Tuesday, September 1, 2009

first love, last rites

the old monk was mixed in the coke bottle and the joint was rolled and lit in silence. wordlessly they passed between us, single mindedly and systematically killing the day. this wasn’t unusual. every once in awhile there is a day that must be ended in oblivion. the kind of day you will hopefully emerge from in a haze, your memories of it made fuzzy forever after. days you never fully wake up from, days that become dreams and nightmares, rescued from too much reality by being wayyyy too drunk and stoned, dude. then just when i thought the night was over, when i thought we’d both passed out, you began telling me about her.

i met the love of my life today, you said. the first time i saw her she was getting out of a white ambassador taxi that had pulled up at the gate to ienus’ bungalow. i remember, she slammed her door absentmindedly and got out ahead of the driver. the sound shocked him out of his stupor and he suddenly leapt out of the car behind her, like he was leaping out of his skin. maybe it was the sight of a good tip going to hell because he ran right past her to open the gates. i was instantly stoned on her. i still have acid flashes of her standing in the sunshine that afternoon.

…who was she?

ienus’s girl.

ienus…are you serious?

ienus. the principal of st.james boy’s high school. ienus was one crazy fuck. five feet nothing of tightly puckered self control. around ienus you always got the feeling that if he took a breath or let go of it, his insides would explode all over you. looked exactly like his name too, so i guess his parents knew what they were doing at the christening. rishi was the one who sealed it when we were flipping through a medical magazine he’d stolen from his dad’s study. there was an article about diseases of the rectum in it and a picture that was the spitting image of ienus. rishi spotted it the second we turned to the page – the ditto-ness of the rectum in the magazine and ienus’ mouth…always puckered, his entire face wrinkling into it, with a straggly fringe of curly black beard. every one called him anus behind his back even before that, even the teachers. nobody ever did it to his face though, except me...and i didn’t exactly call him anus to his face.


i was shit scared…ienus had this quality, he could make his boys shit their pants. none of us ever spoke to him directly in the years we spent there. he met nobody, unless he had to. the boys that went to ienus’ room never came back to class or hostel again. he was blue beard for the boys from st.james. he was the best man for the job. there’s no way you can run a school full of raging testosterone on love.

no...i mean what happened with you and ienus’ girl that made you call him anus to his face?

what happened…shit dude, what can i say…first love, long story, too wasted…

it was because i broke into ienus’ house for her, you said after the next joint. every morning after the day she came to live with him, i was up at the crack of dawn and waiting at the terrace to watch her eat breakfast there with ienus while i missed mine. i don’t know how but at some point i knew that she knew because she started to always take the seat facing me. she’d sit there, right in front of ienus, eating her toast with jam and tea. looking at me looking at her when ienus wasn’t looking. until one day when i woke up done with looking. that morning i vaulted out of my bed and down the stairs and over the wall behind the sleeping chowkidaar and over the flowerbed, up the pipe that ran next to her window. it was like one minute i was in bed and five minutes later i was level to her window but two feet away from it, with nowhere left to go. then a light went on next to my elbow and she was brushing her teeth in the square of light. i think i lost my breath then. my lungs were burning by the time she hung her towel behind the door and took her clothes off. when she turned on the shower, her body was blazed gold under the bulb before it glistened and splintered with water. and suddenly, there were lights flashing inside my head and my lungs were collapsing, like i’d been punched in the solar plexus. it’s the one and only time i've passed out dead sober in my whole life.

and…did you get caught?

no...i was over the wall and running like the wind before anyone saw me. that morning at assembly ienus told us he’d suspend the school unless the boy who’d broken into his premises owned up. the next morning he gave us a week. but nobody opened their trap even though everybody knew. everybody knew she was mine from the beginning. i’d seen her first and that’s how the rules worked at st.james high school for boys. especially if you are head boy. so after the week was over, i did it all over again. i broke into his house to leave the magazine with the picture of the rectum in it on ienus’ study table. on the rectum i wrote – she’s mine, anus – and i left the page open. it’s one of the few times anyone’s won against ienus, it’s a st.james legend. ask anyone from st.james and they’ll tell you.

by the time i was giving the tenth boards it was a full on bollywood love story, dude. it was mad, high adrenaline, desperate…all thanks to ienus. he knew i was after his girl but he couldn’t do a thing about it. it drove him crazy. he suspended me the month before the boards for a class bunk he found out i had masterminded for my birthday. then he caught his girl and me together during my suspension week at the cinema. i never saw her again. he sent her to delhi that weekend and extended my suspension indefinitely. i was only allowed back into st.james to give my board exams. it was the perfect ending. and now, it's fucked.

why's it fucked now? i mumbled after some time. i was feeling the blackness settling upon you and me. for a long time you didn’t answer, but just when i thought we’d both passed out again you said - i saw her at ienus’ funeral today after eighteen years. she looked exactly like ienus.

then you thanked me for throwing such a fine funeral for ienus’ girl.


Bhel Puri & Seekh Kabab said...

Very well written, kept me reading till the end. Great title too.

Sangfroid said...

Awesome stuff gurl!! :-D

mentalie said...

thank you bhel :) i must confess that right after clicking on publish i had a niggling feeling about the title. so i looked it up and discovered that 'first love, last rites' is also the title of a collection of short stories by ian mcewan.

and sangfroid, ditto!

Mathangi said...

Very very nice indeed. Tight too. And very morbidly funny. And on the McEwan, that's what I thought you were going to write about when I read the title :).

ani_aset said...

i read it and then i read it again, and its marvellous. you have a unique way of telling the story, havent seen anyone write this way.

mentalie said...

danke, mato my dear. you have been writing beautifully as well!

ani, you are too forgiving and generous :) thank you for reading!

last word by the acp