Even back then, even as a sixteen-year-old, he has the magic in him, the kind you read about or see in the movies. Think Ethan Hawke, Before Sunrise. (Not that they allowed us girls to go to the movies without a chaperone. God knows they have some poky little local theatres with stale popcorn around here.) Mario’s always breaking bounds, melting into the shadows, never getting caught. But you know when you know, and I totally know he is special from the get-go—he is sparkly light and laughter and . . . I will tell you this, I write, He is the first person to actually see me, he looked straight into my eyes (fuck, my soul!).
Of course I love him even then, I just don’t know how to tell him. After all, he is way too cool to restrict himself. He introduces me to his inner group, and we drink and smoke and talk music. Nothing hard-core, except for the first time we all do mushrooms together. The things we see, the rainbow, the unity, what he calls the Sibius Knot. He sits me down later to tell me it will prove crucial in the fight against the Darkness. He feels it, but he can’t explain it all at once. Something insane about all the inter-connections.
‘All of us, part of this web,’ he tells me. I can’t grasp it then, I’m not ready for the trip but it is strange and something kind of wonderful all at once. I see him as a colour. White. What was that, his aura? Insane . . . Just way intense.
He waits for me to come back. Before he explains, that is. Gentle-like.
‘The Devil. He sits in GK I. M-block market. I’ve seen him.’ That’s how Sid bhaiya greets me when I get home. My cousin’s such a whacko. I don’t even know whether he’s tripping right this minute, but Mom told me pretty clearly to be nice to him. Two of his best friends are dead, he’s got no one. I don’t even know what that must feel like. Actually, I don’t even have two best friends. I just have the one psycho girlfriend.
‘I wasn’t even stoned at the time, trust me, Dhruv. I’ve tripped on way worse shit than that. He’s there collecting souls. I could barely recognize him, until he eyeballed me. There’s something that changes, I think my soul actually shrivelled.’
I don’t know about that, but he hears no one, that I can tell you. He can go on and on talking. I’ve seen it with my other junkie friends too. It’s a total drag sometimes. He jabbers on, in paragraphs. It doesn’t even matter for one fuckin’ second if I need help, but whatever.
Fucking hell, I just turned seventeen. It’s total crap. I’m sick of home, sick of my girlfriend. She’s hot ’n shit, don’t get me wrong, but she’s way beyond me. And a total mind-fuck this past year. So I’ve decided to take my vows instead, right? I’m gonna be a priest. It’s much more respect, I can feel it. Not just from girls, but our whole community. I’m sick of being the doormat, or whatever. Especially after the way things went with Ruchi, I’m better off without. Talk about rejection.
Okay, so there’s lots of chicks out there, I know. But then again, a lot of the girls in our parish are hot too. And I’ve seen how they look at Father Thomas and he’s what, like fifty! Gimme a break. Oh, you’re thinking about—it’s not going to be that difficult, that whole chastity thing. Sex is overrated, man. I mean, it practically ruined my life.
I look at Sid, about to ask him about chicks and the rest, but he’s just rambling on.
That’s the last of it, the last golden moment, as far as this gang is concerned. Around the time Delhi is rattled by a college girl getting shot point-blank in Dhaula Kuan, in broad daylight, Seema very ill-advisedly, and out of character, meets another friend of Tanya’s. Sometimes social obligations outweigh even good karma. There’s no letting your guard down in the city, the sun glints on its sharp edges.
She’s bored within five minutes, but out of courtesy, finishes the drink at her almost-favourite lounge bar, Shalom. Agreeing to meet him for a drink is the first in a series of unfortunate decisions. Her fate lines are getting bolder, tripping her up.
‘No more blind dates,’ she vows to Preetha, registering the fact that more people are coming out of the woodwork, trying to set her up now that she’s crossed twenty-nine. They’re the last few of their tribe: pushing thirty, unmarried, making a go of it alone in Delhi. It’s the lack of backing that proves fatal.
‘She’s damn hot, yaar,’ the guy, Indraneil, tells his friends later, bragging about what he’s fantasized about, their whole conversation.
The stalker-politico, who’s back in town, and bored, with lots of money and time to kill, finds his interest piqued. ‘Who’s this girl? Seema? Oh yeah yeah. I’ve met her.’ He
smirks like the choot he is. ‘Oh, well, I’ve only met her once or twice, boss,’ says Indraneil, who doesn’t like the idea of someone else laying claim to Seema. He has plans, after all.
‘Oi yaar relax, hero.’ The thug loses interest momentarily. He’s seen another pretty girl walk in, he’s putting his eye contact theory to the test, while reassuring his wife on the phone that he will in fact be home for dinner in time.
It is his for the taking, the thug knows, surveying the smorgasbord of pussy on call. That his family has assured him of a long time ago, but he has to play by the rules.