Escape by Aditya Sharma

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He watched my face, sitting across the room.

“Damn right, these handful of letters are like a street map.”

I walked away quietly from the room, leaving him wondering. Late that evening he called, asking me to join for drinks. He was a miserable fellow but I couldn’t ignore the invite, the free drink is tempting. I reached his place, he was already having a pint of beer, watching the motion picture. He sat there in amazement, staring constantly. His place was stinking hot, I had to open the window for fresh air. From the time I entered, sat beside him, not a word in the utterance. I remembered what José Martí said, Amid this sinister splendor, a red specter lets out a strident cackle. They dance . . . Dance now, dance.

“So?”

“So, what?”

“So you think I’m empty, miserable? I see that look on your face, every time.”

“I think you’re still in that terrible hangover. I think you sing all night long and drink altogether next morning for refreshment.”

“You know some twenty years back, there was a steady downpour, I had a worn-out raincoat, New York felt heavy, and I couldn’t reach on time. My wife, she died before I could even make it to the stairs to see her one last time.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know about this.”

“You know Don, this life is full of slippery spot, I know I’m bad at dealings with people, but there’s nothing I can do about it.”

“There’s always a way out, a cigarette wouldn’t stay lit when it hits the butt.”

“You mean to say that a perfect blue sky is a reality?”

“I meant, don’t hang too long over the raw sorrows.”

“I’m convinced it’s real.”

“You’re just walking fast, adamantly, you know that. Have a look at the river someday.”

“River? For what?”

“The stagnant water stinks while the running water is full of life, its very evidence.”

“The cold always woke me up. Then I doze off again.”

“Try to meet your eyes man.”

“I cry to lessen my fear.”

“Don’t be a nasty shit, or a frozen apple. I know the things we’re into gets thick and deep, and it cuts from inside but you’re digging your own grave, I won’t be able to save you from them.”

“Don, we’re criminals, we’re not meant to be saved. There’s no spiritual world on this thin raft called life for us. I’m in this trade because I couldn’t have thought of becoming anyone else, what are you in for?”

“Guess, I never was a part of the meagre group myself. I just got in without thinking, and honestly, my road never led me to Paris.”

“Don’t you ever want to leave this life? This job?”

“No, I don’t wanna die of syphilis. My animal instinct is still stronger.”

“I went to Bordeaux once, took a train from Bucharest, I was to kill a French madman, for some reasons, there I felt, for the first time, void, a state of unknowing. They have this elaborate floor shows in the south of France, couldn’t make it, though, where the mafia seethed and sizzled. Oh, how I longed for mutual seduction.”

“Did you kill?”

“Yes, I did, I had to, there’s no way out when you’re in this deep state.”

“Then what happened?”

“I felt like my spinal fluid jammed, he looked right into my eyes, when I shot him from point blank. He never resisted, he welcomed it. I wondered for long how broken his spirit was. He was in the place called Mambo, he always liked Havana, special relationship with Fidel for some time, dealing him cash and all to stay out of trouble from the mafia and the Feds. Called Cuba is mother country, hardly knew Spanish. He was brutal, a strongman, killed many. Then got back to Nice and started casino called el bloqueo, god knows what that meant. Went unreachable for quite a few years but someone slacked him off out of mistrust. Syndicates were happy to know where he’s and that he can be taken out. Got a call all the way from a top boss, sitting in Florence, Monte Salvestro. Felt lucky and the inner gangster did it.”

“What did you do after that?”

“I stayed in Europe for few weeks, drove to a nice part of town, took a train to Bruges, stayed there by the canal, a nice quaint hotel, just a deafening silence. For once, I was planning the escape, from the inner world. I felt humiliated after killing that guy. I was supposed to get my ass back to Miami but couldn’t do it.”

“Why you felt that way?”

“Because he sat there, on his cushion, I felt like he’s trying to read my mind or must have when he saw me advancing and did nothing about it. He made it easy, no one came to save him, no retaliation of any sort. It’s like as if he knew or as if he had put the Do Not Disturb sign outside.”

“You still feel him, don’t you?”

“He’s always in my breakfast.”

“That sucks.”

“Yes it does, but I’ve made peace with it already. He’s going to stay. Deep down, I’m ashamed sometimes but I’ve learned that we criminals, we’d always smell bad.”

“You’re seething silently. Did Sarah know, what you do for the living?”

“No, I told her I’m a salesman.”

“Did she bought it?”

“She didn’t find it argumentative, but she had a feeling I’m immersed into some deep shit, my frowned face told her everything. Sometimes I feel that it’s my Karma which took her away from me.”

“You know it’s easy to be a stranger to these thoughts, don’t ignite yourself in anxiety.”

“The wind still carries her scent; that scarf hanging there, rustles to and fro as soon as I enter the house. I always wanted to be an actor. I miss my theater day, it was fun, and I was a rebel artist.”

“So playing criminal is your hidden talent eh?”

“Ironically, maybe, yeah. I’m in my truest expression when I enter my gangster zone.”

“I’ve always watched the world go gray at the end of the day, there’s no spring after that.”

“It’s not the world, it’s you & me, our soul is black and out there in town things are white, we ache in places we used to play.”

“That’s Cohen, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, he’s all in for longing and shit, he’s good at it.”

“My dreams doesn’t have any sense of immediacy, just a blonde demon that keeps on changing its identity.”

“It happened to you sooner than later, an alcohol induced coma eh.”

“Yeah, we tend to retreat from the modern world, we aren’t needed. Surviving in a mistreated manner.”

“We’re handsome that way, we can kiss the horror inside us and still walk down the aisle, one last time always.”

“Those mean streets have always fed us, their noise, that smog, that mist, the energy, it’s all visible to us. I don’t if anyone other than us noticed it or not. I’m always dazzled when I walk down, I know I’m a danger, the overdose, always out of radar.”

“We’re the classic rock, the other ends of town is punk.”

And then there was a complete drench of silence, he went quiet, I went numb. We watched Heat that night. It was somehow surprising to see him talk with me at that level. He had a distinct language and dialect of his own.

I wrote Jean a letter the next day. Like a sinner who seeks generosity. I am so far off.

Wishing for a Golden Ticket.

 

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