Filed Under: Short Stories
Date Created:27 Feb 2013
Last Modified:27 Feb 2013
Number of Views: 753
Victor had become addicted to booze, House music and loathing in his sophomore year at college. It was one addiction really – one cage made up of the three elements. One led to the other two, always! When he heard House music, or imagined it, the pangs of loathing would start. He would hate himself and his life, past, present and gloomy future. He would hate his friendships – why did he get only the bad ones? Were drunkard, low-life, non-ambitious guys the only people he could attract in the world? He would also hate the ‘systems’ – why did he have to go to school? After all, he had wanted to study law, not freaking Social Science, but life had shoved him there. And was life all about being born, struggling all your life, and then die? Poof! Just like that?
And the loathing would make him drink, and the drink would make him want to hear more House music, at maximum volume to shut off the hate. And he would dance to the music and drink more until everything went black. He would wake up in the morning not knowing how he had got to his room, and he would hate himself. And want to hear House music... It was a weird cycle.
But there was something he liked. Someone actually. Carol, the fresher from Environmental Health. In fact, he loved her. She was the perfect girl. Clean, always looking smooth and pretty. Her hair was always shaped in befitting styles. Her spectacles, frameless, just adorned her face so. Her voice was soft, calm, and her laughter was like music to his soul. Beautiful music.
He loved her. But she didn’t know. She probably didn’t even care about his existence. Why would she even talk to a low-life like him?
Once, he did tell her something. He’d gone for a drinking bout with his friends because they had flunked in some tests. He had felt sick after a few drinks and his friends had escorted him halfway to the hostels and gone back. Staggering his way, the world shifting and swirling, he had found himself drawn towards a light.
And there she was, the beautiful Carol, Bible in hand and chatting with three friends under a street light. He went to them, the booze demon in control, and he poured out his heart to her. He couldn’t remember what he said, but he could never forget her reply: “What? You must be stupid. Leave me alone.” He felt an acidic churning in his stomach, and would have vomited right there. He walked away and heard them laugh. “Imagine that guy,” he heard her say, and there was a heaviness in his throat. Man up, the booze demon said, Men don’t cry. But he could not hold it in. Carol had just insulted him and it was the worst thing in the world. He didn’t know why, but he loathed himself more, and spent half the night dancing to House until his timid roommates couldn’t take it anymore and turned off the radio. He cried himself to sleep.
His life turned around one day. It was like magic. He was running late to class, and he passed through the girl’s hostel because it was on the way there. She was standing in the corridor and he realized she was in trouble. A big dude was shouting at her, and she was crying. It was like an arrow to his heart. The big dude grabbed her and Victor acted reflexly. Pure, veritable courage and love, not alcoholic euphoria. He caught the big dude’s hand and pushed him away.
“What’s your problem, man?” he shouted. “You want to hit a girl?”
“Just get out of here, it’s not your business,” the big dude screamed back.
But Victor was not afraid. “You are the one who should get out of here. I can cause trouble for you.”
The big dude, miraculously, did not put up a fight. But he was very angry with Carol.
“You leave her alone,” Victor said.
The big dude turned and walked away. Victor then felt awkward standing before the most gorgeous girl in the world. But he remembered her words on that night. He was about to run off when she touched his arm. He shuddered.
“Thank you,” she said. “You are a nice guy.” She left, walking into her room down the corridor and he stood there, frozen in blissful stupor. Remembering he was late, he ran.
He was light, like running on air, like flying. He had never felt that before. Suddenly the world seemed brighter, and colorful. The grass was green, like really green. There was life in them, huddled close together, growing out of the soil. Everything was beautiful: the few trees, the concrete paths, the staves and barbed wire to keep away trespassers, the intricate architecture of the buildings, even the paint peeling off the walls, and the birds nested in the crevices.
He also noticed himself. He was there, alive, running to class, clutching books in his hand. He was there, second year in college, shaping his career. He was there, life had purpose now and he knew he could live it.
And it was not a one-off thing. He had really changed. He could understand what the lecturer was talking about, and it all made sense, it was simple. Why he hadn’t realized this before, he didn’t know. Even when the lecturer announced a quiz for the next day and everyone complained, he was saying inside, Bring it on!
He went to the barber’s first thing when classes were over. He ordered a nice haircut and he loved what he saw in the mirror. He went back to his hostel and took all his clothes from the closet, put them in a basin. He made the bed, rearranged his books and swept the room. He was humming a song, he didn’t know which one it was. It just made sense to hum it.
