no one’s watching. You laugh at nothing. You laugh at everything. You look at yourself while you’re laughing. You’re fine, kid. If you’re not, you pretend that you are. You will be fine. It’s easy. Just keep laughing. Soon, your brain will flood your body with endorphins. You’ll actually start feeling good. You’re not supposed to know how these things work. In fact, the less you know, the more effectively they work.
You take a deep breath. You suck cool blue air in for five seconds. You count the seconds. That’s all you think about. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. You keep it in for six. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. You feel suffocated now, don’t you? Funny how the only thing that keeps us alive can also kill us, if we’re not careful. Life is full of surprises, kid. You let go of the hot red air. You count till seven. That’s all you’re thinking about. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven.
You wash your face. You search for aroma. You try and feel everything. That breezy july wind hitting you behind your neck. Those loose ends of the oversized t-shirt touching you at your waist. The straps of your bathroom slippers clinging on to your feet like an infant clings onto his mother. They call it mindfulness. It’s supposed to work. You feel the water hit your face. It’s cold. You will be fine, kid. It’s going to get better.
I remember when it first happened. I was fifteen. I probably didn’t know what it was until it happened again. I was eighteen then. Bored out of my mind. All I ever did was have coffee, read shitty tabloids, and masturbate. That’s what I did for a month.
It’s a viscous cycle. You stay in bed one day thinking you’re sick. Maybe you are. Maybe you’re not. You think about everything that’s gone wrong. You think about everything that WILL go wrong. You think you are a worthless piece of shit. Well, in that moment, you are, kid. You are a worthless piece of shit. You try so hard not to become someone, that you embody him. You become everything you’re afraid of. And then you HAVE to stay in bed.
I remember how I coped with that at eighteen. I was young, kid. I was the youngest I’d ever felt. I was also scared. There wasn’t going to be second chances from here on out. You’d see the result of every action you take. I was growing up, kid. I was growing up faster than I was supposed to.
I was a smart person. Smarter than most. Often the smartest person in the room. I thought about things no one thought about. I saw things no one bothered seeing. I was seeing more things than my mind could comprehend. All the happy people I ever met either had single digit IQs or a completely contradicting outlook on life. Fucking single digiters. I had mocked them my entire life, shunned them for not seeing enough, but in that moment, I was envious of them. I wasn’t ready for this. I was only eighteen. Re-evaluation could wait another twenty years.
On most days, it felt unnatural. The lack of energy. I tried to fix myself, but I gave up when I couldn’t find anything to fix. The next month was spent reading shitty Internet articles about things I could no longer control. It was a downward spiral-Gravity working beautifully, and methodically. I tried to sleep. I used to sleep whenever I felt like shit. I began spending entire weeks sleeping, hoping that I’d wake up in a better place. But I didn’t.
I had no option, but to pretend I was a single digiter for a while. I recollected all the moments where I’d seen people happy – drinking, dancing, flirting, singing, doing narcotics, everything. I waited for a week. Then two more. Surely, there had to be some other way. Surely, I wouldn’t have to kill everything I stood for just to feel happy for a while.
I bought the strongest cigarette I could find – a Perique with no filter. I made a jug of black coffee. Extra strong. It was supposed to help me look like I was thinking about something profound. I was going the entire 9-mile. Believe me, I was.
I deciced to do it. I decided to pretend I was a single digiter. What’s the worst that could happen, right? I couldn’t feel any shittier, right? This stuff makes everyone happy. I’ll have to pretend to be someone I’m not, but atleast that someone would be happy, right? I knew it was a shitty argument. But, on that day, it was enough.
I called the sleaziest girl I knew. I flirted with her. I made some promises. Fake love for an hour or so. Then, I invited her to go out with me the following day. She said yes. She had to say yes.
I stole money from my father’s cupboard. I had to steal money. No way I had that kind of money to blow. I immediately felt bad for my dad. It wasn’t his fault. But I decided to blame him anyway. I smoked the last of my cigarettes in the privacy of my bathroom. Stayed inside for a while, with the shower and the exhaust on.
We went to an overpriced club that night. I drove fast and listened to electronic music, on the way. I would pump my fists to try and enjoy the moment. I pretended till my brain kicked in enough endorphins to tell my body that I was, infact, enjoying. My brain had been humiliating me for a while. It was my turn. But who was I kidding? This was one battle I couldn’t really win.
I ordered the strongest alcohol. Drank all I could, till my esophagus burnt up. Threw up all over the place, and then drank some more. Hey, this was supposed to make me happy, right? Why not do the entire clichéd thing? Fifteen thousand rupees and about three bottles of shitty whiskey later, I gave up. I wasn’t happy.
I hit the dance floor. I touched her. She touched me back. She could probably see how much pain I was in. But then again, I didn’t really care about that. We made out. I’d been saving my first kiss for something better. I knew that I had wasted a lot of opportunities to kiss a lot of beautiful women, as soon as our lips met. I didn’t like it. I couldn’t have liked this. ‘How do people do this’ I thought to myself. How do they do this and still look so happy in those blithely photos?
I drove home half unconscious, hoping my car had eyes that worked better than mine. I didn’t remember where I’d dropped her off. I wasn’t that guy. I hated everything about that night. I’d never hated anything like that before.
I woke up the next morning, feeling the worst I had ever felt. I’d tried life my way, and it hadn’t made me happy. I’d tried life the single digiter way, and I was still rather morose. At least before last night, there was a possibility that there was something out there that could have made me happy. Now, I had squandered that.
It was like Schrodinger’s cat. You don’t know whether the cat is dead or not, until you open the box. Well, kid, sometimes, you really don’t want to know. It was download spiral all over again. Gravity’s beautiful ugly trick