In my city, you can drive when drunk, provided you don’t get caught.
We order a Sauvignon blanc, and barely eat the bread that will soak it in our bellies. An entire bottle and two thirsty bellies. We are used to this life, of drinking in the afternoon, smoking up at night which is not at all addictive, ask anyone. We may order whole wheat crust pizza and ask them to skimp on the cheese, and skip dessert entirely, but we smoke cigarettes as often as we can. We are thirsty women who don’t stay thirsty too long. We are three lonely women. Women who have personality are essentially lonely. Those with a sense of humour, the loneliest of all. But you wouldn’t know when you look at us, because we don’t know it ourselves, really. Where is the time to be lonely?
We spend an entire minute exclaiming like in the movies, loud, positively annoying if you are not in on the topic.
No, really, right?
I know, right?
O My God. That’s what I thought.
That’s what I said. O My God.
God, do you see how we don’t even need words.
Yes, and that?
Fuck, that, yes. God. How?
I don’t know. Man, can you imagine that?
And they thought Waiting for Godot was complex. There is no book that we have not read, no art form that we have not critiqued, no city where we don’t know the best things to do. And yet, when the bill comes, we cannot add. We smile winningly at the waiter and trustingly hand in cards. It all works out. We walk out of the restaurant, head to the car, giggling about the heat and diving in for the AC.
High, so high, so high, we drive through a traffic clogged Bangalore summer. We lazily drive down 100 Feet Road, Indirangar. Slowly, so as not to spill the alcohol too much into the brain. Slowly, so as to have some control still on loosening limbs. Slowly, so as to hold on to the notion of quick reflexes, which, in theory, is eminently doable.
Back in those days everything was simpler and more confused
One summer night, going to the pier
I ran into two young girls
The blonde one was called Freedom
The dark one, Enterprise
Our stories in the car centre around the future. Will you marry? Will the parents die again? Should we go to the US of A? Will I get bi-polar? Will we go to the new gallery on Friday? Shall we start a business together? Shall we stop for coffee somewhere? All, again, eminently doable.
We are girls now, again, who don’t diet on possibilities, who wouldn’t know how to start. We are girls now, again, for a few moments in the sun.
May cause drowsiness. Do not take this medicine while driving.
They tell me this on the bottle.
I pop two, dry swallow it, and belatedly drink half a litre of water. And then, I start the ignition to drive through a Bangalore winter. I am designated driver for the old girls. I am to drive them to Deviah Park, Malleshwaram. My car reverberates with The Doors. The old girls at the back are lamenting the loss of time, and age. If they had better husbands, their money would have been looked after better. If they only knew there was nothing to be gained by cooking for others, they would never have started. If they knew the arthritis would get this bad, they would have seen a doctor sooner. But most of all, if they knew land would become so expensive, they would have starved and bought sites all over the city.
I’ll tell you this
No eternal reward will forgive us now
For wasting the dawn.
The old girls ask me to turn down the sound so they can speak unhindered. Because it is my car they cannot ask me to turn it off entirely. Everyone in Bangalore knows that traffic will be less on the roads today. America is celebrating Thanksgiving.
One of the older girls says as a matter of pride.
“My son is working today although it is Thanksgiving. He said he will take a comp off on one of our festivals, it seems.”
The other girls nod sagely. I watch their comprehension in the mirror. They talk about America with wonder but also knowledge gained from anecdotes shared. They have never been there.
An American holiday has effectively brought down the traffic density on our roads. No call centre cab careens haphazardly on the asphalt.
They slide the windows down and point to a high-rise. I close the windows gently from the buttons on my right. They don’t even realise.
“Remember, what field this used to be? They tried growing coconuts here but for some reason it never yielded too many. Remember that? I used to meet my husband by the three-eyed canal and then we would take a bus to go to the market to buy groceries. But the buses never came and so we would often walk by the three-eyed canal here, behind this high-rise.”
Back in those days everything was simpler and more
Let me tell you about heartache and the loss of God
The three old girls murmur about the past. They ignore me when I ask them what a three-eyed canal is.
I am of the other world. I would not belong. I don’t need to know.
One old girl finally says, “Don’t know. It was always called three-eyed canal. Moorukan caluve.”
Today, there’s a high-rise, and no sign of any canal three-eyed or otherwise. Their children can’t even make rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the high-rise. Where they all stay now, there are no skies. Only cooking smoke and wires criss-crossed like the signals in my brain as I drive. I can barely drive. So I keep staring at the three old girls in the mirror. That helps me concentrate. I am so high. Even a coffee now at this time would be a bad idea. The three old girls will make me a very bitter, very old-fashioned Kannadiga coffee, I know. I swallow the rising nausea. High. High. High. But if the cops checked, they would find nothing wrong. But it’s Thanksgiving in America so the cops won’t check in Bangalore. No one knows about the pills. No one cares about the stars that look like tiny triangles behind my eyes.
The three old girls talk about high-rises. Now they simply cannot stop. They rashly throw around words like pent house and duplex apartments with Western toilets and gardens and lights and skies. And stars.
I look at them in the mirror again.
I am driving three, old, fading stars to a black hole.
Out here in the perimeter there are no stars
Out here we is stoned