When he picked up his clothes, two of his friends came in. No, they were not his friends anymore, he decided in his heart. They talked about a function happening somewhere. He didn’t hear half of what they said, and to his own surprise, he didn’t care.
“No,” he said. Pure courage again. “I am going to wash.”
“You can wash later,” said one. “When did you ever like washing?”
“And Charles is paying for us,” said the other. “We can keep that money for another day.”
“No,” he said again. “In fact, I have stopped drinking.”
“What?” they laughed in disbelief.
But he was serious and he showed it to them. “That money is now for a better purpose. From now on, I have stopped hanging out with you two and I’d appreciate if you left me alone.” He walked away.
As he washed in the ablution block, he realized he’d just blown off the only two people who had accepted him. And he didn’t care! What new life was this?
He then studied for the quiz, and everything made sense. He didn’t even know how much time he spent studying because when he stopped, it was deep into the night and his roommates were staring at him in disbelief.
He went out for a walk, mulling over what he’d read. He passed by a room from which House music played... and it had no effect on him. He stopped to make sure, and for real it was just music, nothing but beat and rhythm and lyrics. He continued his walk, humming the unknown tune he had discovered earlier. It was the tune of a new him.
He was first to finish the quiz the following day, and this time not because it was hard, but he knew almost everything. And all classes the rest of the day made sense, and he wondered why he hadn’t known such... such flow before.
In the evening, he found himself walking towards a classroom where the Church People met. His two former friends ran to him, asking what’s wrong with you, and saying there’s a party going down somewhere, you are missing out. But there was an invisible shield between him and them. They couldn’t get to him. He said no and walked away. They hurled curses and insults at him, and he didn’t care.
He walked into the fellowship. Many eyes turned to look at him, most of them with contempt. After all, to them he was a sinful drunkard. But he did not care. He wasn’t there for them. He was there for Jesus... and Carol. She was sitting in the second row, paying attention to the excited preacher. She was an angel, looking as beautiful as ever. She was his light, the spark for this new fire he’d discovered. He loved her more.
The preacher talked about being unstoppable, and he was beginning to feel like a brother. Victor knew he was smiling throughout, basking in his newly found flow. He knew he could stand in front and proclaim it, maybe even do better than the preacher who sweated and repeated himself.
When fellowship was over, everyone greeted everyone, but only a few greeted him. It didn’t bother him. His eyes were on Carol as she talked and laughed with the brethren. She then came towards him... His heart beat fast, he was preparing what to say. He was going to say thank you. Thank you for being the most wonderful person. Thank you for the lovely words. Thank you for helping me realize the nice in me... But she walked past him. She didn’t even seem to notice him.
It hurt like hell, and he felt the burn in his belly. It was suddenly awkward standing there. In the midst of people who had the right to despise him. He was a sinner, he was dirty. The brightness faded, and the booze demon was calling. He ran out of the classroom. He had to fight this. He would not allow to be pulled back into the previous nothingness. He had to find Carol, explain to her. He wanted to keep the light.
There she was, ahead of the people leaving the fellowship. He shoved his way through, got closer... She was not alone. She was with the big dude he’d saved her from. And they were holding hands! Everything shattered, his heart sunk. He was a stupid guy and should leave her alone. Imagine this guy. Her sneering voice echoed in his head, and the world swirled and became darker. He wanted booze.
He walked past them, and heard them.
“Can you forgive me for overreacting?” the big dude said.
“Oh, Paul,” she said, her voice the most beautiful thing. “It’s okay. I understand. Please stop saying that.”
And the loathing came, and this time he hated Carol too. He hated her for giving him life and then taking it away. He hated her for making him lose his friends and not replacing them. He hated her for being nice, colorful and gorgeous. He hated the love she had for Paul the jerk. And he hated his love for her. He wanted it to go away.
He ran till he came into a bar. He shouted at the DJ to put on House music, and he bought a beer, and another, and another. His two friends came to join him and he repented to them for his behavior. They patted him on the back and bought him another beer. When his tank was full, they escorted him to his hostel, and they shouted curses at whatever object they could think of.
The next day, with a heavy hangover, he dragged himself to class. The lecturer was giving back the quiz papers. When he stood before Victor, he was looking down at him with all the respect in the world.
“Victor Mumba,” the lecturer said. “You have surprised me. This is excellent, the best I have seen in this class.” He put down the paper and Victor stared at the large 98% in red ink.
Just then, deep down his heart, he felt the spark. That brightness, that beauty, that glory, that potential he had seen and felt and experienced. Deep down his darkness, that tune was playing.
And he thought about Carol.
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